Physics World on the Higgs affair May 2, 2007Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, internet, news, personal, physics, politics, science.
Martin Griffiths, a science writer on Physics World, has written for the May issue of his magazine a good account of the story of the news spread last March by the New Scientist and the Economist on the possible discovery of a Higgs boson at the Tevatron.
In the well-written piece, I got to learn a few details of the story which had escaped my insider visual at the time. For instance the fact that my actions (see also here for a summary) were defended by the CDF spokesperson Rob Roser, who does not think I and John Conway “crossed the lines” in reporting about the small excess of events seen by the Higgs search analysis in our blogs.
That bit matches my impressions of the events following the publishing of the two articles last March on NS and Economist, which I can now summarize roughly as follows (but beware, these are only my extrapolations): a few collaborators of my experiment (I know some of the actors, but not all of them) complained to the CDF Spokespersons about John and I leaking information to the media, and asked them to take action one way or another – from changing the internal bylaws to make it impossible for a collaborator to blog on public CDF results, to publically blaming our actions, to who knows what.
But Roser and Konigsberg apparently did not yield to the pressure, and they rather put together a set of “guidelines” which, while not mandatory, would drive collaborators’ behavior with respect to blogging matters as a sort of moral obligation – call it a Gentlemen’s agreement if you wish. I also know from Gordon Watts that D0 put together an almost exactly equal list of guidelines.
I find Roser and Konigsberg’s decision rather wise. Indeed, one of them once taught me that “you have to pick your battles”: meaning both that you cannot fight them all, and that you better avoid fighting those you are sure you would lose. And, despite the peer pressure that my friend Gordon thinks would be mounting against blogs, I believe a uncompromising position by CDF and D0 or whatever other large collaboration would only cause a backfire. That, at least, seems to be the regular outcome when somebody walks in the internet scene and tries to tell people what to do.