Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Evolving dino story example of self-correcting science in action

Arizona had two big geoscience stories that got wide attention in the past few days. One is the end of the Phoenix Mars Lander and the second is the news that a group of respected paleontologists is challenging the interpretation of the dinosaur trample surface ("dino dance floor") in northern Arizona. [right, credit Winston Seiler/UofU]

The news coverage of the dino tracks has been generally respectful and overall a positive statement on the scientific process. The Knight Science Journalism Tracker analysis of the coverage concluded, "The release of this turn of events, a rather nice example of iterative, self-correcting science in action, comes only because the original made such a splash worldwide."

They futher said, "The Tracker is rather cheering for the original diagnosis" but would wait for the results of the formal study and publication.

I think this reflects well on the UofU team for the way they handled it. Kudos to Margie Chan, Winston Seiler and Lee Siegel for taking the critique in a professional and publicly open way. It had to be tough to stand up on the world stage and admit you may have been wrong.

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