Media pumps up a little girl’s science project then viciously takes her down. Leave this kid alone!

A week ago!

 This week!

This is my take:
A precocious little kid did a science fair experiment for her school. It received attention because it is on a dangerous invasive and because a child did the work. She likely got the idea for the experimental design from her father, who probably got the idea from colleagues.
            Because people are interested in the topic and it was such a slow news week (besides the three airplane crashes, Israel/Palestine conflict etc.) this thing went viral. Anyway, who wouldn’t cheer for a young girl who discovered something cool, novel, and useful at the tender age of 12. But just as quickly as some were there to praise our new rising star, so too were they there to take her down just as quickly. Unfortunately, in this case the star/victim is a little girl with an interest in science. The media just made her an example of the climate for scientists today and women in science in general. The media’s interpretation of science is at fault here too. The headline that made me flinch the most was “Did [used her name] steal a marine biologist’s study for her 6th grade science project?” What a despicable thing to use a child’s real name in such a negative heading. Shameful.
            The timeline from Christie Wilcox above is the best thing to read out there from this "story." Shame on the reporters who wrote this girl's name in their stories and made it sound like she “plagiarized” another person’s work. She did not copy someone else’s work, the worst case is if she didn’t mention the work done before her as much as she could/should have.  This is a child people. At least keep her name out of this. Maybe she made a mistake in remembering how she came up with this project certainly it was influenced by the work of one of her father’s colleagues and perhaps in reading all of this wonderful press she started to rethink where these ideas originated. When talking to the press we often build narratives from our scientific work, we all stood on someone else’s shoulders and on the works of those that came before us. What happened here was a little scientific progress by a child that turned into a wider cultural regression.
  I understand the concerns of Zachary Jud, the PhD student who feels his work was slighted. He deserves credit for his work, but here is the thing - people are talking about his original work because of this little girl. The original work is already published and already got a little press, it is great that people are talking about this project again. This little kid has brought a lot of attention to it. Did she intentionally leave the original research out of the story to make her science fair research sound even better? I don’t think so. Even if she did, she’s only 13 now and kids make mistakes sometimes, but especially when talking to the media. If you are a scientist that has ever been asked “How did you come up with this project?” you know that it can be a very tough question to answer succinctly and you sometimes leave out details about all the influences you had in the past that got you to that point. Now imagine answering questions like that when you were 13 with an adult asking you the questions.
If you want to blame someone here blame the adults, blame the media, but don’t blame a little girl who just was trying to do a little science she was interested in.