Ghost Writer Found, Paper Submitted!
    By Tommaso Dorigo | October 18th 2009 04:18 AM | 13 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Tommaso

    I am an experimental particle physicist working with the CMS experiment at CERN. In my spare time I play chess, abuse the piano, and aim my dobson...

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    Just a note, awaiting for my submission to the arxiv, to mention that my request here for a ghost writer to help me put together a proceedings paper for the PIC 2009 conference has been successful.

    The paper (here in the version which will be published) has me listed as author, but the real author of the text and layout is the one I acknowledge at the end, Eleni Petrakou. She put together a very clean article, which required almost no editing on my part. Thanks to her, I did not let the PIC09 organizers down and actually submitted what they asked -albeit with a few days of delay. I would not have been able to do it otherwise, because I was swamped by a few other obligations (and not stimulated enough to go the extra mile, because the space limitation for the proceedings paper prevented me from being creative in the text).

    Eleni gets acknowledged in the paper, plus she wins a copy of the proceedings (when I get it) and a cool T-shirt. Hank, would you oblige ? Details by email.


    This'll be interesting either way. 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Does she have a website with her CV and contact information on it? She might be able to do this sort of thing for some money in the future. (E.g., I have grant proposals she might possibly be able to help with.)

    So if a politician hired a ghost writer, as they often do, everybody would be critical. Are scientists held to a lower standard? Perhaps you spend too much time writing your blog (which I really like, BTW) and not enough time doing the serious work of science?? Just a thought.

    No one is critical of ghostwriting - great scientists may not be great writers so making them do something they are not good at is not efficient.   Some can do both, and even be really good at chess and stargazing.   Like the one you are praising.

    Any number of books are ghostwritten.   You can be sure Barack Obama did not write his own book.    Brian Cox is a terrific conceptual physicist and co-author of a fine book but he did not 'write' it.  If he did, there would be no need for a co-author.
    It might not be very chic to answer here, but I'd have done it for anyone else, so...

    I think this is a misunderstanding from your part about how the system with publications etc works.
    The point is, the way a book, or a blog, is written conveys something of the author's spirit -- it's not only the point being made that matters but also how this point is put into words.
    Therefore what you say would be valid if T.D. asked for somebody to write a blog entry presenting an idea that he had!

    But let me make my point clearer by an anti-example: had I been included as an author of the proceedings, the majority of scientists would have frowned.

    The reason is that all underlying work, the one that lead to the two posters, is what matters here and the one who does that takes the responsibility for the results s/he presents.
    (However there are always examples of the case where such "co-authorings" take place as a strange sort of favouritism, and people do frown but the publications find their ways into CV's anyway!)

    There is no coauthor in this case. That's my point. And I totally disagree that "No one is critical of ghostwriting". It's a common criticism of political authors and the like.

    Anon, one of the reasons why this blog exists is because it has some function -at least in my mind. The function is to make fundamental physics less "hard" and more human. To reach that goal, I have resorted to a number of techniques in the past, most of them meant to get people involved in the making of science. Like proofreading my papers, suggesting a test variable for a process to be sought, a function for a background fit, etcetera.
    I am quite proud of my writing skills (whatever they are), and the only reason I decided to offer this "ghost writing" here was that I had my hands full at the moment, and I would have probably let the deadline go by without submitting anything to the publisher otherwise. Which I did not consider a waste -I can afford to not publish a 2-page article- but I thought it a bit impolite with the conference organizers. So I caught two birds with one stone.
    First Anon: Students joke often about how it would be profitable to ghost-write other people's theses and reports, but such a scale would require abandoning one's own work ;)
    It sounded fun and instructive to me and so it turned out to be, although all I did was a patchwork out of already compiled pieces -- but the real interesting thing will happen the day that a proper scientific collaboration will flower out of a blog somewhere.

    ... and you got yourself another single-authored paper in the bargain.

    There is nothing in violation of any rules in this exercise, but to say you did it "for the organizers" is a little disingenuous. Yes, you may have have done it for them. And for you...

    Anon, you do not know me then. I have 417 scientific publications, and a two-page "single-authored" paper more or one less could not make less difference. I spoke the plain truth in fact. Besides, while Eleni prepared my draft, I was busy with a much "heavier" single-author paper. Any one of the 14 pages of the latter is objectively worth ten times more than the two pages of the former... You draw your own conclusions. Cheers, T.
    Sorry, I am unconvinced.

    Yes, you have 417 scientific publications, just like any high energy experimentalist with your history in terms of experimental participation. To the outside world, it's impossible to say which ones you essentially crafted yourself (as much as the collaboration permitted it without interference), which ones you read and commented on, and which ones you didn't have time to read at all. Your contributions to the experiments earned you the right of authorship, but not in a way that can be associated clearly with you. The ones you didn't even get a chance to read don't particularly reflect on you at all. And an outsider has no way to tell which ones those are.

    You yourself remarked when you posted the "look elsewhere" paper that it is something special for you. Sure, it is worth many times what the review is worth. So what? I'm not attacking your scientific credentials or achievements, just pointing out that a single-authored paper, even a review, does have value for an experimentalist.

    Your data is correct, but without the context of the field, it is misleading. You received some benefit, small though it may be, from Eleni's ghost-writing.


    I am sorry if you do not see it, but I suspect you do and just behave as a troll here. I repeat it: my scientific career does not depend on such irrelevant stuff. First of all, I am tenured. Second, if I were to participate in a selection (say for a professor position in a foreign university, or on Italy for that matter) the paper would not make it into any selected list I would present. Third, and here you may be in to a surprise, I read, comment, and correct each and every draft of the collaboration papers i publish. In CDF I belong to the "Spokespersons Publication Review Group", and my charge is precisely that. In CMS I am doing the very same thing as a member of the Statistics Committee, which signs off each paper by determining if the statistical claims made therein are sound. So rest assured: there is a bit of my contribution on all the papers with my name on them! As finally for the impossibility to trace my scientific activity to those papers, it is true: collaborations work that way. You sound like a sourball to me, probably you have a few papers with your name on them and you ache for how few those are. I understand it is tough out there, but do not make it sound as if the shortcomings of the system are my own fault. Cheers, T.
    You've been on the internet long enough to recognize when someone is trolling... this is not a case of that.

    I'm impressed, and surprised that you read every single paper. Good for you, it is far from typical of your collaborators. Evaluating the statistics does put a little of you in every paper, but I think you'll agree that this is not the same thing as being the person who put the primary effort into the analysis and or the writing of it. That is not a criticism of you; it is impossible to do otherwise.

    To my basic point, you have agreed that your career cannot be judged by an outsider (where outsider even includes high energy physicists not in your experiments - and probably some of them too). So I can't concede that this is just my "not seeing it". For the record, I never suggested that this flaw in the system was your fault. Just the fact that the flaw exists changes the meaning of single-authored papers that, say, for a theorist really would be complete fluff. For you they establish a certain "expertise inside the collaboration" on a subject, in this case Higgs physics. And that is true regardless of whether you yourself will ever refer to the paper again. So you have benefitted, even if you didn't set out to do it for that reason or realize it. (But you are smarter than that).

    Conjecturing I am a sourball is completely absurd -- you're a scientist, and there are no facts here. It's (in fact, not true) but completely irrelevant. In fact, your defensive reaction just proves I'm more likely to be right than not.