Today in “tricky but nonetheless important news,” the media might have been a little hasty in lauding the discoveries of sixth-grader Lauren Arrington. The 12-year-old’s science fair project went viral for its discovery that invasive lionfish are capable of traveling into estuaries, but an adult biologist is reluctantly coming forward to say that information isn’t new–in fact, he discovered it himself four years ago.
Zack Jud caught a lionfish in an estuary river in 2010 (see above) when he was still a student, then published his findings in a 2011 peer-reviewed paper assisted on by D. Albrey Arrington–Lauren’s father. Zud took to Facebook on the 21st to voice frustration that his years of research were eclipsed by the media’s understandable enthusiasm for Lauren, a self-professed “science geek:”
My lionfish research is going viral…but my name has been intentionally left out of the stories, replaced by the name of the 12-year-old daughter of my former supervisor’s best friend. The little girl did a science fair project based on my PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED DISCOVERY of lionfish living in low-salinity estuarine habitats. Her story has been picked up nationally by CBS, NPR, and CORAL magazine, and has received almost 90,000 likes on Facebook, yet my years of groundbreaking work on estuarine lionfish are being completely and intentionally ignored. At this stage in my career, this type of national exposure would be invaluable…if only my name was included in the stories. I feel like my hands are tied. Anything I say will come off as an attempt to steal a little girl’s thunder, but it’s unethical for her and her father to continue to claim the discovery of lionfish in estuaries as her own.
It’s unfortunate that a young girl with a healthy passion for science became caught up in what sounds like confusion between her father and Zud, and I hope that like any good researcher she’ll respect the need to give credit where credit is due. It sounds like she’s got what it takes to wow the world again in seventh grade–and this time, without any complications.