USING the Supermarket Botany Article

Steve Hinkson sphinkson at
Thu Jul 8 19:38:19 EST 1999

Submit manuscripts here.  God knows this group will find any error !

David Hershey wrote:

> Your suggestion is a novel use for a flawed article. Unfortunately,
> there have been quite a few plant science teaching articles you could
> use for such an exercise. It would also be interesting to look at the
> three botany texts by the "Supermarket Botany" authors. I wouldn't be
> surprised if those texts also have similar errors.
> You may be correct that the ABT Editor did not read the manuscript but
> he should have seen to it that some competent botanist carefully
> reviewed it. I have been writing letters in ABT for years pointing out
> major errors in botany manuscripts, so the problem is not really new.
> This was just a particularly good example of a "bad" article. Perhaps,
> ABT needs one or more Associate Editors to share the workload. ABT did
> have an Associate Editor a few years ago.
> In my experience as both an author and reviewer, peer review is not what
> it is cracked up to be. Few reviewers are going to spend the time needed
> to thoroughly review and improve another person's manuscript. Reviewers
> frequently do a cursory job. Often, the most in-depth reviews are ones
> by a reviewer who clearly wants to kill the manuscript by finding as
> many imagined flaws as possible. Those kind of reviews are not very
> useful to an author. I have also seen abuses where three reviewers were
> used and a simple majority ruled even if the dissenter correctly pointed
> out major problems with the manuscript. I think a better approach might
> be a review panel of dedicated experts rather than a large pool of peer
> reviewers.
> It is to ABT's credit that it is willing to publish letters pointing out
> flaws in ABT articles. I know that many journals, including "Science",
> will sometimes not publish such letters, presumably to avoid
> embarassment.
> The thing that was most disconcerting to me was the authors' response to
> the criticisms. They would only admit to one specific error and used all
> sorts of vague and tricky statements, including contradicting what they
> said in their article, to defend themselves. They would not even admit
> that they had a drawing of a peach labeled incorrectly as an apple!
> Scientists are supposed to search for the truth but their response
> attempted to hide the truth. It would also be instructive for students
> to compose a letter to rebut the authors' response as well.
> David Hershey
> dh321 at
> Ross Koning wrote:
> >
> > As a professor in the CSU system, I was quite
> > embarassed by the article that has been mentioned.
> > Not only does it reflect badly on ABT but also on
> > CSU when faculty at our sister campuses don't
> > put their manuscripts out for peer review.
> >
> > However, several of the posts about this article
> > have indicated that such published articles are
> > useless to the teaching profession.  And, while I
> > agree that errors make us have to do double-time
> > to prevent them multiplying in school systems, there
> > IS one use that can be made of this article...
> >
> > I recommend sending your college students to the
> > library (or reprinting the article with permission)
> > to read the article and then submit a list of errors
> > of botanical fact that they find in the article.  I
> > wouldn't tell them about the letters in later issues
> > or the authors' reply to the letters.  This activity
> > will get the students to read an article closely, and
> > the errors are so obvious and aggregious, that even
> > non-majors have a good chance of uncovering many of
> > them on-their-own. It also reminds students that
> > they shouldn't believe EVERYTHING they read in print.
> > You could score the student papers on a numerical scale
> > because of the multitude of the errors in the article.
> > After allowing this to reinforce the RIGHT ideas, I
> > would then point them on to the letters and responses
> > published in ABT. Were all of the errors reported?
> > Were the reported errors truly errata? You might even
> > have the students evaluate the authors' reply.  Then,
> > as the editor-in-chief of ABT is also the primary author
> > of a MAJOR Botany textbook and is a plant physiologist,
> > have the students compose a letter to him about his
> > responsibility to ABT and to the science. Finally you
> > can have students reflect on the whole situation and
> > to figure out what is RIGHT about science when the
> > letters are published openly in the same journal.
> >
> > I plan to do this in my botany class for majors this
> > next spring.  We'll see how it works out.  My take on
> > the editor is that he is too busy writing his book on
> > Evolution to keep an eye on the day-to-day drudgery of
> > finding qualified reviewers for botanical manuscripts
> > in the journal. He obviously didn't read the "supermarket"
> > manuscript himself...he is a bright guy and knows fruits
> > and five-kingdoms (I use his book!), but IMHO he is
> > spread too thinly. There is a lesson in that for me too.
> >
> > ross
> >
> > ________________________________________________________________
> > Ross Koning                 | koning at
> > Biology Department          |
> > Eastern CT State University | phone: 860-465-5327
> > Willimantic, CT 06226 USA   | fax: 860-465-4479
> > ____________________________|___________________________________
> >
> > Electronic services composed and served from •Macintosh hardware.

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