On Wed, Apr 10, 2013 at 01:18:06PM -0400, John Clark wrote:
> On Mon, Apr 8, 2013 at 6:40 PM, Russell Standish <li...@hpcoders.com.au>wrote:
> > The policy I'm referring to (editorial rejection based on perceived
> > interest or status) seems likely to be a reaction to the very "junk
> > science" problem you mention.
> >
> I don't know what that means.
> > What I am saying is in this wired world, where journal space is not a
> > scarce resource, papers should only be rejected for obvious scientific
> > reasons
> In this wired world anything and anybody can get published, some online
> journals will publish anything if you pay them, or hell you could post it
> right here for free; but getting published is one thing getting read is
> something else. Space may not be a scarce resource but time certainly is,
> nobody can read everything so good scientist look to high ranked journals
> like Nature and Science to find the best stuff. It's true that you're
> relying on the judgement of the editors but history have proven their
> judgement is pretty damn good. And if you disagree with the editors
> decision just publish it someplace else, just don't expect Science or
> Nature to endorse it.
>   >  papers should only be rejected for obvious scientific
> I agree, I can think of only 2 reasons for rejecting a paper, it's not
> important or it's not true.

Lack of importance should not be a reason. What is unimportant to one
person, may be important to another. That is what abstracts were
invented for. The thing about editorial rejection is that it is based
on an editor deciding that the paper is not worth looking into.

Another good reason for rejecting the paper is that it has been done
before. Although, having said that, it could be worthwhile publishing
confirmations of experimental results by independent teams - I was
thinking more in terms of theoretical papers.

Another good reason is being out of scope. If I was the editor of the
(fictitious) Journal of Bees, then I would be quite right in rejecting a paper
about North Atlantic Salmon as being out of scope. Of course, Nature
and Science do have rather generous boundaries of scope, but even they
would be justified for rejecting a paper about creationist theory, for

Physical Review has a stated policy that they will not consider papers
in the area of foundations of quantum mechanics. That's fine - its
quite clear, up front policy, about the scope of the journal. Other
journals exist to cover those areas.

> > Other papers, where there are doubts or confusion, should be subject to
> > the author adequately addressing the referees' criticisms.
> >
> And that's how Nature dodged a bullet during the cold fusion fiasco. It's
> largely forgotten today but back in1989 soon after their notorious cold
> fusion press conference Pons and Fleischmann did submit a paper to Nature,
> and given that at the time Pons and Fleischmann were respected scientists
> and knowing the potential importance of it the editors put it on a fast
> track for publication; and In just a few days they received comments from
> the referees. They wanted more data confirming the cold fusion reaction,
> but even more important, they wanted clarification of the experimental
> setup. As described in the paper the experiment was so vague and nebulous
> it would be impossible for anyone to reproduce it. Pons and Fleischmann
> responded that they were busy and just did not have time to supply the
> requested data. They then withdrew the paper and got it published in a
> third rate journal few had heard of.

This is an example of peer review working correctly. It is not an
example of the editorial rejection policy I was referring to.

> > > Furthermore, with Google, or Google Scholar, and arXiv, you don't need
> > the status of Nature or Science to make your article visible or cited.
> If you're satisfied with arXiv and don't want a endorsement from Nature or
> Science then what are you complaining about?
>   John K Clark

Firstly, I'm not complaining about Nature and Science. I don't care
about them, and the status they supposedly confer. I'm complaining
about the editorial rejection policy (as opposed rejecting on the
basis of peer review), that seems to have crept into use in other
journals too.

Why am I not satisfied with arXiv? Mainly, because when peer review
works, it works well. The end result are papers that are improved over
the original draft published to arXiv, or are withdrawn from
publication because some fatal flaw has been discovered (or it was
thought of before, etc). I have always diligently acted as a peer
reviewer myself, when asked to, unless it was a paper completely out
of my area of expertise. A lot of academics don't do this, or do only
a lacklustre effort, because there is no credit for doing so, which is
a major part of the problem.

However, I have had recent experiences of sending papers to journal
after journal, and having them rejected without any form of peer
review, nor even explanation usually. Sometimes, you don't even hear
back from the journal editor, so after some rather arbitrary time has
elapsed, you bundle it off to another journal. It is a frustrating
waste of time.

This is a symptom of a broken system. I am keen to try alternatives,
such as the PLoS model, or Tim Gower's new initiative, the Cambridge
Journals' Forum of Mathematics. I was heavily involved in Complexity
International, a journal started by a friend of mine, and specifically
in my research niche, but it has sadly withered on the vine, as being
too expensive to run. I have reluctantly admitted that paying page
charges (Gold open access model) is necessary, but am worried about
the level of scam and fraud that has sprung up as a result. I would
feel scammed if a journal took my money, and then put up my paper on
the web without any peer review - as you say arXiv does this for free,
and I have higher confidence in their data retention abilities.


Prof Russell Standish                  Phone 0425 253119 (mobile)
Principal, High Performance Coders
Visiting Professor of Mathematics      hpco...@hpcoders.com.au
University of New South Wales          http://www.hpcoders.com.au

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