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L’affaire El Naschie November 30, 2008

Posted by Ben Webster in blog triumphalism, crazy ideas, evil journals, Off Topic, things I don't understand.
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So I know I’m a little late to the party on this, but I couldn’t resist commenting on the strange case of M. el Naschie (I assume that this is just the German transliteration of the name English speakers would be more likely to spell al Nashi). Zoran Škoda brought him up in the comments to a post at the n-Category Cafe, and John Baez did an excellent job exposing the level of intellectual bankruptcy at the journal Chaos, Solitons and Fractals. The details are better recounted elsewhere, (unfortunately the posts above have been removed. Those interested in following the case can try Richard Poynder’s blog Open and Shut) but in a nutshell, El Naschie published dozens of papers in his own journal (he’s the editor-in-chief) which appear to be of no scientific or mathematical merit (this is my judgment based on excerpts and titles, and also seems to be the consensus of commenters at nCC), which make rather grandiose claims based on rather incoherent numerology. John Baez characterized him as “worse than the Bogdanov brothers,” which is pretty high up in the food chain of physics hoaxes.

But my intent here is not to beat up on El Naschie. He’s already set to retire in shame. The people who really have egg on their face here are those who enabled the man who is for all intents and purposes a crank to run a superficially prestigious-seeming journal.

Firstly, Elsevier. If you’re looking for the perfect encapsulation of why large for-profit publishers are bad for science, here it is. Elsevier was either too incompetent to notice that one of their editors in chief was publishing dozens of papers in his own journal (for the fact that this is allowed at all, in any circumstances, is on the face of it a bit absurd. Have they never heard of conflicts of interest? Even editor-in-chief recused himself from decisions about his own paper, could the other editors possibly be expected to make an unbiased decision? Some powers are just too great to allow unchecked, even if most people would not abuse them), or they just didn’t care about the scientific integrity of their journals (this is the publisher of the journal Homeopathy, after all), both of which are pretty damning. I understand that the vast majority of Elsevier journals are run by editorial boards would never consider such intellectual malpractice, but if Elsevier isn’t actually checking to see that its editorial boards are not doing so, then what exactly are we paying them for? I know that Elsevier publishes a lot of important math journals, but it reaches a point where we can’t let that fact hold us hostage and force our libraries to spend their scarce resources on bald-faced pseudoscience (CFS is not cheap, around $4500 a year). So I encourage you all to let the librarians at your school now if you would prefer that they found somewhere better to spend their money. I know that there a lot of links in this chain and this is not going to result in a full scale boycott of Elsevier (a boy can dream, can’t he?), but encouraging libraries to emphasize other priorities is a rather good idea.

Another less obvious villain here is Thomson Scientific, which indexes journals. Now, I know you might say “Well how were they supposed to know that this journal was publishing crap? It’s not their job to read the journals.” But if one starts thinking along those lines, it becomes a little unclear what their job it is, if not to figure out which journals are real science, and which are the playthings of cranks. It’s not as though they index every journal in the world; in fact, many are left out, with rather serious consequences for the people who publish in non indexed journals (which are obviously not of the quality of most indexed journals but probably still have more integrity than CFS), or who are cited in non-indexed journals.

For you see, the most simple minded, stupid, and yet pervasive index of journal quality is the Impact Factor, peddled by none other than (you guessed it) Thomson Scientific, which determines the quality of the journal by the brilliant and subtle method of dividing the number of citations are received from publications indexed by Thomson by the number of articles in the journal (in other words, the sort of thing a monkey would come up with). As a result mostly of citations to itself, CFS has a higher impact factor than any mathematics journal, even though it is worthless pseudoscience. (Journals in other fields consistently have higher IFs than mathematics, since they write more, shorter, papers, and thus tend to cite each other more often).

So, what have we learned today?

  1. A journal is only as good as its editorial board. Affiliation with the commercial publisher, a big price tag, good production values, indexing in the Web of Knowledge(TM), all of these are essentially meaningless.
  2. A nontransparent review process is incredibly easy to undermine. Nobody knows for sure who El Naschie asked to referee his own papers for his own journal, or what the referee said. Obviously, there has to be some respect for the right of people to comment on and referee work anonymously, but at the same time, we should think seriously about how to bring transparency to peer review. As they say, sunlight is the best disinfectant.
  3. Impact Factor is a joke, but the sort of joke that’s too sad to laugh at. No serious thought seems to have gone into its creation, it’s liable to gaming. It reflects nothing about the quality of a journal, and every one possible should be educated about this fact. Unfortunately, the rise of Impact Factor isn’t just a story about clueless people trying to make impossibly simple-minded comparisons between fields (though they aren’t helping); it also reflects a deep flaw in our currently constituted journal system which we should be looking at. The only way for people not hooked in to the social networks of the discipline to judge the quality of people’s work is through the quality of the journals that that they publish in. But of course, the only way to find out anything about the quality of journals outside the few most famous ones is to be hooked into the social networks of the discipline. Every mathematician has some loose hazy scheme for ranking journals in his or her head, but this is based almost entirely on talking to other people and finding out about their schemes. Is it really at all surprising that people would rather just look at a number? As far as I’m concerned, the only way to fight Impact Factor is to fight fire with fire and do a better job of ranking journals, but, of course, not everyone agrees (eigenfactor, an alternative effort which uses an algorithm inspired by Google’s which is harder to game, gives a much more accurate rating, placing CFS around the 130th mathematics journal, just about the Canadian Math Bulletin). Still, I think it’s important to recognize that the present system was designed for a time with a much smaller mathematical community and many fewer journals, and is rather quickly becoming insupportable. I’m not sure what the solution is, but I look forward to trying to hash it out in comments.

(EDIT: I forgot to link to a great editorial at Ars Technica on this subject.)

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Comments

1. Allen Knutson - November 30, 2008

You didn’t mention the aspect I thought most objectionable — Elsevier bundling this journal with reputable ones.

At what level will the system be self-correcting?
It would be nice if it were at the level of Elsevier’s code of behavior for journal editors. I can’t understand how a journal editor was able to accept his own paper.
Failing that, Elsevier could be internally policing their journals, having somebody raise red flags when e.g. an editor has five of his own articles published in a single issue.
Failing that, libraries could begin to drop subscriptions to the journal.
But now we have failed that; are we to escalate to dropping subscription to the whole bundle of journals?

2. Ben Webster - November 30, 2008

You didn’t mention the aspect I thought most objectionable

I suppose I didn’t refer to it explicitly, though it certainly was in my mind.

But now we have failed that; are we to escalate to dropping subscription to the whole bundle of journals?

Yes, I think at least some schools will have to. I know that will be painful, but at some point, schools have a duty to do something more productive with the money. I think of it a bit like workers going on strike. Obviously it’s regrettable, and probably a negative-sum thing to do, at least short term, but how else can we really get Elsevier to take us seriously?

The key point to keep in mind is that Elsevier needs us more than we need them. If schools started to refuse packages which contained crap, Elsevier have to start offering better a la carte options, or they would simply be forced out of the mathematical publishing business.

I think there’s a reasonable argument for schools simply refusing to take bundles. If this could be maintained for even a short period of time, the publishers would have to cave.

3. Anonymous - November 30, 2008

You didn’t mention the aspect I thought most objectionable — Elsevier bundling this journal with reputable ones.

I wonder whether it would be possible to bring any sort of legal challenge against journal bundling. I’m generally against government interference with private businesses, and I worry that it would set a bad precedent, but the situation with Elsevier and other big commercial publishers is terrible. They’ve effectively set up a cartel in which you can’t get the good journals they control without paying for everything in a huge bundle. At least at a moral level, this is outrageously anti-competitive. I don’t know whether it is at all legally questionable (I’m not a lawyer and I bet it’s a long shot), but forcing each journal to live or die on its own would be enormously beneficial for the research community.

4. onymous - November 30, 2008

Elsevier bundling this journal with reputable ones.

Yes, we need to keep the subprime journals out of the tranches.

5. Bruce Bartlett - November 30, 2008

Great post; makes me want to take up the battle again. A while ago a bunch of us tried with Eureka (ver I and II) but the project has stuttered. It takes a lot of effort, commitment and determination.

6. Ben Webster - November 30, 2008

It takes a lot of effort, commitment and determination.

A perpetual problem of politics. Especially when, as I’ve discussed, I barely have the energy and time to keep this blog, which is already pretty successful, going.

7. Emily Peters - November 30, 2008

Allen, Ben: re journal bundling. The solution of “convincing some schools to stop buying bundled journals” is unrealistic. Can you imagine convincing a committee of mathematicians that this was a reasonable thing to do? In my experience, convincing more than two mathematicians of _anything_ which you can’t prove from first principles is pretty nearly impossible.

There’s a solution which is both easier and harder: you make the analogy to going on strike. Mathematicians need to stop publishing in, refereeing for, and editing Elsevier journals. And we need to make it clear that’s what we’re doing (mention bundling every time you turn down a request to referee something). This is easier because it’s an action any individual can take. No need to persuade a committee of anything. But it’s harder because — as someone looking to publish a paper, you want to maximize (journal prestige)*(likelyhood they’ll publish your paper), and sometimes an Elsevier journal is the answer to this — as a referee or editor, you are providing a useful service to people in your field by keeping a journal going (and only incidently helping Elsevier to make a profit).

I don’t want to sound like I’m on a high horse. I’m not blameless here. But I do find myself wondering — how many people could we get to sign a petition that says “Once I have tenure, I won’t publish anything in an Elsevier journal unless they stop bundling?”

8. Charles Siegel - December 1, 2008

Emily, why restrict to mathematicians? Elsevier publishes a LOT of journals (all the way down to Homeopathy, which SHOULD discredit them completely…) and this hypothetical petition/agreement could easily be extended to people in other fields.

9. Jesse Johnson - December 1, 2008

Going on strike like that has worked to undermine at least one Elzevier journal, namely Topology. The editors of the non-Elsevier journal Geometry & Topology managed to convince enough people to publish in their journal instead that the flow of good papers sent to Topology rapidly dried up. It got so bad that the editorial board of Topology quit and started a new journal (Journal of Topology) through the LMS.

10. Ben Webster - December 1, 2008

Emily,

I see where you’re coming from and I hope you realize you’re preaching to the choir (I am the guy who wrote a post entitled “Why do people still referee papers for Elsevier?”). In particular, you should know that some other people got there before you on the whole “journal petition” thing.

At the same time, I think you’re being too dismissive of the demand side of this equation. Firstly, you’re wrong about schools not being willing to cancel the Elsevier package. Cornell already has.

Secondly, subscribers is what matters to Elsevier (not necessarily to the individual people working for Elsevier, but to Elsevier as an institution). As long as schools keep coughing up money, they don’t actually care what’s in the journals (as is now rather clear). Refusing to publish, edit or referee for Elsevier journals is really only useful as sending a clear message and providing cover for science librarians to stop subscribing to Elsevier titles.

11. Scott Carnahan - December 1, 2008

I feel like this conversation is moving in an unnecessarily confrontational direction. Perhaps we can move toward fewer personally directed statements.

Ben, from your link to the Cornell article, it looks like they found it more cost-effective to subscribe to the individual Elsevier journals that people frequently used, even though each subscription was more costly. I’d be surprised if this weren’t true for comparable institutions. Are there publicly available frequency analyses of journal use in research libraries?

12. John Baez - December 1, 2008

Thanks for a great post focusing on the big issues, Ben! My own blogging on this subject got bogged down in trench warfare. It’s good that El Naschie will no longer be editing Chaos, Solitons and Fractals and publishing hundreds of nonsense papers in it – but the flawed system that let this happen has not changed… and it won’t change until we make a fuss!

Certain large library systems plan to fight for the right to drop subscriptions to individual journals within the enormous Elsevier journal bundle. Chaos, Solitons and Fractals will make an excellent test case.

I’ve stopped doing any unpaid labor for Elsevier: writing papers for them, editing for them, or refereeing them. When I’m asked to do it, I send back an email explaining why. I don’t see why anyone would want to do unpaid labor for Elsevier, given that their profit margins are exceedingly high.

How much money do chief editors of Elsevier journals make? As far as I can tell, these are the only academics who stand a chance to benefit significantly from this monopoly. Can we convince them to quit? We need to work harder to find weak links in the chains that bind us, and cut them.

13. On the restoration of independence. « Epsilonica - December 1, 2008

[...] interesting to say about this holiday, but it seemed serendipitous that in my feed reader today was this article by Ben Webster at The Secret Blogging Seminar which deals with the El Naschie fail and discusses of how mathematicians might cast off (or at [...]

14. mattheath - December 1, 2008

@John Baez: Since you are including writing papers as “unpaid labour” I think Emily Peters has covered why some us are prepared to do unpaid labour for Elsevier. They sometimes have the best journal in which we can hope to get a particular paper published and we have to worry about not having our contracts renewed if we don’t get good publications.

Why there aren’t more editorial boards walking out is less clear to me. It does seem to me that they really aren’t benefiting. If they walk out and and found a new journal (as with Topology and K-Theory), librarians presumably know it’s really the same journal and so will be no less likely to buy it. If they so wished, the chief editors could take a bigger cut than before sand still cut the price, so that can’t be what is keeping them.

15. John Baez - December 1, 2008

Charles writes:

Emily, why restrict to mathematicians?

Indeed. One reason Elsevier and the other big journal publishers are winning the struggle is that academics have a narrow world-view: we tend to organize ourselves discipline by discipline. Mathematicians think the whole world revolves around mathematics; nematologists think the whole world revolves around nematodes. The big publishers have a broad world-view: they publish in all disciplines. This is the source of their monopoly power.

When it comes to money, what really counts are biology, medicine, and chemistry. These are the subjects where a revolt against Elsevier would have a serious effect. If mathematicians do not ally themselves with people in other disciplines, especially these big ones, we are doomed to fail. We’re too tiny.

Some good news: the US National Institute of Health has now required all NIH-funded research to be made available in an open-access way 12 months after publication! How did this happen? A Republican congressman from Oklahoma with a sick relative pushed forwards a bill in May 2005 which mandated open-access to NIH-funded research if the researcher asked for it. But this only led to 7% of papers being made open-access. Harold Varmus, the Nobel laureate who headed the NIH, was not satisfied. He fought for a bill that mandated open access to all NIH-funded research – and on December 23rd 2007, President Bush signed this into law, over the whining of publishers.

We need to push for a law mandating open access to all NSF-funded research. The taxpayers are already paying for this research: why should they pay to see the results?

The bad news: the current head of the NSF is not interested.

So, we need to lobby! Start by talking to your friend and colleagues.

One more thing: a lot of you bloggers are grad students and postdocs who don’t need to spend time on academic committees. When you get tenure-track jobs this will change: you will need to do some ‘academic service’, as they call it. You probably don’t relish the prospect. I didn’t either. But here’s a way to make it more fun: ask to serve on the library committee of your university!

Then you’ll meet our greatest allies in this struggle: the librarians. They’re the one whose budgets are being busted by the Big Three: Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, and Springer. They’re the ones who worry full-time about the issue of rising journal prices. They’re desperate for our help – usually all they hear are academics whining about journal subscriptions being cut, as they struggle to save money. We need to work with them!

I’m now head of the library committee at UCR. I’m doing a lousy job so far – as always, I prefer to spend time doing math. But it’s fun being part of the fight, and meeting people who have fought this battle for many years. The UC-wide library committee has decided it’s time to stage a serious attack against the monopoly power of the Big Three.

Help us out!

16. Siladitya Chatterjee - December 1, 2008

I Just now saw a photo-gallary in http://www.el-naschie.net/bilder/file/Photo-Gallery.pdf, published by Chaos, Solitons and Fractals 25 (2005) 915–933. I cannot think people should buy research journals for showmanship of the editor-in-chief.

17. javier - December 1, 2008

John, it is not that the youngest of us don’t agree with your principles and want to support this cause, but I am sure you understand that we simply cannot afford it right now, when we need to publish n+1 papers a year to get the next postdoc that will lead to the next postdoc that will lead to the next postdoc and eventually tenure.

I am sure situation varies from country to country, the Spanish government and universities had the “wonderful” idea of rating our papers according to the impact factor of the journal, so if we rule out Elsevier, Springer and Wiley, our chances to publish in a high-rate journal get sort of slim.

You, the big guys, should help us to help you. Create a solid dozen nonprofit journals and set them in the rankings. Or create a crappy “Mathematica Rejecta” and cheat to boost its impact factor to the top ten just to show how stupid the system is, whichever you prefer…

Discussing this topics,Tom Lenagan suggested once that we should focus on publishing on journals that belong to mathematical societies.

18. Ben Webster - December 1, 2008

Scott,

The internet has an unfortunate tendency toward unnecessary confrontation. I know I do, and I hope to keep that within reasonable bounds with the civil inhabitants of this blog.

Of course, John conveniently followed your comment up with a comment about necessary confrontation. If only we could get better at distinguishing the two.

19. Ben Webster - December 1, 2008

Or create a crappy “Mathematica Rejecta” and cheat to boost its impact factor to the top ten just to show how stupid the system is, whichever you prefer…

Luckily, El Naschie has saved us the trouble of doing this. Somebody just needs to tell the Spanish government.

20. John Baez - December 1, 2008

Javier wrote:

John, it is not that the youngest of us don’t agree with your principles and want to support this cause, but I am sure you understand that we simply cannot afford it right now…

Do what you can do. For example: when Tom Leinster was a postdoc without tenure, he published a book. But, he didn’t publish it with Elsevier. He published it with the London Mathematical Society. And, he suceeded in getting them to let him put it on the arXiv, so it will always be free for those who can’t afford a printed copy.

In general, whenever there’s a choice between publishing with an evil journal or a good one, try to coax yourself to choose the good one.

Most importantly: always put your work on the arXiv.

I am sure situation varies from country to country, the Spanish government and universities had the “wonderful” idea of rating our papers according to the impact factor of the journal, so if we rule out Elsevier, Springer and Wiley, our chances to publish in a high-rate journal get sort of slim.

Spanish mathematics has long been damaged by bad institutional decisions. I’m sorry to hear that this tradition continues.

You, the big guys, should help us to help you. Create a solid dozen nonprofit journals and set them in the rankings.

Yes, us “big guys” should do this. In category theory, the best journal is free – Theory and Applications of Categories. I was an editor there for a while, and discovered that I’m temperamentally unable to be a good editor. I’m a dilettante: I get excited about one thing this week and another the next. I can’t “process manuscripts” in a disciplined way. All I’m really good at is explaining what I’m interested in right now. I do my tiny part to help the situation by giving away these explanations for free instead of making them into books and selling them.

Other less dilettantish people are better at establishing and running journals. Joan Birman serves as a great role model.

21. John Baez - December 1, 2008

mattheath wrote:

Since you are including writing papers as “unpaid labour” I think Emily Peters has covered why some us are prepared to do unpaid labour for Elsevier.

I understand! I just hope you all do it in the full bitter realization that Elsevier is exploiting you and laughing all the way to the bank… so that someday, when the chance comes along, you rebel.

22. A semana nos arXivs… « Ars Physica - December 1, 2008

[...] L’affaire El Naschie, The Case of M. S. El Naschie, Continued [...]

23. peter - December 1, 2008

You touch briefly on Impact Factors. Typically these measure the numbers of citations of papers published in a journal 2, or sometimes 3, years following publication. Such a number may be fine for fast-moving subjects like medicine. But for those of us in Computer Science, this number is absurd, when papers in some theoretical areas still cite Aristotle. Even in other disciplines, such as Economics, this period is too short — eg, the first paper presenting the idea of rational expectations, perhaps the single most important concept in economics in the last 50 years, received only a handful of citations in the first decade following publication.

24. Saída de editor não esfria caso de pseudociência e favorecimento « Laudas Críticas - December 2, 2008

[...] feita pelo matemático Ben Webster, do MIT (Instituto de Tecnologia de Massachusetts). Em seu texto “L’affaire El Naschie” (30/11), publicado no Secret Blogging Seminar, um blog produzido por oito pesquisadores, a maioria [...]

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26. Ben Webster - December 2, 2008

I’ll just note, in response to Javier’s post:

I’m not arguing that one must immediately stop submitting to Elsevier journals. Frankly, I’m considering submitting a paper to Advances (admittedly, this was my coauthor’s suggestion, but I didn’t dismiss it out of hand). Obviously, I prefer to submit to journals more consistent with my prinicples but you have to make compromises in life, and I don’t think withholding papers from for-profit journals will have all that much effect, at least until more fields have credible alternatives (the key point in the fall of Topology is that Geometry and Topology was created, and became a respectable place to put papers. It’s probably the most prestigious journal I’ve published in). Editing and refereeing look like much more promising weak spots to me.

The weird thing is, not all Elsevier or Springer or Wiley journals are outrageously expensive; Advances, for example, is about $.40 a page, which is consistent with the Banff Protocol (the cutoff there is around $.70). It’s just that some of them are; the old Topology was 7 times as much per page as Advances. What’s so different that could justify that kind of price difference?

27. Chris Grant - December 3, 2008

Ben Webster wrote:

the old Topology was 7 times as much per page as Advances. What’s so different that could justify that kind of price difference?

The figures you’re referring to are apparently not for the “old” (i.e. pre editorial board resignation) Topology but for 2007, when it’s output had been decimated by the the 2006 resignation. In the years prior to that event the price ratio was not nearly so lopsided.

28. Chris Grant - December 3, 2008

John Baez wrote:

We need to push for a law mandating open access to all NSF-funded research. The taxpayers are already paying for this research: why should they pay to see the results?

Will the beloved university presses and professional societies that publish books supported by NSF funds be providing free PDFs as part of this deal? Will the MAA’s NSF-supported MAA Reviews be made available for free? Or are we just going after the evil commercial publishers?

29. John Armstrong - December 4, 2008

Chris, run it like open software models do. You can download (via PDF) for personal use without cost, but physical media (the printed journal) requires payment. Red Hat is still making money, isn’t it?

Is it as profitable as the current system? No. But the current system is a holdover from the time before we did all the work for the journals for free.

30. Chris Grant - December 4, 2008

John:

It wasn’t clear to me: Are you endorsing making this apply to books published by the AMS, EMS, MAA, SIAM, Oxford University Press, and Cambridge University Press? Has anyone asked these benevolent organizations why they’re not leading the way in providing all NSF-supported work for free to show the capitalistic publishers how it ought to be done?

31. David Speyer - December 4, 2008

There should be a distinction between research monographs and expository works. I would weaken John Baez’s suggestion to say that all the results of NSF funded research should be made freely available on the web, in a form readable to people doing research in the field. I don’t have trouble with commercial publishers charging for general readership surveys (such as appear in Notices) or for textbooks. These should have a much heavier level of editing (although they don’t always get it) and it may be impossible to get that quality of editorial work without charging for the publications.

32. David Speyer - December 4, 2008

To reply to Chris’s latest:

I don’t know what John would say, but I would imagine that Springer GTMs or Cambridge University press could still be profitable under my plan, but Lecture Notes in Mathematics probably could not. (I’m afraid that I am not as familiar with the presses he cites.) Basically, if the publisher creates value beyond simply binding the raw research into a codex, then they should still be able to market that value.

33. John Armstrong - December 4, 2008

If the publisher creates value beyond simply binding the raw research into a codex, then they should still be able to market that value.

Sure they can. And I’m not saying to put the books themselves online exactly as in the physical books. But if an NSF-funded article appears in a conference proceedings, it should also be available to the public for free in some form (electronic, most likely).

34. Chris Grant - December 4, 2008

I see no clear evidence that the production costs for producing books are of a different order of magnitude from those for producing journals; therefore, I don’t think the case has been made for treating NSF-funded books differently from NSF-funded journal articles in your campaign.

Also, by “books”, I’m not just talking about conference proceedings (ugh). I’m talking about Garnett and Marshall’s Harmonic Measure, funded by the NSF but unavailable from Cambridge University Press for free. If you want them to provide it to you, you’ll have to pay them $60 for the paperback or $96(!) for an electronic version. I’m talking about Takhtajan’s Quantum Mechanics for Mathematicians and Evans’ Partial Differential Equations, both of which were NSF-funded, but neither of which is available for free from the AMS. They’ll cost you, respectively, $55 and $63 each (plus membership dues) . These are three examples among hundreds and thousands. If you want all NSF-funded journal articles for free, I want (e-texts of) all NSF-funded books for free.

(To be clear, I don’t really think I deserve all these books for free. I thought highly enough of them that I actually paid for them. But what’s good for the goose . . .)

35. David Speyer - December 4, 2008

Well, I have no direct knowledge of the finances of mathematical publishing. If anyone does, I’d love to hear. Also, I have not published any books yet. But here is why I think publishing houses contribute much more to the typical book than the typical article. Note that I said “typical”; I think that Notices is an exception in one direction and Lecture Notes in Mathematics in the other. (I’ve mentioned the Springer Lecture Notes series twice now, so I should say that I don’t think they are being dishonest in any way; they are playing the game intelligently according to its current rules. But I favor rules under which there would be no reason to publish lecture notes with a commercial press, rather than simply putting them online.)

As an author and a referee of journal articles, what I see is that the research, writing, initial editing (hopefully) and initial typesetting of an article are done by an unpaid author. The selection, solicitation and coordination of referees is done by an unpaid editor. The secondary editing and screening of papers is done primarily by the unpaid referee, and secondarily by the unpaid editor. What the publishing house does is final typesetting, organization of the articles into a single journal, printing and distribution of paper copies, advertising of the journal to libraries and any necessary copyright litigation. I don’t think that this is worth what journals charge for it.

As I say, I haven’t written a book. But most books are far better edited than most journal articles, and this is more impressive because it is more difficult to impose consistent style and notation on a longer work. My understanding is that this is because (1) book publishers hire editors who actually go through a work with the authors to create this uniformity and (2) book publishers pay experts to determine screen which texts they should publish. At most journals, both of these jobs are pushed onto unpaid referees who have no training in editing. Of course, some book publishers may not do any useful editing. They will not be profitable under my scheme, as their books are no more valuable than the research articles they are built from.

36. John Armstrong - December 5, 2008

Chris, I’m not treating them differently. And yes, I’d say to make predominantly NSF-funded textbooks available to the public as well.

37. John Baez - December 6, 2008

John Baez wrote:

“We need to push for a law mandating open access to all NSF-funded research. The taxpayers are already paying for this research: why should they pay to see the results?”

Chris Grant wrote:

Will the beloved university presses and professional societies that publish books supported by NSF funds be providing free PDFs as part of this deal?

Not necessarily. We might copy what the National Institute of Health has already done. All journal articles containing research funded by the NIH must be deposited in the open-access database PubMed Central no more than 12 months after they’re submitted for publication. This is done by the researcher, not the publisher. Books aren’t included under this law. To renew their NIH grants, researchers must prove they’ve complied. It’s not hard: they just have to include the PubMed Central numbers when citing their previous NIH-funded papers.

PubMed Central is a lot like the arXiv, though it has twice as many papers – a million, not half a million – and it gets a lot more use: as of June 2004 it received 1,300 hits per second.

Why shouldn’t the NSF require researchers submit their taxpayer-funded journal articles to the arXiv or a similar open-access database? I believe that the AMS, EMS, MAA, SIAM, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, and Elsevier already let mathematicians and physicists put their papers on the arXiv. For the NSF to require this would simply guarantee that when I, as a taxpayer, pay for your research, I get to see what you’ve done!

In math or physics, where the arXiv is already popular, this law would incrementally improve the existing system. In other sciences, like chemistry, it could radically transform it.

Of course I would like to see research monographs included under this law, but I’m a dreamer.

(By the way, I left Springer off the above list of publishers on purpose. I believe their standard contract demands that you hand over all rights, including electronic rights, when publishing a paper with them. This means you need to explicitly change the contract if you publish with them. They don’t put up much of a fuss.)

38. Yves Gingras - December 6, 2008

A lot of attention has been given over the last few weeks to El Naschie and his Journal Chaos, Solitons and Fractals (CSF). I would like to add a few information on the topic by pointing to the fact that he is also editing another journal with JH He which has quite the same characteristics as CSF: International Journal of Non Linear sciences and numerical simulations (IJNLSNS for short) created in 2000. El Naschie and JH He are the two first scientists who published the most in that journal (respectively 19 and 24 papers between 2000 and 2008). Like El Naschie who published 97% of all his papers in these two journals (246 in CSF and 19 in IJNLSNS), JH He also used a lot of space in CSF (26 papers). Of course those two authors are also those who cite the two journals the most… and IJNLSNS is first cited by CSF (at the very high level of 20% of the total citations received by that journal, followed of course by 16% of self-citations from IJNLSNS…

Concerning CSF no one seems to have observed a fundamental change in the countries of origins of the papers since 2004. In the period 2001-2003 only 18% of the published papers in CSF came from China. In the period 2004-2008 the proportion jumped to 43%. And while USA was first among the contributors before 2000 (with 18% of the papers in the period 1993-2000)),followed by England and Germany, it dropped to 6% of the papers afterwards as did also the two other countries. There seems to have been a clear move on the part of CSF to cater to Chinese papers as the sudden rise cannot be a simple effect of the growth of Chinese science. It may however be also an effect of the Chinese policy to give a premium (in money) to scientists who publish in English in Journals that are covered by Thomson data base…(At least I saw the mention of such a policy somewhere).

All these interesting data can easily be obtained directly from the ISI Web of knowledge database that most libraries have access to. I think they provide a nice example of what can be learned about journals just by looking carefully at their quantitative characteristics.

39. Anonymous - December 7, 2008

I believe that the AMS, EMS, MAA, SIAM, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, and Elsevier already let mathematicians and physicists put their papers on the arXiv.

Actually, Elsevier’s policy is a deeply offensive attempt to undermine the arXiv. They allow you to keep the pre-submission draft on the arXiv, but they insist that you are not allowed to update it with any changes that come from the peer review process. (See http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/authorshome.authors/preprints.) They are very explicit about this: they grudgingly allow authors to update the copies on their personal web pages or institutional repositories, but not the arXiv.

I’m convinced this is an attempt to hurt the arXiv. They know that trying to forbid using the arXiv entirely is a losing battle, but they hope to spread the idea that arXived papers are inferior versions of the published papers, and that you cannot rely on them to be correct and complete.

So I consider Elsevier to be firmly in the enemies category regarding the arXiv.

They give an offensive explanation of their policy, too. Specifically, in order for their seal of approval (their term) to be meaningful, readers have to know that the article they are reading really is the final published version. One solution would be to require that arXived versions must be updated to the final version. That would be quite sensible, and authors have a moral obligation to update the arXived draft anyway. Instead, Elsevier’s solution is to try to ensure that no version other than theirs actually does match the final version. The incoherence of this idea is shown by their 2004 policy change allowing updates on personal web pages. Although they try to hide the issues with this seal of approval nonsense, the fact that they treat the arXiv (and other free preprint servers) differently is telling.

40. Canadense revela conexão chinesa no escândalo de revista científica « Laudas Críticas - December 9, 2008

[...] intrigante comentário sobre a relação entre o chinês e o egípcio. Está na postagem “L’affaire El Naschie” (30/11), publicado no Secret Blogging Seminar pelo matemático Ben Webster, do MIT (Instituto de [...]

41. Chris Grant - December 12, 2008

John Baez wrote:

Books aren’t included under this law.

But why would we want to mimic this aspect of the NIH rules for the NSF? Why would we want to treat books differently from journal articles?

I just got proofs back from Elsevier for a paper to appear in Discrete Mathematics. It seems evident from them that this journal puts a lot of effort into the production process. They appear to be using a proprietary font. That fact together with the fact that they put an unusually large number of lines on a page and an unusually large number of characters on a line means that their LaTeX person had to do a substantial amount of work to reformat the source file I sent them. When I compare the way this article looks to the way that, say, the AMS GSM books look, it’s hard for me to believe that the AMS is expending a lot more effort to create (the electronic versions of) their books than Elsevier is expending on their articles.

Last night I finished reading Jeremy Gray’s Plato’s Ghost, which is published by Princeton University Press. It’s really a fine book, and I highly recommend it, but it seemed like every 5 or 10 pages there was a sentence that didn’t parse (e.g., because it lacked a verb). That suggests to me that PUP didn’t have it proofread by anyone but the author. And if they didn’t have this (relatively non-technical) book proofread, it seems unlikely that they’d proofread many of their math books.

42. A.B. - December 20, 2008

I hope this blog could have sufficient tolerance and a minimum of scientific thinking to accept a dissenting voice. You are pretending as if the most important thing is how many papers a scientist publishes. Any reasonable person, let alone a scientist, knows exactly that the number of papers per se is neither here nor there. Since some people for reasons better known to themselves have used the theme as a pretext for launching an attack on Prof. Mohamed El Naschie. Let me give you at least the facts as they are and not as some, for their own end, would like them to be. Mohamed El Naschie is known to be prolific. This has nothing to do with excellence. He published something in the order of 900 papers or even more, simply because he likes to convey his ideas in his own style on all conceivable subjects including art, economy, engineering and physics – something like 250 papers have been published in his own journal in the last 20 years. This is not really much in terms of productivity. It may be even nothing in terms of originality. But these blogs are not the place to discuss it because we cannot write a decent equation understandable to anybody in any of these blogs. When you don’t write equations and you don’t talk pure science, all what is left are gossip. If you add to gossips envy and vendettas you get the ugly face of internet blogs. You should research the background of the man which some would like to bedevil. Mohamed El Naschie is well known to have been a very wealthy man by the age of 35. He was a full professor of engineering by the age of 34. He has never applied for his research in physics for any funding whatsoever. He never got a penny out of his research in theoretical physics. His ambition is well known to those who live in the Middle East. Some said he wanted to be the Prime Minister of Egypt. That may well be the case. But I doubt very much he could do this job for a single day for reasons I don’t want to go into on this blog. El Naschie is a free spirited man and he established CS&F to help scientists in the Third World. The Journal was supposed to be free of charge or at a minimum for a very modest subscription. He came into conflict with Elsevier precisely because of that and he was very upset to see that CS&F turned into a money spinning machine for commercial publishing. The breaking point came many years later with regard to Elsevier translation business enterprise in the People’s Republic of China. Some outspoken persons called it a racket. That may be harsh. But El Naschie called it the end of scientific publishing as he knows it. I was privileged to some of the correspondence which he exchanged with top directors in Elsevier. El Naschie used to improve the manuscripts of good Chinese physicists and mathematicians with weak command of the English Language free of charge. You have to know the reasons: El Naschie is an Egyptian nationalist – he is neither a communist, nor a capitalist nor a Muslim fundamentalist or any of these readymade labels. The president of Jia tong University in Shanghai summed it up like that: Egypt was the first country in the world to recognize the People’s Republic of China and to withdraw its recognition for Formosa or national China. The People’s Republic of China was the first country to stand by Egypt when France and England invaded to recapture the Suez Canal. The President continued by saying it is a pleasure to honor today an Egyptian scientist and friend of China namely Mohamed El Naschie. This might sound to many Europeans as grotesque or comic. However this is what makes Mohamed El Naschie tick. It is typical for him to stand with the underdog, named the Third World where he originally comes from. It is typical for him to be loyal to those who stood with him and his country in its darkest hours. It is as simple as that. I know how hard it is for ordinary physicists to think that there are people who love science for the sake of science. Science is not how Mohamed El Naschie earns his money – that is for sure. CS& F was a costly project for him in terms of time and yes in terms of money. Of course Mohamed is extremely stubborn and he is a formidable opponent when he feels he is right. Those who have charged him wrongly and falsely, I am absolutely confident that they will find out that it is their greatest mistake in life. As with regard to the five papers in the last issue in CS&F written by him, this is really a bad joke. These papers were published on Elsevier science direct site a long time ago. It is the publishing officer in Elsevier who compiled then a hard copy out of the pool of papers. In this particular case, I can tell you an amazing story which I happened to know. The lady in Elsevier compiled this issue with ten papers by Prof. El Naschie and sent it for his approval. He was very busy and said more or less ok ok. I was there and I told him there is a trap and I smell a rat. I said it is ridiculous that Elsevier has put ten papers of yours in one issue although you never approve more than 3 papers at a time per issue if any. El Naschie jumped and said Good gracious, tell them to delete immediately 5 of these papers in order not to delay the production of the issue. I believe someone in Elsevier was trying to frame El Naschie knowingly and on purpose to create a case against him because he opposed the new Elsevier Translation Empire which they set out in China. They charge unreasonable amounts of money for what El Naschie has been doing any case year in and year out free of charge as a service for the young people of a great nation which stood by his country in one of its darkest hours. You have never been so misled about a man as you have been misled about the real motives, quality and character of Mohamed El Naschie. Yes I know him very well but this would never be a reason for me to take his side except that I know that all what has been said about him is more or less a fabrication. In two weeks from now at the most, you will read the truth about this plot in most of the accessible media including Nature. Thank you for being so tolerant to allow somebody to say the truth as he sees it.

43. Anonymous - December 21, 2008

I think that Elsevier is doing dirty jobs in scientific publishing.
The CSF journal is owned by Elnaschie and Elsevier is getting money
out of this apart from the subcribtion fees. El naschie pays for getting
credibility of Elsevier and to have the chance to publish his great scintific ideas in journal hosted by a supposed reputable publishing house like Elsevier. There are other many similar cases in Elsevier.

El naschie keeps publishing junk in CSF for a quite long time and kept unoticed by mintoring system of Elsevier which seems very odd. While it is so obvious that we have crackpoets.

Does any body have better explanation.

44. B. K. Goswami - December 22, 2008

I would like to add a few points regarding the characterization of the merit of a research paper, and in the same way a research journal. The conventional parameters are citation index for the papers and impact factor for the journals.
Let me consider here the citation index. In research papers (at least in Physics journals and those in Nonlinear Science), it is a common practice that a paper is cited in the introduction at the end of a statement as “also ” and then forgotten for the entire paper thereafter. Can we merit that citation? If one’s paper make a passing citation, why should that be counted at all? Secondly, I know a few occasions where a paper is not cited at all even if the paper is published in a premier research journal like Phys. Rev. The reason may not be because any deficiency of the paper but that the author may not be known to the other researchers in the same topic. This can happen due to many reasons. I cite here two reasons. First is the lack of understanding by others . This, bitter it may taste, does happen. That is why a paper remains unnoticed for a long spell before opening a new horizon. The second reason is more crude but practical. That the author(s) may not be fortunate to attend any international conference/symposium and put his(their) footprints physically. Also he is (they are) no Newton or Einstien but may be as good (bad) as any other scientists. Now I cite another deficiency in citation index. We underestimate self-citation and give merits to others’ citation. But if we notice carefully, a paper in general is multi-author where some authors may be research students, associates, post-docs who have to shuttle like migratory birds if they are as average as we are. Commonly they will be flying to those nests who work on the same area. Therefore, chances are that they act like bridges that help improving citations. Besides, senior guys (profs.) also have a network (may be through conferencs/symposiums again) through which they market their products quite well. So in all these circumstances, what is the merit of such citations?

I would say evaluation (appreciation) of a paper should have some proper way (or category) of characterizations.

45. davidspeyer - December 22, 2008

I just wanted to note that I have deleted three comments from this thread, previously held in our spam filter. Although they were not spam, they consisted of nothing but insults directed at Ben. I see no reason we should publish posts which contribute nothing to the discussion, and insult us to boot.

All three of the comments described Ben as, at some way, a disgrace to the name of Princeton. Ben spent a year at the IAS, but is affiliated with MIT. This common error leads me to think that we don’t have three rude respondents, but one poster with three sock puppets. Sock puppetry is, I think, generally considered rude on the internet, and certainly is considerd rude here.

46. Ben Webster - December 22, 2008

Better yet, they thought I had gotten my Ph.D. from Princeton. Yeesh, come on internet people, it’s all right there on my web page.

47. BKG - December 22, 2008

My comments are towards A. B. for his blog (no. 42) that attempts to glorify Naschie and crucify Elsevier Press. Here they are:
(1) How does one justify the publication of photo galary that showcases medals and shoulder crasing with sultans and Nobel Laurets in a research journal? Please see http://www.el-naschie.net/bilder/file/Photo-Gallery.pdf that appeared at Chaos, Solitons and Fractals 25 (2005) 915–933. In fact the whole issue is dedicated for His Highness. Do the libraries/individuals pay for that kind of stuff?
(2) I refer to his statements “As with regard to the five papers in the last issue in CS&F written by him, this is really a bad joke. …….there is a trap and I smell a rat. I said it is ridiculous that Elsevier has put ten papers of yours in one issue although you never approve more than 3 papers at a time per issue if any. El Naschie jumped and said Good gracious, tell them to delete immediately 5 of these papers in order not to delay the production of the issue. I believe someone in Elsevier was trying to frame El Naschie knowingly and on purpose to create a case against him because he opposed the new Elsevier Translation Empire which they set out in China.”

(a) Now, please let me know how an editor-in-chief goes along with accumulation of an author’s 10 papers before they are intended to be published by some “framer”. He has been there not for a month but for good many years I suppose.
(b) Since A. B. has been in the editorial office, so close to Prof Naschie, may be he can throw some light on reviewing process of all his papers. Besides, how is it that Prof. Naschie did not try his papers get published elsewhere, say in APS or AMS journals. Why should an editor-in-chief of a journal publish so many papers ina journal where he is the editor-in-chief. How can one exempt such a case as a classic case of “abuses and discredit the editorship”.
(c) Why does one have to draw a theory of “conspiracy” all of a sudden when everything has come to light? What was happening these many years?

(3

48. el naschie - December 23, 2008

[...] Continued | The n-Category Caf? [3] The Case of M. S. El Naschie, Continued | Scintilla [4] L’affaire El Naschie ” Secret Blogging Seminar [5] Update on El Naschie and Elsevier – Uncommon [...]

49. A.J. Tolland - December 28, 2008

Readers of our blog may be amused to know that some idiot is filling up our spam queue with comments which

1) feature the same sort of rambling obfuscatory prose,
2) originate from the same IP address in Egypt, and
3) purport to be from a number of different authors.

Apparently, our spam filter can detect crackpottery.

50. John Baez - December 30, 2008

I wrote:

Books aren’t included under this law.

Chris Grant wrote:

But why would we want to mimic this aspect of the NIH rules for the NSF? Why would we want to treat books differently from journal articles?

Purely to get the bill passed. If we tried to make NSF-funded research monographs available for free online, I think the uproar from scientific book publishers would be enough to derail the bill.

But I don’t know much about getting bills passed. Maybe it’s better to push for as much as possible at first, and then settle for less.

At this point, I’d be ecstatic if we ever get a single legislator interested in this issue.

51. Anonymous - January 4, 2009

Believe it or not

El naschie had four articles whose titles containing Witten. The articles are

1- A few hints and some theorems about Witten’s M theory and T-duality,

Chaos,Solitons and Fractals 25 (2005)545 -548

2- Using Witten’s five Brane theory and the holographic principle to derive the value of the electromagnetic structure constant alpha =1/137,

Chaos,Solitons and Fractals 38 (2008)1051 -1053

3- Fuzzy knot theory interpretation of Yang -Mills instantons and Witten’s 5-Brane model,

Chaos,Solitons and Fractals 38 (2008)1349 -1354

4- On the Witten -Duff Branes model together with knots theory and E 8 E 8 super strings in a single fractal spacetime theory,

Chaos, Solitons and Fractals xxx (2008)xxx – xxx . The article is still in press, but you can get the pdf. file.

The amazing thing about the references of the first three articles is that they don’t contain any research paper for Witten. Finally, the great man realized his mistake and put a reference for Witten in the fourth one (the most recent one). But the man didn’t acknowledge who pointed out to him this bug in his program which he used to generate papers (Backreaction blog). Any way this a good step, at least the references are now correctly produced. Unfortunately you still need further improvement in your code that seems has a serious problem with E. Witten. Although you referred to a paper of Witten the program has produced a wrong title for it. In the reference list we find

[4 ]Witten E. Searching for a realistic Kaluza-Klein Theory. Nucl Phys B 1981;186:412 – 28.

While the correct title turned out to be, as you can check yourself:

Search for a realistic Kaluza-Klein theory

Nuclear Physics B, Volume 186, Issue 3, 10 August 1981, Pages 412-428, Edward Witten

As N. Eisfeld wrote on Mar. 26, 2008 @ 18:32 GMT, in this blog, http://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/395, describing El naschie

“This man has never bad-mouthed, ignored or downplayed anyone or any contribution. He also acknowledged every single person who contributed to his work unless he genuinely did not know and then he will immediately apologize of the unintended omission.”

52. Anonymous - January 6, 2009

I think that Elsevier is doing dirty jobs in scientific publishing. The CSF journal is owned by Elnaschie and Elsevier is getting money out of this apart from the journal subscription fees. El naschie pays for getting credibility of Elsevier and to have the chance to publish his great scientific ideas in journal hosted by a supposed reputable publishing house like Elsevier. There are other many similar cases in Elsevier.

El naschie keeps publishing junks in CSF for a quite long time and kept unnoticed by mentoring system of Elsevier which seems very odd. While it was so obvious from the far beginning that we have a crackpot.

The same applies to Cambridge university which allowed him to publish his articles for nearly ten years 1993-2001 using its affiliation, while, for sure, he wasn╝t a staff member there. It is far from reality to imagine that people in Cambridge have been fooled for that long time. According to the following data base

http://www.engineeringvillage2.org

One can find:

17 articles where the affiliation is DAMTP, Cambridge, UK.

72 articles where the affiliation is Dept. of Appl. Math. & Theor. Phys., Cambridge Univ., UK

40 articles where the affiliation is Univ of Cambridge.

No prize for one who guesses at which journal those articles have been published.

It is not enough for Elsevier just to step down Elnaschie , they should explain how these things happened and what their future precautions to prevent such a misusing of editorial power.

On the other side, Cambridge people should explain how it was possible for El naschie to use its affiliation for a quite long time, harming their reputation without charging him and any legal action.

The papers of El naschie would be a permanent black record for both Elsevier and Cambridge for too long time in the future.

53. Scott Funkhouser - January 27, 2009

Hello, all. I only recently discovered the disappointing situation with Elsevier. I and a co-author had a paper under review at CSF and when I learned about the problems with El Naschie and CSF I urged him to withdraw the paper. A few days later he received this curious e-mail from CSF:
————————————————-
From: Chaossf@aol.com
Date: Wed, 14 Jan 2009 08:31:16 EST
Subject: CS&F

Dear Colleagues, friends and members of the Honorary and International Editorial Boards,

It is with the greatest regret and dismay that we note the present break down of proper lines of communication in receiving, refereeing and accepting papers in Chaos, Solitons & Fractals. We have identified the reason to be mainly connected to a wholly misleading letter which some of you have received from certain employees of Elsevier Publishing Ltd. The letter purports that the Founding Editor-in-Chief, Prof. El Naschie is retiring from his position as the Editor-in-Chief and that this retirement will be announced in the first issue of the 2009 volume of Chaos, Solitons & Fractals. As you have definitely noticed such a volume has not appeared and Prof. El Naschie does not intend and in fact will not step down from his position as Editor-in-Chief. It is not the objective of this letter to explain the circumstances which made some quarters in Elsevier issue and send such a letter to the Members of the Editorial Boards. However, there is no harm in mentioning briefly that it is an irrevocable contractual obligation which links the name of the Founding Editor, Prof. El Naschie and the name Chaos, Solitons & Fractals indefinitely. It is only through a Court order in the final instance that Chaos, Solitons & Fractals can be published without the consent of its Founding Editor-in-Chief. If you have any query in this matter, please contact us and we will connect you to the solicitors who are dealing with this matter in the High Court.

Never the less, the main interest of Prof. El Naschie is to keep Chaos, Solitons & Fractals intact under the present severe circumstances. For this reason and as a matter of expediency or at a minimum as a matter of loyalty to the Editor-in-Chief who created this journal from scratch, you should deal only directly with the Editor-in-Chief, through this email address. Please refrain from sending anything directly to Elsevier. In particular all papers submitted to you must first be sent to the Editor-in-Chief for the final acceptance after you may or may not have made the preliminary refereeing. This was always the procedure used throughout the last seventeen years. This is also the only way to avoid getting entangled in legal proceedings which would harm the journal’s reputation as well as all those who are connected to it.

There have been some disagreements on certain policies between Prof. El Naschie and certain quarters in Elsevier. The disagreements are connected to Elsevier’s business enterprises in China as well as some commitment of Elsevier towards the Chinese Academy of Science and a small Chinese journal which Elsevier officially launched not long ago to inadvertently take over the position of Chaos, Solitons & Fractals. If this is, and I am saying only if, the way Elsevier shows its gratitude to the people who Founded and ran Chaos, Solitons & Fractals for seventeen years, then you can imagine how much gratitude they will have for your work when the objective is to close down Chaos, Solitons & Fractals.

Our legal advisers have been working day and night for the last month or so to ensure that Chaos, Solitons & Fractals, which in the meantime is the number one mathematical journal for nonlinear dynamics and theoretical physics with an impact factor of over 3.5 projected for this year, continues to thrive. To do that we must stick together and should not be divided by any scheme aimed at divide and rule. If you wish to know more about all these subjects, please write to us and we will answer you but in the meantime, we implore you for the sake of the Journal, its reputation, the Editorial Boards and in fact for the sake of Elsevier themselves, to stick religiously to the policy which has prevailed for the last seventeen years in Chaos, Solitons & Fractals and which has brought us so much success. Please ignore all letters not coming from the Editor-in-Chief’s office and direct all correspondence as well as all submissions to the same.

H.G. Boehm

On behalf of the Editor in Chief and the Managing Editorial Board

54. A couple of links « Secret Blogging Seminar - January 27, 2009

[...] at the end of an old thread, but those interested in the el Naschie situation may want to read this comment. If this is true, then it is going to make an excellent TV [...]

55. Lots of Unrelated Topics « Not Even Wrong - January 27, 2009

[...] The El Naschie/Elsevier saga continues, latest here. [...]

56. Brian Seindler - February 1, 2009

I think everybody must agree that a reasonable scientist distinguishes himself from the average, non-scientific person by a reasonable degree of objectivity without which science could not exist. If we write according to our heart’s desire, emotion or lust for revenge and inferiority complexes then we should better find ourselves another profession. For these reasons I appeal to the readers of this site as well as to those responsible for it to remove all slander and non-scientific comments out of this site. I want to read a single comment on this site which is only pertinent to the scientific content of the work of Mohamed El Naschie. Instead I read personal opinions, dressed in philosophical gowns intended only to either condemn or glorify Mohamed El Naschie. This is not a scientific debate.
Much has been said about the controversy between Dr. Renate Loll from the University of Utrecht and Dr. Jan Ambjorn from the Niels Bor Inst., Denmark on the one side and Mohamed El Naschie, Laurent Nottale and Garnet Ord on the other side. The reason is an article which appeared in Scientific American last year. It is said with boring repetition that Renate Loll and Jan Ambjorn plagiarized the work of El Naschie, Nottale and Ord. This may or may not be the case but I deplore any public flogging which reminds me of our Middle Ages. However since this article and the criticism of Loll and Ambjorn, the doors of hell opened on El Naschie and his colleagues. That is when I started to become suspicious. El Naschie has been publishing his work for twenty years or so. It was reviewed everywhere including in Physics Reports as I have just learned. The paper is Fractal geometry in quantum mechanics, field theory and spin systems, 323 (2000), pp. 81-181. One of the first proposals for fractal spacetime by El Naschie was made in the journal of the Franklin Inst., On turbulence and complex dynamics in a four-dimensional Peano-Hilbert space, Vol. 330, No. 1, (1993), pp. 183-198. These are a considerably long time ago but the non-scientific campaign against El Naschie which started in the n-Category Café wants us to believe the man was working secretly, in hiding, writing unintelligible papers. Being unintelligible is a relative matter anyway – it depends on who is reading it but in all honesty, I have never read a more lucid paper on the subject of quantum spacetime than the following paper by El Naschie, The theory of Cantorian spacetime and high energy particle physics (an informal review), Chaos, Solitons & Fractals, (2008), doi: 10.1016/j.chaos.2008.09.059. An equally excellent historical review was given by a Slovenian mathematician, L. Marek-Crnjac in A short history of fractal-Cantorian spacetime, Chaos, Solitons & Fractals, doi: 10.1016/j.chaos.2008.10.007. I also wanted to understand why El Naschie and why Ambjorn and Loll. I think I have found the connection. I did that not because I hate or love anyone of them, because I do not know anyone of them, but because I followed scientific thinking. El Naschie worked on finite elements. This is basically a Regge calculus, just like Ambjorn. Second El Naschie worked on engineering problems of shells using the theory of Pogorelov. This led him to triangulation and Japanese origami. Again this led him to Ambjorn or led Ambjorn to him. On a very close examination of a wonderful book by the great Russian topologist P.S. Alexandrov you realize that both El Naschie and Ambjorn have read this book very well. The key to understanding the work of both El Naschie and Ambjorn is in this book, particularly chapter number IV entitled Complexes. I forgot to mention the name of the book which is Combinatorial Topology, published by Dover, Copyright 1956. Following this logic El Naschie, Ambjorn and Loll should be the best of friends. There is no place for the remarks of John Baez nor of course the incredible comments by Peter Woit that Mohamed El Naschie was able to publish his work simply because he belongs to some disadvantaged or misfortunate minority. This is really way below any standard I know of and this is a man who has written a book criticizing string theory entitled Not Even Wrong. Finally, the latest news for everybody, the John Baez site n-Category Café has disappeared from the web. Of course the harm has been done and now he is the one in hiding. For a scientist, this is most definitely conduct unbecoming. That is definitely wrong. When it comes to character there is nothing called Not Even Wrong. I sincerely hope that this site takes notice of the fact that John Baez’ groundless allegations have evaporated out of the internet except for those repeating things without knowing if they are right or wrong or even where they come from.

57. Anonymous - February 2, 2009

Dear All,

There is an interesting article worthy to read.
The aricle is written in German about El naschie

Betrug in der Wissenschaft ( Fraud in science) which
uncovers the reality of El naschie.

http://www.zeit.de/2009/03/N-El-Naschie?page=1

58. Anonymous - February 4, 2009

In one of his numerous fascinating articles which
he dedicated to Gerardus tHooft and titled “On quarks confinement and asymptotic freedom”
(Chaos,Solitons and Fractals 37 (2008)1289–1291)

The great man El naschie gave a new miraculous explanation
for confinement. But unfortunately the great man doesn’t
know enough physics, nor enough math, to get into such
a deep topic. The man has clearly a big confusion between the number
of flavors and number of generations. According to him
page 1290 “…This term appear as 33 –2 f where f is the number of
fermion-anti fermion loops considered….” where the great man
meant the one loop beta function. In the same page one finds
the expression of the one loop beta function b= 33- 2 N_f/12 Pi
” …. For a number of generation equal to that of the standard
model,namely N_f =3 one .nds b =0.716197….”. But to the knowledge of El Naschie
N_f should be interpreted as the number of flavors not the number of generations.
Maybe the great man can check this in any standard textbook on the subject
or the one he used which is the first reference listed at the end of
his article.

Another extraordinary achievement of El Naschie is his freshman
explanation for the confinement phenomenon.

In page 1291, the great man gave us his magic explanation for
confinement “… We cannot see quarks for the same reason that we
cannot see real water at +300 degree centigrade or – 30 degree
centigrade. In both cases we can see vapor or ice and we know it was
water but we cannot see water……”

Let me ask the great man a technical question, if your approach is
a non-perturbative and can cope only with the one loop expression of
beta function. What about the other contributions to beta function
namely two loop, three loop and four loop do you interpret them as
Trans-infinite corrections. To your knowledge the four loop
correction to beta function appeared in 1997, which means you
can not find it in the old edition of your first reference
Yndurain FJ.The theory of quark and gluon interaction.Berlin:Springer;1992.
By now there is the fourth edition 2006, and you can give a look at.

The astonishing thing is that El Naschie uses just very elementary math operations like addition,
subtraction, multiplication and division. Maybe in this particular
paper he was a little more advanced and used the logarithm. That is
just a pedagogical trick to make dummy people understand. On the
top of all these, El Naschie explains low energy phenomena(
relatively) using Planck scale language (let us not say physics!).

Now, let us ask the following interesting question: if the great man El
naschie dedicates this article to Gerardus tHooft (Nobel prize
laureate), then what has Gerardus tHoof dedicated to him?

Although the question seems difficult, tHooft has made it easier for us. In his webpage
tHooft gave an account of How to Become Bad theoretical
Physicists.(http://www.phys.uu.nl/~thooft/theoristbad.html).The content of this page was
of course dedicated to every successful case. tHooft did not
mention any name but El Naschie can easily recognize himself as a
champion of this webpage.

At last, we argue the great man to devote part of his time to
learn proper math and physics (although it is toooo late now!).
Sciences and knowledge is not about using
English in a pedantic and impressive way. One can still do good science
even with broken English but not with broken and sick mind.

59. Anonymous - February 4, 2009

In this concluding comment, I am going to show in a rigorous
mathematical language that El Nashie is isomorphic to a “Bad
Theoretical Physicist” according to tHoof definition and criteria .

Thooft criteria are:
(http://www.phys.uu.nl/~thooft/theoristbad.html)

1-It is much easier to become a bad theoretical physicist than a good one.
I know of many individual success stories.

El- For sure El Naschie is one of those stories.

2- Compare yourself with Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Paul
Dirac.

El- This happened in many occasions. In his 60th
birthday celebration in China one reads in the preface of the
proceeding dedicated to him the following:
“Our Chinese Scientists on Nonlinear Dynamics are in infinite love
and admiration to both the man and his science.”

“Treading the path of El Naschie, we gather together to celebrate
the century’s greatest scientist after Newton and Einstein,
and share his greatest achievement.”

One can find more on the following link: http://www.ijnsns.com/conf/China1.doc

3- You may consider the option of connecting your work with mystery
topics such as telepathy and consciousness.

EL- This is one of El Naschie’ papers.

The brain and E-Infinity

Published in International journal of nonlinear sciences and numerical simulation
volume:7,issue: 2, pages:129-132 and published in the year 2006

Abstract: This short letter, in fact, this short telegram is mainly intended
to point out a recent and quite unexpected realization that E-Infinity space time
(E-infinity) theory (M. S. El Naschie,Chaos, Soliton & Fractals, 29 pp. 209-236 2004)
could be of a considerable help in deciphering one of the greatest secrets and
impenetrable questions of our own existence, namely what is consciousness and how
does it relate to the brain(G. M. Edelman. Consciousness. Penguin Books, London,2000).

4- Make outrageous claims of having solved long standing problems.

EL- El Naschie claims to have solved: Confinement, Quantum
Gravity, Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, explained the number
of elementary particles, the value of all gauge couplings..and
many other things…

5-The bad theoretical physicist, in anticipation,
names his own equations and effects, and even his entire theories, after himself right away.

EL- Feynman-El Naschie Hypothesis, El Naschie local
coherence…etc

6- Try to overshout all your critics, and have your work published anyway.
If the well-established science media refuse to publish your work,
start your own publishing company and edit your own books.

EL- El Naschie founded Chaos Solitons and Fractals journal and has to do with the one in China.

7- Your next step should be to advertise your work. Your reputation may have
caused the xxx ArXives and Wikipedia to refuse your submissions.

EL- El Naschie has been black-listed in xxx ArXives for affiliation arrogating
( forging).( http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0004152). More detail can
be found in ( http://archivefreedom.org/freedom/Cyberia.html).

8- You have convinced your friends at your local bar, your family, your pizza vendor, your dog,
and even a local radio station of the superiority of your theory.

El- Mohamed El Naschie answers a few questions about this month’s new
hot paper in the field of Engineering.
In addition, Dr. El Naschie gives an audio interview about his work.

This is can be found in: http://esi-topics.com/nhp/2006/september-06-MohamedElNaschie.html

Beside many interviews and TV shows in Egyptian channels.

9- But then there are those few physicists such as one bloke called Gerardus ‘t Hooft,
who shamelessly have pointed out to you that your theory is nonsense!
Should you take them seriously? Of course not.
Don’t even try to show them the details of your derivations,
which you forgot anyway and you might not be able to reproduce on the spot.
Here is what you do to establish your reputation forever: JUST GIVE THEM HELL.
Compare those obnoxious puppets of the establishment with nazis and
threaten them with law suits. That’ll teach them.

El- This is can be easily seen from his comments in different
blogs including this blog.

10- Lastly, we ask El Naschie to measure his John Baez index or
crackpot index mentioned in tHooft web
page. (http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/crackpot.html) of course
don’t confuse this with Atiyah-Singer or Witten index….

I think with the above ten commands we have shown in a non
refutable way that El Naschie is in one to one correspondence with
the criteria of a BAD THEORETICAL PHYSICIST. Congratulations for
being a champ!

60. Jason - February 5, 2009

John Baez’s

http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/category/2008/11/the_case_of_m_s_el_naschie.html

has disappeared! Did El Naschie intimidate him with legal threats? Does anyone have a cached copy?

61. davidspeyer - February 5, 2009

The text of John’s original post seems to be available at here . (I have no idea what the point of that blog is or who is running it.) I just downloaded a copy to my hard drive. But I can’t find the comment thread, which had a great deal of good discussion.

62. davidspeyer - February 5, 2009

I just sent John an e-mail. (Posting this here so that 1000 people don’t do the same.)

63. Jason - February 5, 2009

He calls himself Professor El naschie on his site.

http://www.el-naschie.net/

He says he’s “a visiting professor in numerous universities.” Does anyone know what his home institution is, i.e., where this ostensible professor is visiting from?

I bet he’s not a professor at all.

64. Jason - February 7, 2009

It’s been established that El Naschie writes bad papers and publishes them in his own journal. But who is this guy? Is his claim to be a professor fraudulent?

The following is taken from his Web site, and I have made some comments inline.

“Mohamed El Naschie, born 1943 in Cairo, Egypt. He received his entire education in West Germany (Hamburg and Hannover ) and later on in England where he obtained his Ph.D. from the University College, London – U.K..”

This is apparently true.

“He is a fellow of the Institute of Physics, England”

This is worthless. Institute of Physics, England is not an academic institution, or associated with one. It’s a publishing house. (http://www.iop.org/aboutus/index.html)

“and a distinguished Fellow of the Physics Institute of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt.”

He’s no longer allowed to use this affiliation, though it may have been true in the distant past.

(http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/category/2008/11/the_kind_of_email_i_dont_need.html#c019806)

“He is a visiting Professor in numerous Universities including University of Cairo, University of Alexandria (Dept. of Physics), Egypt.”

Visiting professors are professors at some home institution from which they are visiting. Failure to mention where he’s a professor is suspicious.

“He is the current advisor of the Egyptian Ministry for Science and Technology (High Energy Physics and Nanotechnology).”

Sad for Egypt.

“He is Honorary Professor in Shanghai`s Jiao Tong University as well as the Donghua University in the People`Republic of China.”

Is he calling himself a professor merely on the basis of being an Honorary Professor? That wouldn’t be right. Honorary professorships are baubles for famous persons without specialist knowledge.

“He is the principle advisor of the Ministry of Science and Technology of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KACST – Riyadh) since many years.”

So much the worse for Saudi Arabia.

“Professor El Naschie was trained initially as an engineer and worked extensively in Structural Engineering and Applied Mechanics. After becoming full Professor of Engineering”

Where did he become Full Professor of Engineering? How odd to leave that information out. Is that still his home institution — the place where he is a professor (as opposed to a “visiting professor”)?

“he followed his inclination towards theoretical subjects and moved first towards Applied Mathematics and later on Nuclear and High Energy Physics. His research interests include: Stability, Bifurcation. Atomic-engineering, Nonlinear Dynamics, Chaos, Fractals, High Energy Particle Physics, Quantum Mechanics and E-infinity theory. He is editor-in-chief and associate editor of numerous learned journals.”

“Imprint
Prof. M.S. El Naschie – P.o. Box 272 – Cobham, Surrey KT11 2FQ – England, U.K.”

It goes without saying, that’s not an academic contact address.

65. John Armstrong - February 7, 2009

Visiting professors are professors at some home institution from which they are visiting.

Not that I disagree with your overall point, Jason, but mathematicians are a pedantic lot by nature…

I’ve had three positions with the title “visiting assistant professor” with no home institution. In theory what you’re saying may be the original idea, but in practice that’s not how these things actually work.

66. Jason - February 8, 2009

I understand, but a “visiting professor” and a “visiting assistant professor” are very different. Academic institutions are generous with the latter title and in my experience cautiously stingy with the former, at least in the US and the UK.

El Naschie has claimed to be a “professor” (no institution specified); a “visiting professor” (validity of affiliations in dispute); and to have become “a full professor of engineering” (no institution specified).

His claimed affiliations vary from paper to paper even within the Jan 2008 edition of his execrable journal:

String theory, exceptional Lie groups hierarchy
and the structural constant of the universe

Department of Physics, University of Alexandria, Alexandria, Egypt and Department of Astrophysics,
University of Cairo, Cairo, Egypt

Super-symmetric quantum gravity inverse coupling from the Exceptional Lie symmetry groups hierarchy

aDepartment of Astrophysics, University of Cairo, Egypt

bDonghua University, Shanghai, PR China

Notes on exceptional lie symmetry groups hierarchy and possible implications for E-Infinity high energy physics

aDepartment of Physics, University of Alexandria, Alexandria, Egypt

bDonghua University, Shanghai, PR China

Exceptional Lie groups hierarchy and some fundamental high energy physics equations

aDepartment of Physics, University of Alexandria, Alexandria, Egypt

Noether’s theorem, exceptional Lie groups hierarchy and determining 1/a 137 of electromagnetism

aDepartment of Physics, Alexandria University, Egypt

Neither Donghua University, nor Alexandria University nor University of Cairo list El Naschie as belonging to their faculty. Nor does Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt — an institution he’s apparently wised up enough to stop claiming affiliation with.

67. Jason - February 8, 2009

http://sbseminar.wordpress.com/2008/11/30/laffaire-el-naschie/#comment-4556

By the way, regarding the above comment and the email originating from Chaossf@aol.com. That’s El Naschie’s email address as given in his recent papers.

68. Jason - February 8, 2009

I have emailed El Naschie and asked what institution gave him his full professorship and whether he is still a full professor.

By the way I am still on the edge of my seat waiting to hear what happened to John Baez’s El Naschie page which appears to have vanished down a black hole without any comment from John! WTF?! Were El Naschie’s lawyers involved, as seems likely? He’s apparently a millionaire many times over and so able to afford scary lawyers. Still, if that’s what happened, I admit to being disappointed in John, who got off to such a good principled start calling garbage garbage.

69. Jason - February 8, 2009

Oh my God, did The Great Man’s lawyers frighten Jacques Distler as well? Jacques had said:

So, let me review (as best as I can understand).

1. We have a crackpot.
2. Said crackpot is editor of a journal — possibly, at one time, a journal which carried serious work, but now entirely given over to publishing crackpottery.
3. Said journal is published by a well-known, if somewhat evil, publishing house.

1) is not terribly shocking. There are plenty of crackpots, and we mostly just try to ignore them.
2) is also not terribly shocking. There are a number of examples of formerly respectable journals, which now publish mostly sludge. In this case, it’s not clear to me that Chaos, Solitons, and Fractals was ever really respectable. At best, we’ve seen some evidence that — in its early days — some respectable people were not-yet aware that it was ill-advised to publish there.
3) is the most serious bit. If Elsevier were not evil, would we proceed differently?

This is now not to be found on Distler’s site! What the hell is going on!

70. Jason - February 8, 2009

God, I hope Baez and Distler have some explanation besides lack of testicular fortitude. Hopefully I’ve misunderstood, or overlooked something. Come on John and Jacques, tell us why your El Naschie criticisms went down a black hole.

71. Jason - February 8, 2009
72. davidspeyer - February 8, 2009

Whoa, whoa, whoa.

Jason, I don’t think that any of us, John and Jacques included, are obligated to pursue this issue beyond our own interest, and I don’t think that we are cowards if we don’t care about it as much as you.

I don’t have any direct information regarding John or Jacques’ situation. It is even possible that they are relaxing for the weekend and not on the internet :). I do know that, when one is engaged in a complicated legal situation, it is highly prudent not to discuss everything in public, and to remove previous comments one has made from the public view. Again, I DON’T KNOW WHETHER THIS IS RELEVANT. But I think it is a possibility, and I don’t think that we should criticize John and Jacques if, in taking the best legal action, they have decided not to give us a rubberneckers the spectacle we want.

I am glad that Jason has started EL Naschie Watch, since he seems to be passionate about this issue. I don’t want our blog to become El Naschie central (and I know that many of my co-bloggers agree, although I haven’t heard from all of them.) I would suggest that those who are interested in investigating Naschie’s employment status, and his mathematical work, move the conversation over there.

If people are looking for something to discuss here, might I suggest that we move back to the original topic of how the journal and refereeing systems can be improved?

73. Ben Webster - February 8, 2009

I concur. The story of El Naschie is kind of sickly fascinating, but ultimately I think it’s a distraction.

74. Noah Snyder - February 8, 2009

I agree, we’d prefer it if people who want to keep discussing this issue would move discussion to another venue. Jason’s new blog seems like a better place.

We prefer to try to manage comment threads by asking people politely, but if discussion here doesn’t die down we of course reserve the right to shut down the thread.

75. davidspeyer - February 9, 2009

A note to zaki1900 (AT) gmail.com: While the information you have gathered is certainly interesting, I think posting it here would move the conversation in the wrong direction. I have forwarded your post to Jason, and would encourage you two to continue the conversation by e-mail.

76. Jason - February 9, 2009

By all means — anyone interested in El Naschie matters head over to my El Naschie Watch blog.

You can also email me:
hasten dot jason at gmail dot com

77. Chicago Boyz » Blog Archive » Junk Science Warning Signs, Part II - March 4, 2009

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80. David - November 23, 2010

If I may bump an old thread, apparently El Naschie is on his own entirely responsible for Alexandria University cracking the top 200 in some “world’s top universities” list. If anyone ever gave credibility to such lists before…

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/15/education/15iht-educLede15.html?_r=1&hpw


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