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Fleming’s penicillin find couldn’t be published today?

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From Vox:

Rajendran notes that Alexander Fleming’s simple observation that penicillin mold seemed to kill off bacteria in his petri dish could never be published today, even though it led to the discovery of lifesaving antibiotics. That’s because today’s journals want lots of data and positive results that fit into an overarching narrative (what Rajendran calls “storytelling”) before they’ll publish a given study.

“You would have to solve the structure of penicillin or find the mechanism of action,” he added.

But research is complex, and scientific findings may not fit into a neat story — at least not right away. So Rajendran and the staff at Matters hope scientists will be able to share insights in this journal that they may not been able to publish otherwise. He also thinks that if researchers have a place to explore preliminary observations, they may not feel as much pressure to exaggerate their findings in order to add all-important publications to their CVs. More.

In comparison with which, saving tens of thousands of lives and shortening WWII were trivia.

Good points, but the story would sound more convincing if it hadn’t started out with a hard luck story from, of all venues, the “social sciences.”

Guy shouldn’t even want to be published in a venue like that. That is, if his time is valuable or something.

But the new Matters journal sounds interesting, and we’ll have more on it.

See also: Replication as key science reform

Is peer review a “sacred cow”? Ready “to be slaughtered”?


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It's useful to note that the original article produced ZERO interest, and Fleming himself NEVER did any additional research on penicillin. If it had not been for the US entry into WW2, and the BOTTOMLESS barrel of American research money, penicillin would probably NEVER have come into use. But the English included penicillin (along with the jet engine) in a miscellaneous 1942 grab-bag of "interesting ideas for which the English ain't got the cash to pursue". And so a lab in Illinois got a contract to see what they could do with Fleming's raw ideas. Also, Fleming's original strain was found to be MUCH inferior to some mold one of the Americans found in a rotten cantelope. So, YEAH, Fleming's discovery was half-baked, and it cost MILLIONS for the additional research needed to develop a useful application. mahuna

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