Even before it was published, the arsenic life story (about a microorganism that uses the toxic element arsenic instead of phosphorus to live) was causing controversy. But while many people went back and forth with criticisms, Rosie Redfield has been trying to repeat Wolfe-Simon’s experiments, and chronicling them in her blog.

This isn’t the first ‘peer-review by blog’, as our reader’s might remember from 2009. But following the blog has been both incredibly interesting and a wonderful reminder to me of the ‘joys’ of lab work. Open notebook science is still in it’s infancy, but Redfield is using her blog to document both her arsenic experiments and the other work her lab is doing, and even introduces experiments suggested by commenters.

Anyhow, it now looks like there’s just about enough evidence to refute the arsenic life paper, and so Redfield is writing it up.

I’ve loved following the story, but I think it will also be interesting to see what happens next. Will Redfield’s paper be accepted? Or will the ‘prior publication’ of data a problem. And if the paper is accepted, will Wolfe-Simon’s be retracted. Whatever the outcome, these are interesting times for scientific publication.

Laura Howes

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