6) Publication of Primary Data

Ludwik Kowalski, <kowalskiL@mail.montclair.edu>
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, N.J.

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What follows is a section copied from pages 221-222 of J. Huizenga book: "Cold Fusion; the Scientific Fiasco of the Century," Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1993. It describes an example of publishing of incorrect data about Cold Fusion.

"Researchers have the responsibility to publish their own experimental data. They should be in a position to explain and defend their results to other qualified experts. This is especially true when the reported data are controversial and directly contradict well-established scientific results in the literature. The description of experiments and results should be published in sufficient detail to give the expert reader the possibility of evaluating the significance of the claimed result. This standard scientific procedure was not followed by University of Utah scientists when reporting large amounts of He in the gases evolving from Fleischmann and Pons' electrolytic cells, supposedly from D+D fusion.

On April 14, 1989, three weeks after the well-known University of Utah press conference, Walling and Simons, colleagues of Fleischmann and Pons, submitted a 'theoretical' paper to the Joumal of Physical Chernistry. In this paper they reported, by way of a private communication from Pons and Hawkins, that the He production in cold fusion cells was even larger than that required to account for all of the claimed excess heat. With this very preliminary and unsubstantiated evidence, Walling and Simons proceeded to construct their three-miracle 'non-theory' described in Chapter 3. At this early stage in the history of cold fusion, He was being promoted as the critical evidence for cold fusion. In the Editorial Comment section (a most unusual addition to a scientific paper) at the end of the Walling and Simons paper, it is recorded that one reviewer stated "it is of utmost importance to get the data presented in this paper into the public domain as quickly as possible." Although I support fast (and accurate) publication, the above advice to publish by private communication data that directly contradicted well-established results in nuclear physics was not in the best long-term interest of science. Authors themselves have the responsibility to publish such findings along with supporting experimental evidence. It is completely unsatisfactory to introduce controversial and potentially important experimental results into the literature through someone else's publication by way of a private communication.

On May 8, 1989, at the Los Angeles Electrochemical Society meeting, three weeks after the submission of the Walling and Simons paper, Fleischmann and Pons announced that their He measurements were flawed. Nowhere in the Walling and Simons published paper (published on June 15, 1989) is this very serious mistake mentioned! The He data, if true, would have been revolutionary. In actual fact, however, these data were completely erroneous, and no retraction has appeared. Presumably, since Pons and Hawkins did not publish their He results, they felt no responsibility to retract the incorrect information put into print by Walling and Simons. On the other hand, Walling and Simons apparently felt that it was Pons' responsibility to set the record straight since they didn't add a note in proof warning the reader that the He data were erroneous. This, of course, would have undermined the entire justification for publishing the Walling and Simons paper. The helium episode is an example of a worst case scenario of what can happen when data enter the scientific literature by way of private communication. When errors are discovered, they should be acknowledged immediately, preferably in the same journal."

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