Internet out of control—and that’s good, on the whole
One thing that was long taken as just a fact of life is that mass communication channels, being expensive to run and maintain, would be under the control of big-money entities: businesses (large businesses frequently, but even the local radio station is run by a business with business interests) or the government (theoretically in service to the public, but more often in service to business). With the Internet, however, private citizens suddenly have a voice and a platform.
Of course, millions upon millions of small blogs don’t really move much—this blog is reasonably successful for a private blog, I would say, but gets only 2000 hits/day.
BUT: it’s very easy to pass along links that catch one’s eye, and as these take fire, things can spread quickly. The blog has had more than 3,800,000 views over its life, and the biggest day (when it was linked from high-traffic sites) it got 11,718 views. So there’s always the possibility that some post may explode, and this possibility is quite unsettling to those who once were firmly in control of what as communicated to the public.
Here’s an intriguing example, reported in The Scientist by Hannah Waters:
In the latest instance of the scientific process taking place over the internet, an anonymous internet-user has made a YouTube video exhibiting more than 60 purportedly manipulated images from 24 papers, complete with background music.
The whistleblower, who told ScienceInsider that he works in the life sciences and goes by the handle “Juuichi Jigen,” has created websites documenting misconduct by half a dozen Japanese researchers. And his efforts have paid off before. One University of Tokyo scientist called out by Jigen was found guilty of plagiarism and resigned from his post in 2010; another had several papers retracted.
The latest case focuses on work led by molecular endocrinologist Shigeaki Kato from the University of Tokyo. In the video, the images are presented as a series of slides, with arrows pointing out the altered sections. Jigen has contacted the university, and a spokesperson told ScienceInsider that “the university is conducting preliminary investigations,” including looking into two papers that the group retracted last summer.
Jigen has posted more details at his website dedicated to the potential case of research misconduct.