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United Kingdom Science

UK To Give Peer-Reviewed Science Libel Protection 101

Posted by Soulskill
from the about-bloody-time dept.
scibri writes "England is finally getting around to updating its notoriously plaintiff-friendly libel laws, which have been extensively criticized for stifling scientific debate in the past few years, such as in the case of Simon Singh. The government introduced a defamation bill last week that would extend explicit protection to statements in scientific or academic journals — providing the work was properly peer reviewed. The protection would also extend to reports of academic and scientific conferences. The proposed legislation is popular among the UK's researchers and journalists, but a similar law on whistleblower protection has had mixed reviews in the U.S."
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UK To Give Peer-Reviewed Science Libel Protection

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  • by DWMorse (1816016)
    Now I can reveal Nickel for the evil backstabbing bastard element it is!!
    • Yep, you couldn't have Nickelback without nickel, and that's all the proof I need.

      • by tqk (413719)

        Yep, you couldn't have Nickelback without nickel, and that's all the proof I need.

        I consider it a good day when I get to the end of it without hearing anything by or about Nickelback. So much for today.

        • by sconeu (64226)

          What do you have against an American Football defense strategy?

          • by tqk (413719)

            What do you have against an American Football defense strategy?

            I heard they did (?) the Superbowl halftime show (with Madonna?!?), but since I didn't watch it, I don't know what you're saying. Now, bringing all that back into mind makes me want to go wash out my mouth with soap, or my keyboard. Were there any wardrobe malfunctions to speak of this year, and have the Xtians recovered from that traumatic event yet?

            You know, about the worst things that happen in baseball these days is Rosanne Barr butchering the national anthem for !@#$s and giggles. NFL just makes me

            • by KGIII (973947)

              I am not a football fan really but there are a few things you may not want to know. I will tell you anyhow, it is for your own good.

              hmm... my phone stopped doing caps in here... oh well, bear with me.

              the players are among the greatest physically empowered people on the planet. they can sprint, jump, lift, and more on nearly the same level as olympiads.

              most actually have degrees and actually had to not only pass those courses but had to do so while maintaining their physical training.

              the game is actually pre

              • by tqk (413719)

                Now that's a beautiful post. I'm honoured. I'm also mostly a fan of National League baseball and World Series baseball and Italian Serie A football fan.

                I don't know if your wife left you for a football player ...

                fsck, that was funny. :-)

                No, really, I know North American football, watched NFL on TV every Sunday afternoon and Monday night and went to CFL games in town. I didn't intend to insult any players with what I wrote prior to this. I was talking about fans. I've a lot of respect for the players. They're no dummies.

                However, "perhaps it is that it is too co

  • There will probably be some wrinkles that will need to be ironed out down the road, but at least it should prevent things like the silliness that enveloped the whole chiropractor incident from a few years ago. Hopefully.

    • by XanC (644172)

      Too bad Dr Bob, DC got found out. We could use him right now.

      • Yeah, he was one of the best trolls / alts / whatever the fuck he was doing of all time. I saw that thread -- he had some sticky cookie, posted as his real UID, called it a good run, and that was it.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So, until the paper is peer-reviewed, it's still vulnerable to libel.

    Next, a libel watchdog looks for search terms and reports papers recently submitted that are still open to sue.

    Sue early, sue often!

    • So, until the paper is peer-reviewed, it's still vulnerable to libel.

      Except that journals will not publish a paper until it is peer-reviewed and, until something is published, there is no libel. Of course this does mean that if you submit a version to a preprint server you might be in trouble. Fortunately I'm a particle physicist and I doubt Higgs bosons will sue us for "making it look fat" if we measure a mass that's on the high side.

  • They're going to need to be very careful on the implementation. Define "properly" peer-reviewed. Is the journal liable for libel (now there's a terrible turn of phrase) if it turns out the peer review wasn't "proper"? Can someone challenge the propriety of the peer review in court?

    Don't get me wrong; sounds like a step in the right direction. I'd just hate to see it abused to discourage scientific publishing in England.

  • UK? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ciascu (1345429) on Monday May 14, 2012 @06:38PM (#40000281) Journal
    Unless I'm misunderstanding the Nature article and Google links, the title of this post is misleading: this is about England & Wales (which share their legal system) rather than the rest of the UK - there's an article here about the different implications that such a law would have on the Scottish legal system (English libel reform raises new Scottish question [firmmagazine.com]). I haven't seen any indication whether we'd adopt this in Northern Ireland.
  • ...but still just a bandaid on some pretty serious issues with censorship. It is almost a slap in the face for anyone who cares about free speech to see them realize there is a problem and then decide to only plaster over a symptom.
    • ...but still just a bandaid on some pretty serious issues with censorship.

      The scientific paper exclusion is just one aspect of the bill. It also introduces truth as a defence. So, as long as you are telling the truth, there will be no censorship from libel.

      • It also introduces truth as a defence.

        It's already there. The word used is "justification", but that's what it means.

        Don't believe everything you read on slashdot, especially about legal matters. Very few of the people posting here are qualified in law, and of those a tiny fraction could even point to the country in question on a map.

      • by bky1701 (979071)
        Yet the burden of proof is still on the wrong side, meaning you'll still be harassed and might even lose when speaking the truth.
  • Defamation is going to be reborn, "scientifically", in Britain by the rich and powerful interests against smaller fry. The problem will not just be "groupthink" but increased attackes by "respectable" peer reviewed British journals that are 95+% financed as captive or corporate whores already.

    This is going further down the road to serfdom, "scientifically".
  • We have the same unfair and unjust libel laws as the US, where the plaintiff has no protection against a defendant with deep enough pockets?

    • by Dusty101 (765661)

      We have the same unfair and unjust libel laws as the US, where the plaintiff has no protection against a defendant with deep enough pockets?

      No you don't. The UK libel laws are significantly worse in many ways. They're much more broad, and can be applied to people more or less anywhere in the world. Read up on some of the points raised during the Simon Singh case for more details.

      • The UK libel laws are significantly worse in many ways.

        Is that a peer-reviewed fact?

        Read up on some of the points raised during the Simon Singh case for more details.

        You don't think he should have won?

  • Defamation and slander laws choke the free flow of true information. Nowadays everyone can have a blog, and any libelous info can be quickly confirmed or denied by the checking out the website of the alleged miscreant.

  • About time the new church got the same protections as the old church. Peer-reviewed doesn't mean factual. Reality is not running for a re-election.
    • by superwiz (655733)
      So I get modded "troll" for saying "reality is not running for a re-election." I wonder if that means that someone on Slashdot thought that reality was, in fact, going a good-faith effort of running for an election.
  • I guess that means that all scientific submissions made from labs in England have to be automatically rejected. This would make any questioning of consensus a slander. Which means that all scientific skepticism would be effectively prohibited. This would not just undermine, but effectively forbid the scientific method of inquiry. No journal should give any credence to research produced under such circumstances. It might finally dethrone Nature from being the most respectable scientific publication (bec
    • I guess

      There's your problem.

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