Thursday, August 29, 2013

Guinness says no!

The World Records, that is, not the beer, which always says yes.

Two months ago, I posted a blog about "Hendry Vineyard Stickleback", in which I described a paper that my kids (Aspen and Cedar) and I just published:

Hendry, A.P., A.S. Hendry, and C.A. Hendry. 2013. Hendry vineyard stickleback: testing for contemporary lake-stream divergence. Evolutionary Ecology Research 15:343-359. PDF


Joacim Naslund added the following comment on the blog:

Have you checked if your kids are actually the youngest published scientific authors?

Guinness Book of World Records website states:

"At age 11, Emily Rosa, of Loveland, Colorado, USA, became the youngest person to have research published in a scientific or medical journal when an article she co-authored appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association on 1 April 1998."

Then, of course, more recently there was the Blackawton Bee study by a class of 8-year olds published in Biology Letters, but your children seem to be even younger.


Who doesn't want to be involved in setting a world record, particularly as a kid. I can certainly remember sitting around and trying to figure out which record I would like to break - and here we had seemingly broken one without even knowing it. So I looked at the Guinness website and found that - yes - according to the record posted there, Aspen (age 10) and Cedar (age 7), should hold the new world record. So why not try? I navigated the Guinness system for submitting a record, added all the proof, and submitted. I didn't pay to have it fast tracked though and so the answer only arrived tonight. Here it is:

Thank you for sending us the details of your proposed record attempt for 'Youngest person to have research results published'. Here at Guinness World Records we are always thrilled to hear about new and exciting record breaking proposals.

Unfortunately, after thoroughly reviewing your application with members of our research team, we are afraid to say that we’re unable to accept your proposal as a Guinness World Records title.

Our team of expert Records Managers receive thousands of new record proposals every year from all over the world which are carefully assessed to establish if they meet our stringent criteria: every record must be measurable by a single superlative, verifiable, standardisable, breakable and also present an element of skill.

Whilst we fully appreciate this is not the decision you were hoping for, we trust that you will understand our position. However, if you have any further record proposals please do make another application, we would be delighted to hear from you again.

Once again thank you for contacting Guinness World Records.

Kind regards


Cedar and Aspen react to the Guinness verdict.
Well, I am not sure who this research team is and why publishing a paper isn't measurable by a single superlative, verifiable, standardisable, breakable and also present an element of skill (as opposed to, say, the longest fingernails or the tallest mohawk or the heaviest onion or the most people to simultaneously apply a facial mask) but there you have it. Maybe I should have paid to have it fast tracked. Or maybe I should take heart in what came after the letter above:

If you feel we have misinterpreted your application, please login on and send us an enquiry clarifying your points, we will then review it and respond in less than 15 working days.

I guess I could clarify by pointing out that Evolutionary Ecology Research is listed in Web of Science and that it has an impact factor over 1.0. I could even send in the anonymous reviews and the Editor's decision letter. How about the data sheets with Aspen's scribbling - or the video of Cedar processing at three years old? Or maybe we should just try again - and quickly. We could published in a journal with a higher impact factor, for example. We could even add someone at Guinness as a co-author. These things we can do - and we can keep trying and trying until we get it right. Very soon, however, I will need a new kid. Better get started on that too.

In closing, I would like to reflect on the final paragraph of the Guinness email:

Please be aware that as your record application has not been accepted, Guinness World Records is not associated in any way with the activity relating to your record proposal and does not endorse this activity in any way. If you choose to proceed, then this is will be of your own volition and at your own risk. Guinness World Records will not monitor, measure or verify this activity.

I find it sad to think that Guinness does not endorse scientific research - although they are certainly not alone in that respect. Perhaps I can get Aspen or Cedar to start growing their nails.


  1. They seem to simply be confused. Their letter indicates that they think you are proposing a new kind of record, but you are not. You are merely claiming to have beaten the current record-holder in an existing category of record that they already adjudicate. So they have already decided that "youngest person to publish blah blah" is a record that is "measurable by a single superlative, verifiable, standardisable, breakable and also present an element of skill". They're just confused about what you're claiming. You should definitely follow their process to state that they have misinterpreted your application. And that video of Cedar is super cute, but you already know that. :->

  2. I agree with Ben Haller, try to make it clearer to them!

  3. Dave Tilman has a note to Nature co-authored with his young daughter, I believe. It's about the effects of fertilizer use on dandelion prevalence in lawns. The story I heard is that his daughter's a co-author because she noticed that some lawns had lots of dandelions and some had none and asked her dad why that was, thereby prompting dad to do a project on it. But I don't know how old she was at the time the paper was published, so I don't know if she'd be a contender for the world record. Just going by memory on all this, apologies for any details I botched.

  4. If you fight this one, it will be for their benefit I guess:
    Cyr^3 (2004) Acquired growth hormone deficiency and hypogonadotropic hypogonadism in a subject with repeated head trauma, or Tintin goes to the neurologist. CMAJ 171:12, 1433-1434.

    The authors are 5, 7, and 33, and weirdly enough they all have the same last name!

  5. Of course that Tintin one is a humor article, while the Hendry one is actually science...

  6. Come on, Guinness!!! Still, super cool and congrats to the wee-ones. Great to see you're getting everyone involved!


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