A rare opportunity, likely unique in its clarity of how different interests clash, a look behind the curtains of ‘scientific peer review’ corrupting science; moreover, revealing sniffs of the swamp that is the established community researching memristors, but the implications are general and can be only more severe with issues where more money than Hewlett Packard’s is involved or powerful political interests such as with global warming.

Two reviewer’s reject a draft (NOT my draft and I do NOT know the authors, neither will I reveal the journal!); they reject for different, mutually inconsistent reasons, out of pure self-interest. The Science is not settled on any controversial issue, simply because the creation of scientific “consensus” is a corrupt game of bullies and interests alien to what scientistic apologists like ‘new atheists’ believe, namely an ideal scientific method being central and a somehow nice (free, democratic, …) discourse among selfless wise people.

The poor authors, my sympathy goes out to them, are left with two options: (1) Do not sell out completely and revise according to good science, retry in low impact factor journals with few reviewers, hoping for luck, maybe one reviewer agreeing while the other does not care. This round alone took them half a year or more (probably because the established guy waited as long as possible to reply – the usual tactic), and it got them nowhere.

Or (2) remove all criticism and submit to a high impact factor journal where all the reviewers will be likely in on the enforced consensus and may say OK because it benefits their own citation record.

The author’s jobs hang on impact factors, so you know the parallel futures: In some, they support the established bullies’ consensus; the other futures do not remember their names.

Look at the three reviews, decide which one you trust, and then decide which scientific writings to take seriously: those proposed by the crackpot, the ones proposed by the established bully, or those recommended by the rare reviewer who takes the peer review process as a vital part of science seriously, providing a helpful review.

One reviewer is a crackpot, because he/she only accepts “nonlinear resistors with memory” although the memristor was defined (!) as a separate scientific concept in 1971 (it may not exist as a real object, but it is not just a resistor with memory, by definition!):

“This survey is full of inaccuracies and errors that before it could be published it needs a major restructuring. First of all, memristors, namely nonlinear resistors with memory is not a concept first proposed and discussed by Chua in 1971. This shows only ignorance of some fundamental physics theories that were well known since the 50s’. For a recent paper showing that resistors with memory have been known and described on rigorous mathematical grounds well before 1971 please see the paper Nanotechnology 24, 255201 (2013) that uses the well-known Kubo theory (from the 50s’) to show that memristors are resistors with memory and were well known.

Second, we should stop writing false statements like “In 2008, HP lab proved its existence”. This is blatantly false! Thin films of TiO2 sandwiched between metals were very well known since the 60s’. HP did not prove anything. They simply showed that their system could be described using resistors with memory.

For a comprehensive review of this history the authors should read Advances in Physics 60, 145-227 (2011). All these statements need to be revised accordingly in the abstract/intro and other parts of the review with the proper references before I can recommend it publication”

Note how the reviewer mainly wants a certain ‘Advances in Physics’ paper cited and indicates to likely recommend publication if only the references are cited and the worst of what he does not like is changed, which is very little given the lengthy draft, which even has a section on memristors in brain science.

Let's translate for those who are not used to interpreting peer review reports in order to strategically revise drafts so to get published and survive in this silly game: Cite me, change what I do not like, and I will no longer care about the rest, but if you keep supporting my enemies, I will report “full of inaccuracies and errors” to ensure rejection.

The next rejection is from the opposite camp. They have for now won the memristor fight. Bullying is all that is left to do. The author’s English is not worse than what one can see published (published (!), not just under review with revision still to come) by for example Japanese authors even in journals like PRL. Hence, the message is: Go away; everything worth saying is published by me and friends; our rejection does not need to mention more but the convenient routine bashing of uncomfortable international authors by claiming their English is too bad, and a few side issues found glancing at the figures, not even telling you what we want to see presented as “imortant [sic] mile stones”; we are established, so it is obvious how to get in line:

“Unfortunately, the paper is not well written with so many language problems that it makes no sense to list them all in these comments. Please ask a native speaker.  There are many problems, e.g. (page 2) the memristor is not a crossbar structure, imortant mile stones are not given in Fig.1,  the quality of Fig. 2 is poor with no description of the content, the feature of a memristor is the pinched hysteresis loop (see page 3: all resistive switching memories meet Lissajous..),...etc.

Memristor overviews are already given in the books:

1) Memristors and Memristive Systems, (edited by R. Tetzlaff) , Springer 2014,
2) Memristor Networks (edited by A. Adamatzky and L.Chua) , Springer 2014
Furthermore there special issues, e.g. IEEE CAS Magazine, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2013.”

We may not all be able to appreciate the details because good information on the memristor is hard to find, but we can all pick up on that the two reports oppose each other: The first tells of huge problems, none with the language, instead all around the memristor, and it almost mentions that Hewlett Packard pulled an advertising stunt. The second seems as if there is no discussion at all, everything is clear and has been published by those in bed with HP money and comfortably positioned in the hierarchies. No mentioning of that the authors dared to cite a critical paper, which is probably the only reason for the second rejection, since otherwise, the draft is conformist.

These reviewers are typical for scientific peer review as I witness it for almost 20 years. The next most typical would be a guy in the middle of the hierarchies finding his own paper being quoted among nonsense and replying: OK – publish.

The third reviewer was me, a rare type. I try helping the authors to improve on a scientific basis, taking the whole draft seriously, not only what may get into the way of my interests, but respecting what the authors want to accomplish, which needs a sympathetic, charitable reading:

1) The paper claims to give a historical overview, but fails to mention the researchers who found the structurally equivalent memristive devices before 2008 [H. M. Upadhyaya and Suresh Chandra, Semicond. Sci. Technol. 10, 332, (1995). Suresh Chandra, IETE Technical Review 27, 179 (2010)].

2) The authors claim (Page 2, Line 14) that all previous researchers, who found memristive devices before 2008, did not make the connection to the memristor (as if they failed to notice a connection). However, they were well aware of the memristor concept, and thus knew that these devices are only not memristors.

3) The paper presents only a single critical author (and only on the very last page) whose “criticism” is well known to be unsubstantiated and only published on the pseudoscience webpage vixra (not even on the proper arxiv anymore). This is unacceptable, because presenting it like this makes it appear as if all criticism is pseudoscience. Serious criticism has been published in the peer-reviewed literature [S. Vongehr, Adv. Sci. Lett. 17, 285-290 (2012)].

4) Equation 2 is already wrongly described, because w=1 does not result in R_on. It should be w=D instead. I suggest that the authors check all equations and their explanations carefully.

5) Section 2 claims that there are very different models, but all, even the filament growth, are a traveling boundary (which memorizes the charge). In this sense, they are all emulators, namely, they are mechanisms that remember the charge. The authors should explain what the difference between ‘a mere emulator’ and ‘the real thing’ is. If there is no fundamental difference, either the “emulators” [for example the solid state ones of reference 56] are equally memristors, or the found “memristor” is also only an emulator of the true memristor. That something is nano-sized does not make it more real (rather than being a nano-size emulator).

6) Section 4.2 should perhaps be removed or needs to explain more carefully what the memristive devices’ role is. The revolution in brain science is that the plasticity of the dendrite/axon/synapse structure increases the number of primitive units 100 fold (count synapses and fast electrical gap-junctions, not neurons). Thus, sub-ms precision spike-timing has replaced the old model, which centered on the average firing rate of I&F neurons; an early model that averaged out all the information in the firing pattern that high level neurons (retina or cortex) use to “talk to each other”.

All of this is relatively novel but precedes the current memristor hype by at least 10 years and has nothing to do with memristive devices! Memristive devices may be one of many ways toward the plasticity of an artificial synapse. That they are the most efficient way is far from obvious. Writing as if the use of memristive devices can suddenly hand us a brain where neural-networks with differently provided plasticity failed, is naïve and must be regarded as hype.

7) The English could be much improved, but such is secondary to the science. Nevertheless, at least the title should not be [removed].
In summary: I am happy to review more positively on such a review around this interesting topic, however, only after a major revision by the authors. As of now, it is too biased, too much copying of undigested hype in order to justify publication.

If you agree that this at least tries to review rather than being purely a self-interested rant or call to “get in line”, perhaps you like to read the one paper of my own I recommended [Adv. Sci. Lett. 17, 285-290 (2012), extended version at arxiv.org/abs/1205.6129]; sadly, I still can recommend nothing comparable in terms of proper, non-crackpot criticism of the memristor scandal.

This reflects badly on science blogs. They claim to be a new mechanism of oversight by pointing to very few instances like the scandal around arsenic life forms, where science blogs helped to criticize. However, science blogs mainly regurgitate press releases and glorify a systemically corrupt system that inflates by constructing false knowledge. Bloggers suck up to the established in-crowds in the hope for a few morsels falling from the table, internet links from those who made it, a book deal to feed their narcissism.

The science is settled, yes, but how, who settles it how?

Please do not forget that the issue is not just terminology (the Wired article makes it out to be about some people being obsessed with words). The memristor, the one that was actually predicted, may exist! Would you agree to go with something fake instead of the real Higgs boson, thus stopping the research for the actually predicted entity?