The editor of a theoretical-physics journal, who was facing growing criticism that he used its pages to publish numerous papers written by himself, is set to retire early next year.
Scene two, the story so far:
Five of the 36 papers in the December issue of Chaos, Solitons and Fractals alone were written by its editor-in-chief, Mohamed El Naschie. And the year to date has seen nearly 60 papers written by him appear in the journal.
Scene three: tensions rise. Peer reviewed or not peer reviewed, that is the question:
Most scientists contacted by Nature comment that El Naschie’s papers tend to be of poor quality. Peter Woit, a mathematical physicist at Columbia University in New York, says he thinks that “it’s plain obvious that there was either zero, or at best very poor, peer review, of his own papers”. There is, however, little evidence that they have harmed the field as a whole.
And then, my very favorite, scene four, a defense and a skeptical Nature reporter:
El Naschie, who was born in Cairo and now splits his time between England and Germany, rejects any charges of sloppy peer review. “Our papers are reviewed in the normal way expected from a scientific international journal published by a reputable international publisher,” he told Nature in an e-mail signed by P. Cooper, who claimed to be a spokesperson for the editorial board of Chaos, Solitons and Fractals. Elsevier, which publishes the journal, is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics, which holds that good editors “ensure that all published reports of research have been reviewed by suitably qualified reviewers”.
On 25 November, Elsevier’s director of corporate relations, Shira Tabachnikoff, wrote an e-mail to Nature saying: “Dr El Naschie’s retirement as Editor-in-Chief of Chaos, Solitons and Fractals will be announced to readers in the first issue of 2009. Elsevier and Dr El Naschie have been in discussion for quite some time about the details of his retirement and the transitional arrangement for papers under review.”
In a separate e-mail Tabachnikoff wrote: “[We are] committed to supporting our editors in maintaining high standards for both the editorial and peer-review process. At times there may be discussions about particular scientific issues and fields, even at the level of individual editorial decisions. That is a part of the normal process of scientific publishing.”
No mention of what these actual procedures are. Maybe the procedures involve monitoring blogs for signs of abuse. That would be cost effective, if maybe a bad way to interact with your free laborers. Do the procedures perhaps involve having editors threaten legal action? Hm, I would think that a corporation which is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics might want to begin by apologizing for the behavior of one of its editors, no? But maybe that’s just me.
In other related news, amazingly the journal “Chaos, Solitons, and
Self-publishing Editors Fractals”, has a higher impact factor than all mathematics journals. We can therefore declare, with absolute definitive authority, that all of the mathematics is of less quality that “Chaos, Solitons and Fractals.”