Blogging About Peer-Reviewed Research at the Discovery Institute.

Feb 04 2008 Published by under Anti-Evolutionism, Moral Flexibility, Religion

Casey Luskin has a post up over at the Discovery Institute's website that discusses an article that was recently published in PLoS Biology. The post itself is nothing particularly remarkable - Casey takes a paper that says that current hypotheses don't adequately deal with all of the problems of figuring out how life started, and claims that a lack of a workable hypothesis is evidence that an Intelligent Designer is needed to explain how life got here. Along the way to the argument from ignorance, he manages to misrepresent portions of the article, put words into the author's mouth, and use three little dots to chain sentences located paragraphs apart into a single quote. In most respects, it's a fairly typical example of Discovery Institute work.

This time, though, Casey added a little something extra to his usual work product. He stuck a little image up at the top left corner of his post. His use of the icon in question demonstrates an eagerness to assume the trappings of intellectual respectability without actually making the effort to be respectable.

The icon in question is the ResearchBlogging.org "Blogging About Peer-Reviewed Research" icon. You may have seen the icon before. I'm one of a large (and growing) number of bloggers who have used the icon to mark posts that feature an in-depth discussion of an article found in the peer-reviewed literature. The ResearchBlogging.org website provides a single location where you can find all of the properly marked posts.

ResearchBlogging.org is just getting started, and it shows a lot of promise. The goal of the project is to provide both a simple way for bloggers to mark posts that contain an accurate and thoughtful discussion of a peer-reviewed articles and a simple way for interested readers to find such posts. The hard part is ensuring that the posts more or less fulfill the "accurate and thoughtful" part of that equation. That's handled as a community effort. If a post is submitted that doesn't meet those criteria, it's brought up for discussion on the site. If there's a consensus that the post violates the guidelines, it's removed from the database. Hopefully, more bloggers will join the community, more people will use the website to find posts that provide more information about published articles than you get from the press releases.

The Research Blogging icon was designed to be used as part of that larger project. Anyone who wants to use the icon is welcome to. All you need to do is make sure that your post meets the guidelines for the project, register at the ResearchBlogging.org website, and follow the simple instructions that are provided. Casey did all but three of those things.

Instead of joining what has become a very promising community effort, Casey decided to "borrow" the icon without actually contributing anything. Instead of linking to the icon from his website, Casey copied the icon. He placed that copy on the Discovery Institute's website, and used the copy in his post. He did not ask for permission to use the image, and neither he nor anyone else even attempted to register the Discovery Institute's blog with the project.

Before I continue, there's something that I want to make very, very clear. I have absolutely no problem in principle with Casey Luskin - or anyone else - participating in the ResearchBlogging project. They have every bit as much of a right to participate as any other blogger on the internet. But that's not what happened here.

Casey made no effort to become a participant in the Research Blogging project when he tacked the icon onto his post. Instead, he became a parasite. The people who have done the work to build the Research Blogging website, icon, and community have done an incredible amount of work in a short period of time to get things off the ground. One of the things that they've been trying to do is to gain respectability for their project, by creating a set of standards for participation, and a means for the community of participants to identify and exclude posts that don't meet the standards. Casey decided to ignore all of that, and simply misappropriated the icon for his own purposes. His behavior is made more reprehensible because it's taking place so early in the Research Blogging project. When he slapped the icon on a post that does not meet the standards of the project, Casey made it harder for the project to gain a reputation as a way to find reliable information about peer-reviewed papers.

Addendum: Dave Munger has a post up on the ResearchBlogging project's blog where he's asked for discussion about whether or not Casey's post fits the project's standards. Let him know what you think.

36 responses so far

  • Bob O'H says:

    Because I'm evil - is the bpr3 icon copyrighted?
    Bob

  • J-Dog says:

    Thank you for the post. I had heard about Casey's post, but did not understand the ramifications - your explanation was very helpful.

  • Bruce Thompson says:

    Isn't parasiticism to be expected? It really doesn't matter who the parasite is or where they come from. From the parasites point of view the tag may confer a slight selective advantage on his web site allowing him to promote his product. It would seem the question becomes what sort of parasites can the system handle and what is the maximum parasitic load the research blogging project will accept.

  • kevin z says:

    Bob, yes it is. From BPR3 website that Mike linked above:
    "Since we own the copyright on the icon itself, in principle we have the authority to ask them to stop using the icon because we only give permission to use the icon to blogs following our guidelines."

  • t-guy says:

    Oooo, DI violating a copyright! Who would a' thunk it?

  • TheBlackCat says:

    By currently international standards, which the U.S. follows, a creative work (like an icon) is automatically copyrighted the moment it is created. So by the very fact that it exists the icon is copyrighted.

  • IanR says:

    The only valid question I can think of is: can he assert "fair use"? My guess is that he can't - after all, he isn't talking about the icon.

  • Steverino says:

    Isn't it tellling that the same way he tries to attain legitimacy in his post, is the same way the DI (and ID) try to gain legitimacy in the world of science.

  • Curt Cameron says:

    From the parasites point of view the tag may confer a slight selective advantage on his web site allowing him to promote his product.

    I think the science bloggers in this case are acting as the fine-tooth comb.

  • MartinM says:

    When he slapped the icon on a post that does not meet the standards of the project, Casey made it harder for the project to gain a reputation as a way to find reliable information about peer-reviewed papers.

    Well, Casey doesn't want people to find reliable information about peer-reviewed papers. That's the kind of thing that leads to learning, after all, and then where would he and his ilk be?

  • Paul Burnett says:

    Make sure Abbie at ERV hears about this. She's got a little something to say about Casey and copyright issues: http://endogenousretrovirus.blogspot.com/2008/01/day-in-life-of-di-fellow-part-iii.html

  • waldteufel says:

    Casey Luskin is a sow trying to look pretty by applying stolen lipstick.

  • TheBlackCat says:

    The only valid question I can think of is: can he assert "fair use"?

    Is he using just part of the work? No.
    Is he using it for educational purposes? No.
    Is he using it for satire? No.
    Is he using it for new reporting? No.
    Is he commenting on it? No.
    Is he expanding on or transforming the existing work in any way? No.
    Does his use of the work reduce its value? Immensely.
    So he fails every existing test for fair use. In some cases using the work for non-profit purposes may help, but when you fail every other test it is not enough to save you.

  • I agree with a comment above- even parasites have the right to exist. They are an integral part of the ecology, and should not be eradicated.
    That said, the host has every biological right to reduce or remove the presence of a foreign parasite.

  • sparc says:

    Thinking of Luskin's embarrassing record I am pretty sure that he abused the BPR3 icon intentionally. He surely was aware that his post would not remain un-noticed and would cause an uproar in the science bloging community. I am pretty sure that one of his next posts will claim that his intentions were good, that conspiring "materialist" scientists aka atheists are bullying him without any cause and that the issue qualifies as another example of being EXPELLED.

  • Les Lane says:

    This in entirely in character with the DI. They wish to be considered scientific w/o creating a legitimate scientific base. They aspire to become mainstream w/o participating in the scientific peer review process. At this stage their only hope of becoming legitimate science is for science to degenerate to apologetics.

  • divalent says:

    Maybe ResearchBlogging.org should contact the Discovery Institute's web site host. That should take them off line for a while.
    If Luskin is a lawyer, he sure ain't the sharpest tool. You'd think with the issues the DI has been having with copyright issues that he would at least have boned up on the law.

  • Paul Htchman says:

    Simply send his ISP a DMCA takedown notice for copyright violation. Problem solved. In fact if you want to protect the integrity of the project, you are going to have to get used to doing this sort of thing.
    This site has a sample properly worded notice.
    http://www.denisemccune.com/blog/2007/09/on_sfwa_vs_scribdcom_the_dmca.html
    The ISP (assuming they are in the US) must take down the page unless he files a counter-notice.

  • jpf says:

    If they haven't already Research Blogging should look into getting a trademark on the icon. While copyright protection may work, a trademark is more fitting for what they are trying to do with it (and yes, non-profits and non-business organizations can have trademarks).
    Luskin is essentially capitalizing on their mark to profit from the work RB put into building the brand, thereby causing market confusion and misleading consumers (exchanging all that commercial language with whatever is used when non-profits are involved -- IANAL, naturally). Trademark law was created just for this sort of thing.

  • eric johnson says:

    I agree with the comment posted by "sparc". The argument of the minute is creationists being "expelled", and Luskin is setting himself up to be another victim. If any action is taken, the reasons should be made clear, with all basis covered for his inevitable cry of "I'm being EXPELLED!!!!".

  • Mike O'Risal says:

    eric johnson said:
    If any action is taken, the reasons should be made clear, with all basis covered for his inevitable cry of "I'm being EXPELLED!!!!".

    I think that's a worthwhile concern, but I also think it's inevitable that a pathetic little weasel like Luskin will cry and whine about that no matter how well the reasons are explained. In fact, there's been a thorough discussion of the ways in which Luskin's trash heap violates BPR's charter on BPR itself.
    The thing is... who really cares about Little Girl Luskin's font of teardrops anymore? ID is dead in the water; it has no credibility among scientists, certainly, and it's almost never mentioned anymore in the debate over science education in places like Texas and Florida. Luskin is irrelevant; aside from a dwindling handful of hardcore DI sycophants, he has no impact on anyone's thinking.
    Luskin outright stole the BPR icon for personal use. Whatever else may be said about his entry or about his lack of intellectual and testicular fortitude, it all comes down to that simple point. Let him cry his widdle eyes out about being expelled, expunged and exsanguinated if he wants to. He's no better than a common burglar who, when caught ransacking someone's house, tries to blame the world for his actions. Nobody who matters buys either tantrum.

  • Elizabeth GM says:

    The irony is so thick, you need a machete to cut it: the DI blogger borrows the ResearchBlogging icon in such a way that it disallows (or at least discourages) peer review of his post, when the very point of the ResearchBlogging icon is to encourage thoughtful discussion of peer-reviewed articles.

  • QA's Mom says:

    Mike O'Risal
    I take exception to you using "little girl" as a deragatory term. Being born female, and not having had time to age, is nothing to be ashamed of.
    I would suggest you use the term "cry baby" if that is what you mean.
    Little girls have enough problems without being compared to Luskin.
    Thanks

  • Joe Mc Faul says:

    I see the offending post has deleted the peer reviewed logo and another post has been put up to bump it off the EN&V front page. So far, no explanation for the removal.

  • Joe Mc Faul says:

    I see the offending post has deleted the peer reviewed logo and another post has been put up to bump it off the EN&V front page. So far, no explanation for the removal.

  • Mike O'Risal says:

    QA's mom,
    That's not what I mean, though. For an allegedly grown man to play dress-up, in this case by falsely "putting on" the marking of someone who studies science and/or does research, is acting just like a little girl who gets into mom's cosmetics and pretends to be "all grown." I used the term intentionally and specifically. No, being born female and not having had time to age is nothing to be ashamed of. Being several decades old and acting like a child, however, certainly is.

  • Hank says:

    He's basically reinforcing IDs image as a cargo cult.

  • Bobby says:

    This in entirely in character with the DI. They wish to be considered scientific w/o creating a legitimate scientific base. They aspire to become mainstream w/o participating in the scientific peer review process.

    My thoughts exactly. They're eager to acquire all the trappings of scientific respectability, all without doing any science.
    I wonder if they dress up in lab coats and label their closets "Seminar Room" and "Irreducible Complexity Laboratory", just to get into the feel of the thing.

  • Bobby says:

    IDs image as a cargo cult.

    Ha - perfect metaphor!

  • Foggg says:

    What Researchblogging might want is technically called a "servicemark" instead of a "trademark" but is otherwise identical --- and unfortunately costs $275.
    http://www.uspto.gov/teas/teasplus.htm

  • steve s says:

    My thoughts exactly. They're eager to acquire all the trappings of scientific respectability, all without doing any science.
    I wonder if they dress up in lab coats and label their closets "Seminar Room" and "Irreducible Complexity Laboratory", just to get into the feel of the thing.

    They tried to do this, actually. It was called ISCID. They were going to have conferences, seminars, and a journal. The conferences have been cancelled, the seminars have been cancelled, and the journal went defunct years ago. I can't even get anyone to pick up the phone at ISCID headquarters. (Casey actually published an extremely stupid article in that 'journal', by the way)

  • Mike O'Risal says:

    What Researchblogging might want is technically called a "servicemark" instead of a "trademark" but is otherwise identical --- and unfortunately costs $275.

    That's not so much. If they need money to defray the cost, I'd pony up $10. If 27.5 other people will do so as well, then problem solved. I'd contribute more if I could, but I'm on a grad student stipend.
    The idea of the thing is certainly worth at least $10, isn't it?

  • Ravilyn Sanders says:

    Didn't this shady character Casey badger an old prof to remove a thumbnail size image of His Greatness's face from some obscure personal website? Or that was a different shady character?

  • Chris Noble says:

    Thinking of Luskin's embarrassing record I am pretty sure that he abused the BPR3 icon intentionally. He surely was aware that his post would not remain un-noticed and would cause an uproar in the science bloging community. I am pretty sure that one of his next posts will claim that his intentions were good, that conspiring "materialist" scientists aka atheists are bullying him without any cause and that the issue qualifies as another example of being EXPELLED.

    It is step four in the Crank Howto

  • Pole Greaser says:

    If it's dishonest for Christians to employ the symbols the religion of evolutionism (science, so called), it is equally dishonest for evolutionists to don clerical robes and claim its okay for those who believe in Jesus to believe in Darwin as well! Now you know how Christians feel when those who hide behind the cross claim nothing is wrong with evolutionism!