This post is, perhaps rather obviously, tinged with a small touch of bitterness, but there are some commenters out there in blog-land who might do well to recognise the reality of research. Following some behind the scenes discussion with fellow palaeo-bloggers it seems this sentiment is far from limited to me. Science is, to a degree, all about criticism and the ability of hypotheses to pass tests of criticism. However, bearing that in mind…
Do you know what’s easy? Criticising someone’s work.
Do you know what is hard? Publishing a paper.
Do you know what’s next to impossible? Publishing a paper with no mistakes in it.
Do you know what’s actually impossible? Publishing a paper that everyone is happy with.
Being less catty, seriously, it’s impossible. I don’t know of any paper that doesn’t have a mistake in it somewhere. Now there are mistakes and mistakes, but typos, miss-citations, missing citations, bad phrases and odd little mistakes are rampant. Get over it. We try hard to eliminate them, but they will slip through. I know of people who have spelled the name of their own taxa wrong, I know someone who produced a conference poster with their university and their coauthor’s name both spelled wrong, and a colleague once published a paper with ‘Cretaceous’ wrong in the title.
In short, there is, in essence, nothing wrong with criticism. But an understanding not just of what you are attempting to criticse, but appreciating how and why it came to be, in the manner in which it did is integral to that. So don’t be a jerk and try points scoring because you spotted a missing reference or think there’s a better citation than the one given. Seriously try writing your own paper. It’s not that hard, but you might well find it an absolute ton harder than you think.