If you believe in scientism, you trust such tales as that, for example, the criticizing of a scientific paper is published in the same journal as the criticized article. Science writers, say people like T. Dorigo right here on Science2.0, eagerly help to disseminate such falsehoods about the peer-review system. How far do these cheerleaders themselves buy into such convenient rationalizations of the power structures that feed them? In truth, critical papers are outright rejected, whistleblowers blacklisted. “Criticism” in academic culture is a show-dance that increases established players’ citation counts. True criticism is silenced; it can be happy to land in a ‘dump-journal’ that is listed on the scientific citation index (SCI) at all. Such is tolerated, like for example with the takedown of the fake 2008 memristor discovery, because insiders know that nobody reads such journals; they are excess dumps stabilizing publish-or-perish.

That is why the article “Promoting Statistics of Distributions in Nanoscience3 is remarkable. Published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C, a reasonable impact factor journal of the American Chemical Society (ACS), it writes right in its introduction:

“Knowledge of the statistics of random processes can predict resulting statistical distributions. This often reveals unexpected and at times surprisingly large systematic errors ... This important aspect of the scientific method is almost as central to modern medicine and particle physics as their own specific theories, but it must be expected to lack proper status in still relatively novel fields like nanotechnology, which barely went though the pioneering phase. We have previously called attention to this by providing examples in the subfield of nano clusters.1,2 The present work similarly discovers large systematic errors and advertises the relevance of statistical errors and the shape of statistical distributions, this time in the field of nanowires.”

Readers not used to academic papers may find nothing remarkable here, but this is already way more critical than relatively unknown authors are usually allowed to write. Moreover, the two quoted references [1,2] are both articles that were given the usual treatment: Rejection by all scientific journals that publish in the criticized or even just related fields until the authors gave up and dumped into journals that nobody in the addressed field would ever touch, all after having wasted huge amounts of time with revising and arguing with editors and reviewers of up to ten different journals and so on, all this deeply impacting their careers while those who published the criticized nonsense in high impact factor journals go on to be read, cited, funded, celebrated.

Lengths vs. diameters of fragments. The gray line is the usual method’s estimate of Llim as originally published. The range at 450 nm is indicated in blue. The gray line cuts far below the true Llim.

In order to have any chance of appearing anywhere, criticism was again hidden so far that no lay person is able to realize that this is a critical paper at all. It looks like as if the work improves some important method, so all seems fine in holy science, its surface stays shiny. Only if you are an insider can you realize that all these papers, the new one as well as the two citations, are about huge mistakes in nanoscience that are committed routinely, with measurements being often wrong by more than 100% while, as usual, accompanied by claims of high accuracy (see also Nefarious Numbers and Usual Cheating on that issue).

The core is, as so often, trivial, but criticism must be veiled in front of the naked emperor. In this case, when cutting a stick into halves, then repeating to split the halves and so on, the shortest fragments are only half as long as the shortest that can still be cut. If the last one that you can cut into two halves is one inch long, its smallest fragments are only half an inch long. Too difficult for you? I don’t think so. Nevertheless, such trivialities are easily found all over the place in science, if you dare and look for them. However, science as a social construct selects us scientists for looking the other way. Reproducibility is worthless and harms careers in some fields.

The criticized work was originally published in “Advanced Materials”, a journal with the relatively large impact factor of 11. That would have been a nice boost for the authors of the criticism, which was, as is the norm, simply thrown away by the editor without involving peer review, a move that squarely belongs to what is nevertheless called "peer-review system".

How much longer will I participate in this charade and prostitute myself? At some point, especially today, as we are forced in front of computer screens all day and salaries are appalling, a grown up person asks, what for? For an ultimate religion? I have achieved precisely nothing with my life as a scientist except for indirectly supporting a huge lie, while even the dumbest marihuana dealer helps a lot of people that the system has condemned to illegal self-medication. I am too afraid, too chicken to throw it all down and leave it behind. Oh if I had only never started science but finance instead, I would be relatively free and evil today, instead of being a slave and evil on top. Too sick to join the clochards, I feel their scoffing looks burning on my skin. They have all reason to look down on me, fool that I am.


[1] Vongehr, S.; Tang, S.C.; Meng, X.K.: “Collision statistics of clusters: from Poisson model to Poisson mixtures.” Chin. Phys. B 19 (023602), 1−9, (2010)

[2] Vongehr, S.; Tang, S.C.; Meng, X.K.: “On the Apparently Fixed Dispersion of Size Distributions.” J. Comput. Theo. Nanosci. 8, 598−602, (2011)

Internet Article: No Mysterious Symmetry in Ultracold Helium Nanodroplet Science.

[3] Vongehr, S.; Tang, S.C.; Meng, X.K.: “Promoting Statistics of Distributions in Nanoscience: The Case of Improving Yield Strength Estimates from Ultrasound Scission.” Journal of Physical Chemistry C 116, 18533−18537, (2012)