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    Does The Arxiv Blacklist Authors ? Help Finding Out!
    By Tommaso Dorigo | July 8th 2009 07:19 AM | 152 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Tommaso

    I am an experimental particle physicist working with the CMS experiment at CERN. In my spare time I play chess, abuse the piano, and aim my dobson...

    View Tommaso's Profile
    The Arxiv is an online repository of scientific papers in physics, astronomy, maths, cosmology, computer science, and a few other topics, where papers due to be published on scientific journals are submitted by the authors, and become quickly accessible for free to anybody before the peer-review process ran by the journals is over and they get printed there.

    While the Arxiv is totally access-free, not everything can be published there: the existence of people with funny ideas on what a scientific paper is or what it should or should not contain makes some pre-filtering on the archived material a good idea, although potentially a filtering is a dangerous thing in wrong hands.

    Marni Dee Sheppeard is a theoretical physicist, currently doing research on Category Theory at Oxford University; she also owns a beautiful blog (see below) where you can find over 200 easy lessons on the topic of her studies. She is a friend of mine.

    Now, Marni has had some trouble getting her papers through the filters of the Arxiv.  It appears that the Arxiv is censoring a few scientists, or at least making it harder for them to submit papers there. Among them apparently is Marni, as well as Carl Brannen, a brilliant guy who does independent research on theoretical physics. Other examples (such as Tony Smith) have been denounced in the past. The impression is that the filter acts on names, and not just on content. This would be really disturbing, and I would love to find out whether it is the case.

    Last week I visited Marni in Oxford and we chatted about the issue. I suggested an experiment: finding a respectable physicist with a history of several successful subscriptions, and getting him or her to submit a paper entirely written by Marni or Carl, whose content closely matches that of one of the previously banned papers they submitted with no success.

    The idea is to test whether the article goes through without effort -which proves that the Arxiv is effectively blacklisting some individuals for no good reason- or whether it gets blocked regardless of the name on top of it. In this latter case, we would then have to discuss what in the paper is not worth publication according to the Arxiv admins, but we would have one less thing about which to complain. I think this is valuable information for many scientists, so I would really like to see this experiment carried out.

    So, if in the past you have submitted at least a few papers in hep-th or hep-ph -the archives of theoretical physics and phenomenology, respectively-, you qualify for the experiment. Please write privately that you are available to Marni (her email address is in the comments thread of her post on the matter): even walls have ears, and the internet does not even have walls.

    Comments

    This sounds like an interesting experiment. However I fear that writing about this in public might bias the results of the test. If only one arXiv administrator reads this he could manually detect the article and do with it whatever he thinks is appropriate.

    I wonder if someone will volunteer for the experiment. People putting their name on a paper they have not contributed to at all is something that seems to happen, but I would expect they at least want to check the content before that, and see if it makes sense to you.

    Daniel de França MTd2
    "However I fear that writing about this in public might bias the results of the test." Since this is about detecting an automatic block, I don't think a double blind test is an issue here.
    They clearly need a filter... but what filter would you suggest? It's not meant to be peer reviewed. It seems to me a perfectly sensible first order system to have a filter on the individuals who may upload.

    I am in no position to judge the specifics of who should be flagged for an extra check, and who should be waved through. But in principle, a filter on names seems a sensible part of a first order control, and this seems to be explicit already in the documentation; though actual filters are not public.

    I'm dubious about the value or even ethics of this "experiment".

    Hank
    If this turns out to be the case, it will kill their site and nothing will be left but cranks.   There are prominent people in physics, just like anywhere, who will take an ethical stand and not use it and - worse - start to speak against it.

    Like we discussed on the WCSJ thread, a truly open system cannot work in science.  We're certainly the most open science blogging site (of any size) but even we have to 'sandbox' new people and, even doing that, we have some who worry that anyone who shows up and writes anything outside the box will kill their reputation.

    I am betting that if there is a targeted filter in place it is personality driven rather than an actual formal intent.
    Hah, thanks Tommaso, but having had no offers in the last few hours, I suspect that there will be none. I would be surprised if nobody volunteered to help with Carl's gravity paper, though. Wording would need to be altered to get past automatic specific content checkers.

    I checked and Marnie does have some entries in the arXiv. From this I read that either her name was blocked recently or that the filter involves content issues (which honestly I did not expect). Another "possible" experiment is that instead of asking someone to submit a Marnie's paper under their name, someone could invite Marnie as an author in a paper of their own.
    Good luck.....

    Daniel de França MTd2
    But there is something like 4chan where you can store files for the public. That is scribd, and it is frequently used by people on a certain serious linguist discussion list on yahoo, which I am subscribed.
    Come on, Tommaso. It's very nice to be Carl's or Kea's friend - but you can distinguish that their textbook examples of crackpots, can't you? I think it is unacceptable for papers of "any" authors to be accepted to professional arXiv's archives just because they're someone's friends. It's called nepotism.

    Hank
    I believe we can have the strongest physics blogging in the world here.   The problem?   Everyone in physics blogging has a considerable list of other physics bloggers they consider crackpots so when I made a Venn diagram of acceptable writers among everyone I consulted the only one who got through was Tommaso.   So, Tommaso, you may have a lonely existence here for a while to come.

    To the mass population, 80% of theoretical physics sounds made up.  So maybe we can use the term 'crackpot' less and just stick to blasting their science?   I mean, she's a friggin' researcher at Oxford, not some guy in his underwear claiming to invent perpetual motion so she has to get some respect lest your degree not mean anything either (not that I don't enjoy you, Luboš - but you are a Scud missile of physics blogging in that I know you will do damage but no one can predict where you will land).
    Dear Hank,

    yes, something like 80% of theoretical physics sounds "made up" to the "mass population". Indeed, most people have no idea about science whatsoever. That's why the decisions about the publication in journals are made by peer experts in the case of peer-reviewed journals - and by Paul Ginsparg and his people (and a commitee, by the way, that exists) in the case of the arXiv.

    Sounds non-democratic to you or to anyone? That's very correct because science has nothing to do with democracy. Science is meritocracy, and it will remain meritocracy as long as it is science.

    She may be a girl at Oxford because she may have friends there, just like Tommaso is her friend, but Paul Ginsparg is apparently not big enough a friend of hers to fail to see that she is still a crackpot, regardless of her current home town, and to approve her nonsensical articles for the professional archives. Paul Ginsparg is apparently not obliged to obey the wishes of Kea's friends, and it is very good for science that such things are not possible.

    Best wishes
    Lubos

    Hank
    I certainly agree with your main point; science is about excellence, not fairness.   I've had any number of people complain to me that their articles got pulled because they were rubbish and I invoke the same spirit.   I just don't think she is a crackpot(*).   I may not understand it, I may not agree with it, but crackpot (at least here) is a different thing.   

    (*) At his talk during the World Science Festival, the funniest thing James Watson said was a slap at Brian Greene; "Biology doesn't need string theory.  We have evolution.  It works."   So if 'crackpot' gets thrown around too much it tends to impact everyone.
    OK, I am not getting why you are presenting "excellence" and "fairness" as two contradictory things. What do you find contradictory in between them? Why do you say "one, not the other"? It is very fair that science primarily cares about excellent work (and, indirectly, about excellent people). Excellence is the main part of the definition of fairness in the context of selected scientific publications. In that context, they're the same thing.

    For a quantification of someone's being a crackpot, see

    http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/crackpot.html

    Try to apply it to some papers or blog articles under consideration.

    Also, I don't understand why you think that your story about James Watson is relevant for a discussion about the peer review or about crackpots. As far as I can say, he didn't say anything about either crackpots or the peer review process. Can you kindly see and confirm that this is indeed the case? Did you just want to find a word by someone to kick into string theory (an activity that was very popular among complete imbeciles 3 years ago or so, by the way)? That's another way to see that you're not acting rationally and you shouldn't ever possibly influence which papers are being published somewhere. You just don't have the ability or desire to analyze questions logically. Sorry. But by your behavior, you are closer to a wild angry dog than a scientist who calmly evaluates the data.

    Incidentally, to amplify how much irrelevant your Watson episode was, I completely agree with James Watson's words, these words (you quoted) as well as many other words. Biology doesn't need string theory at this moment, indeed. Evolution won't ever be replaced. Of course some parts of biology may find string theory important in the (probably far) future but that's pure speculation. And in the broader context of science, evolution is comparably important to string theory if not more so - a fact that Watson probably want to not-so-subtly emphasize, and I agree with it, too.

    Dear Hank, I forgot to mention the "degree" issue explicitly.

    Indeed, her being in Oxford doesn't mean anything in science, and the degrees don't guarantee any free pass for the publication of papers. Am I the first one to tell you this shocking news? Did you ever hear that PhDs still have to wait for decisions of reviewers whether their new paper is published in a journal with a given impact? Did you think that after a PhD defense, everyone can publish anything anywhere? And if I am modestly telling you it is not the case, can you figure out why it is a good idea that there still exist limitations and filters on what can appear in various journals or lists of preprints?

    Science is really not about degrees or hometowns. These are just social constructs. A degree may be a necessary condition for some ordinary or routine jobs to accept new hires - because it is a practical way to do the first level of filtering. But a degree is in no way a sufficient condition for someone's work to be respected. In science, work is only respected by its merit, so also the respect for a scientist is not "finally determined" during her PhD defense. Paul Ginsparg is simply replacing the common peer-reviewed filters by differently organized filters that have pretty much the same effect as peer reviews as long as the people who decide have a comparable level of expertise. But something like that must obviously exist - otherwise hep-th would become a jungle, another copy of Kea's blog or Not Even Wrong overwhelmed by pure crap.

    It's kind of amazing that I must be explaining such elementary things.

    And finally, indeed, my degree doesn't mean anything, either, even though it's not clear to me what this discussion has to do with me per se. In fact, I noticed that the people - usually idiots - who wanted not to respect me usually did so despite my degrees or anything similar being many categories about theirs. The fact that they didn't respect my superior degree structure was OK but their inconsistency in applying such rules was a proof of a lacking integrity. The main aspect in which the scientists differ from fraudsters or even the "mass population" is that they are able and willing to consistently apply some rules and the same rules to evaluate different things in the world around them.

    That's why it's so important that Ginsparg et al. won't surrender to this stupid populist pressure by Kea's friends who want to distort the quality of the arXiv more than it has happened so far - and much like it has happened with many other institutions and even science disciplines that used to be respectable but they no longer are.

    Best wishes
    Lubos

    dorigo
    Lubos, the arxiv publishes O(50k) papers a year. What fraction of that do you believe are disposable c**p that seeps through the mesh of filters? Surely at least a few dozens, is my estimate. Still, nobody is hurt, with a S/N=1000. What is the signal to noise you are comfortable with, before you claim it becomes a jungle ? 100:1 ? 10:1 ?

    I do not think you really believe that allowing anybody with an even remotely meaningful abstract to post would amount to flooding the arxiv with thousands of nonsensical papers. It is a trickle, not a flood. In fact, there are maybe a dozen cases of explicit blacklists that have been somehow proven in these last few years.

    So your objection does not stand. Instead, I want you to ponder on two things:
    1) who judges what is meaningful science ? Is this (a regular preprint by a couple of good-named scientists) meaningful science for you ?
    2) are you willing to run the risk that we lose a breakthrough by an outsider because of insisting on the rule of only publishing mainstream ideas ?
    3) Are you aware that people burned on the stakes five hundred years ago for insisting on heretic ideas ? Can't you see a similarity ?

    Cheers,
    T.
    They're - not their, Lubos. Watch your English.

    Otherwise, I am sure that human filters - that have been absolutely crucial for the arXiv's rise at the beginning - are still possible and used to do some jobs that can't be done automatically, and I can't imagine how a curator of the incoming papers could possibly justify - in front of her peers - why she approved e.g. those dumb ("magic square" etc.) numerological attempts to derive the fundamental constants or the CKM matrix.

    This is nothing to do with Kea or Carl who are almost certainly very nice people - but that's not what the arXiv is about. It is about the content that is meant to be helpful for physicists. Classical journals are peer-reviewed. It is very obvious that as soon as the broader public gets the tools to imitate the experts, there must exist a comparably powerful filter to peer-reviewing that eliminates the complete crap.

    Do you know Carlos Castro history against Ginsparg (arXiv.org)? You can consult http://www.archivefreedom.org/freedom/Cyberia.html

    dorigo
    Quite interesting Francis. I knew about the story of Tony Smith (he is a regular here) and a few others, but not this one in detail.

    Cheers,
    T.
    I was reading with interest, until it got to the point about "my co-author El Naschie". I think I know how it goes from here. Well done, arxiv. :-)

    Tommaso, I don't understand your indignation. Some sort of a filter in the arxiv is a necessity, sad but true, and author's name is a useful first-level trigger (of course, it should not be the only criterion, I believe the abstract is also scanned by a human in each case). I don't know whether in this particular case the filter was correctly applied, although I tend to trust Ginsparg's judgement.

    I recommend you to look at the link pasted above by "emulenews" to convince yourself why filters, also on names, ARE indeed inevitable.

    dorigo
    Hello Jester,

    I wholeheartedly disagree. What is so sacred about the arxiv that cannot be tainted by a few nutcases ? The blacklisting cases maybe amount to a couple dozen authors. That's what, 100 papers a year ? A drop in the ocean. In exchange, you get to read stuff that is sometimes entertaining, plus there might be an occasional great idea in there, and who does this moron think he is, to judge (maybe with a few cohorts) whether an article is science or not ? Publishing just ideas that go with the mainstream is not Science for me, it is conformism.

    My point is that there are peer-reviewed journals, and that is good. We need a place without peer review, so what is the purpose of doing a "low-level" (really) peer-review there as well ?

    Note, I am not saying the arxiv should accept mickey mouse stories there if somebody submitted them there. But they are doing a service to the community, and if they are, they must be very careful not to ban anything that even vaguely resembles interesting science. I feel that is entirely different from what they are in fact doing.

    Besides, just look at what appears in the arxiv at times and tell me whether you really believe it's all better stuff than what a few of our "crackpot" friends would like to see up there. Check this paper out for instance. It is a regular arxiv paper, by a very respectable physicist, and it made me vomit.

    Cheers,
    T.



    dorigo
    BTW, since I went back to read the post I linked above, and found out I still agree with what I wrote two years ago (a startling instance of consistency), let me also quote myself here, from the end of that piece:

    "Nobody is a crackpot. Ideas are good, bad, idiotic, demented. If there were a fifth category, the paper discussed above would belong to it."

    Cheers,
    T.
    But wait Tommaso, those guys in hep-th 0707.1919 were actually right! That's why the SSC didn't get the funding! That's what caused the LHC magnets to quench! I'm sure that it's going to be you (later this year) who will run through a CERN corridor looking for the giant power outlet to which the collider is connected to to save all of us, as the strangelets are being produced! I count on your (future) heroism :P

    My dearest Lubos,

    You used "indeed" in an excesive manner! Indeed 6 times!

    Having had some problems myself uploading manuscripts to arXiv in the past, I would suggest that M.S. try submitting from another host, with a different IP address --- not necessarily from a different domain, just another IP.

    Tommaso, we agree that arXiv is not a place for Mickey Mouse, you're just proposing to use more loose criteria to define Mickey Mouse. But my point is that today arXiv is the most important "publisher" in our discipline and therefore it has to keep standards. Peer-reviewed journals have long become irrelevant, it's what's on arXiv that matters. I think you're underestimating the number of people who would love to mark their existence if it were only possible. I don't want to dig through a pile of El Naschie & co. papers everyday. Holger Nielsen also does not belong in arXiv anymore, in spite of his earlier achievements. So my stand is: filter - yes, plus well defined rules. I think it's perfectly fine if one of these rules were "if you posted a nutty paper in the past, all subsequent papers that you (co-)author will be scrutinized". As i said, I have no idea if it applies to Kea's case.

    Since the link to the story about Carlos Castro has been posted in a comment here, I will say that one of the most disturbing aspects of that story was the following quote from Paul Ginsparg who used the word "this" to refer to Clark Atlanta University providing institutional affiliation for Carlos Castro:

    "... if clark university will insist on this, then we will cease to regard clark university as a responsible accredited institution ...".

    Enforcement of sanctions against an individual by threatening his affiliated institution seems to me to be a serious attack on any non-consensus progress in science,
    but
    it seems to be tolerated by the physics community,
    perhaps because it is not without somewhat similar precedent:
    around 1951-52, Oppenheimer, as director of the Princeton IAS, said:
    "if we cannot disprove Bohm, then we must agree to ignore him."
    (see page 133 of F. David Peat's biography of Bohm "Infinite Potential")

    It would be interesting if Tommaso had personal knowledge of all the techniques used by collaborations at Fermilab and CERN to enforce discipline among collaboration members. If a member were to have acted as an individual in a way displeasing to the consensus leadership, would action have been threatened against that members home institution?

    Tony Smith

    Hopefully I can comment briefly without annoying Tommaso, Kea, Lubos or anyone else. I just want to point out that arXiv's endorsement criteria is openly stated at their page http://arxiv.org/help/endorsement which says:

    'We don't expect you to read the paper in detail, or verify that the work is correct, but you should check that the paper is appropriate ... You should not endorse the author ... if the work is entirely disconnected with current work in the area.'

    I think this is the crucial problem: it enforces groupthink to further existing areas, by deliberately banning out of the box thinking. It is not meritocracy as Lubos claims above, because it doesn't enforce the checking of the content for merit, but for conformity to the criterion that the paper is on the topic of 'current work in the area'. I was able to upload a paper to arXiv in December 2002 from my university (before endorsement), but it was then deleted by the time I refreshed my browser. The elitist endorsement system has been described by Professor Distler who was involved with the arXiv system, on March 6, 2006:

    "The endorsement system is rather odd, when you think about it. It resembles nothing more than an old-boy’s Club where, to become a member, you need to be “introduced” by an existing member."

    - http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/~distler/blog/archives/000760.html#c003354

    That's the opposite of Lubos's meritocracy claim again: it's about having friends in the mainstream to endorse you!

    Can it happen that you have a great idea and yet you cannot find any established physicist
    able to appreciate your idea and endorse you?
    Either you are not capable of explaining things, and have to polish your presentation, or your idea is nonsense. In either case you are not entitled to submission.
    The truth is : the level of indoctrination of theoretical physicists in general and string theorists in particular is greatly exaggerated. If a promising weird idea comes along, people will jump on it, even if it's not string theory.
    Recent example: Horava gravity. The actual idea was proven wrong, but people did jump on it, including several known physicists.

    Slava: kindly, if you will go read the page on endorsement I linked to, you will see the answer to your question:

    "You should not endorse the author ... if the work is entirely disconnected with current work in the area. ... If you endorse a person who makes an inappropriate submission, we may suspend your ability to make endorsements. If you feel uncomfortable about endorsing an author for any reason, don't do it -- ask the person to find another endorser."

    You can see that: (1) nobody is allowed to endorse research unconnected to "current work in the area", and (2) there are penalties for the endorses if he or she breaks this rule.

    If you want an example of a brilliant idea that was initially censored out by leading physicists Teller, Dirac and Bohr, check out the information about it on Feynman's path integral suppression by leading physicists (Feynman's paper was initially rejected by Physical Review). Feynman elsewhere related that even Pauli and Einstein objected to it in during an informal presentation at Princeton (Einstein was generally against any new quantum field), but was politer than the others. See the info at http://www.valdostamuseum.org/hamsmith/goodnewsbadnews.html and also watch the video of Dyson discussing the censorship at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWQ_XFF7Qg4 where Dyson explains how hard it was for him to convince Oppenheimer that Feynman's work was important.

    The point is that brilliant new ideas that have something in common with existing ideas are treated as you say, but totally new reformulations are viciously opposed, with the resistance being directly proportional to the force with which they are asserted (Hooke's law) until they break out. Teller, Dirac and Bohr all had different reasons to dismiss path integrals. Even string theory underwent a period of ridicule until Edward Witten took it seriously.

    My paper was what set Marni off on this subject but I don't have any problems with arXiv. Some context. Mine is the first honorable mention or winning paper in at least 30 years by an amateur. There are about 250 papers on arXiv that admit to receiving "honorable mention" in the gravity essay contest but mine seems to be the only one which isn't in gr-qc, astro-ph, or hep-th. But having gone through the effort of uploading a paper, I can understand how much trouble Cornell goes through to make the thing work. They didn't keep me off arXiv, they sent the paper to gen-ph instead of the gr-qc it was submitted to. I think this is reasonable given that (a) it hasn't passed peer review, (b) is partly in a difficult to computationally verify subject, (c) is partly an outrageous theory of gravity, and (d) is written by a completely unknown amateur. I would guess that if they knew my website, APS lecture and/or unpublished papers are cited in the literature a half dozen times already they might have moderated differently. And of course they can't know what surprises I have in preparation in the gravity area as I haven't published them.

    I think that the paper won an honorable mention because it provides an exact solution to a problem that had previously only been solved with an expansion series, that of writing Schwarzschild (black hole) orbits in Newtonian form. This is an important result. The reason arXiv sent it down to GEN-PH would have been that the calculations were by an unknown, and the rest of the paper, which calls the usual formulation of general relativity "science fiction", and goes on about gravitons interacting with gravitons, was probably a little hard to swallow. I don't doubt that IJMPD, (which is where honorable mention papers are published) will make me strip that out. And if the paper eventually gets published, I don't doubt that arXiv will reclassify it. Where it is now, when people search for "post newtonian expansion"+"Schwarzschild" they should find it, and they might find it useful.

    I will keep working on physics because it is satisfying. Writing papers is boring but it is necessary to communicate work. Publishing is a pain but I'm trying to put up with it as best I can. Everyone seems to see publishing this way, crackpot or not, but the professionals have no choice, they must publish or (academically) die.

    Personally I find that Arxiv is already far too loose in their selection criteria. When on any given day, 2 out of 10 papers in Hep-Th that I read are obviously egregiously incorrect, and another 2-3 are highly speculative, you know there is a problem. In Hep-ph, things are a bit better, but then you run into the problem of having 50% of the papers which are essentialy same old same old, nothing new.

    The situation is extremely frustrating and the amount of wasted time is enormous and it *is* a problem for the community (especially since more and more people are publishing now). Like it or not, many people don't even bother to read peer review journals anymore, b/c they are several months out of the loop.

    I can't comment on the paper in question, but I'd just assume missing a couple decent results than wasting an hour of my time everyday on mumbo jumbo. And if it really is an important result, someone somewhere will pick up on it and bring it to the communities attention.

    The proof of this actually is in how few 'rebuttal' or 'comment on hep xxxxxx' articles there are anymore. In the old days, if a manifestly wrong paper was submitted to a journal, you would have a bunch of people jump on it like sharks. Now, there are so many that its extremely rare to see people even bother anymore. Thats simply not healthy.

    I'm afraid your experiment probably wont get any takers because nobody would risk being involved given the likely backlash against them. I am trying another experiment which is to provide an alternative archive for people who cant use arXiv.org. I have set it up as viXra.org. It is a bit rough but it is ready to take submissions.

    The site is partly a parady of arXiv.org in order to highlight their censorship policy, but it is also a serious archive for those of us with no alternative. As an experiment it will show what kind of papers are being blocked out of the arXiv.

    Of course there will be some papers in viXra that people will consider unscientific but there are plenty of those in the arXiv already and not everyone will agree which ones they are. It is all very well for people to say that some kind of filtering is necessary but I suspect that if you blocked all papers that were considered rubbish by someone, then there would not be much left getting through.

    The arXiv's endorsement policy is meant to be a way of avoiding that problem, but it does not work. Endorsers are threatened with loss of their submission rights if they endorse inappropriate papers. This ensures that they will only endorse safe work from people they know and trust. It means that any outsider like myself cannot use the arXiv.

    I think the 'experiment' is a terrible idea. I don't think it's surprising that the arXiv is rejecting certain authors, and I think that's the correct thing to be happening. I also improve of the endorsement system, because there are a hell of a lot of crackpots out there who would love to pollute our community with their 'ideas'. And I'm not talking about the handful of researchers at universities who have off-the-wall research topics; rather about the hundreds of people who claim to have alternatives to relativity or quantum mechanics, yet don't understand the first thing about either topic.

    It took me a while to track down your name on the Oxford websites, Marni; I was looking for you in maths! Do you ever come to our theory seminars?

    You mean the particle theory ones in Physics? I think I went to one early last term.

    Hi Tommaso,
    I seriously doubt that you will find volunteers. Most physicist care a lot about their reputation, and they won't risk it by associating their name to a paper that they did not write - even more so if it exhales a whiff of crackpottery. Frankly, I wonder why you did not volunteer yourself, if this "experiment" looks like a good idea to you. To me, it looks like just one more abuse of the arXiv, not unlike the April fools that we had occasion to discuss in an earlier thread.

    On a different note, you seem to have been blacklisted from the aggregated website "Interactions Blog Watch" http://www.interactions.org/cms/?pid=1025915 They still link your old page at wordpress, and they did not react to any of three messages that I sent them. Can you do something about it?

    Cheers, Ptrslv72

    dorigo
    Hi Ptr,

    I am not credible as an author of theoretical physics papers, unfortunately. I guess I could do it, and maybe I will, but this cannot be discussed here, of course.

    Meanwhile, this thread has taught me that our community is rather rich with people who believe the Arxiv is to be protected from meaningless papers. Some say it is because we do not want to have to check tons of silly abstracts in the morning, some bring other arguments; but none explain why we should consider it morally acceptable that an author is flagged and banned from such an important service.

    About interactions, it is their call which blogs they list and which they don't. Thank you for pointing out the changed link, but I think they got the message and decided they are not linking this site, for reasons that go beyond my understanding.

    Cheers,
    T.
    well, if there is a filter on the names it is most likely automatic, so your credibility as a theorist might not be an issue. If the paper goes through the filter this would even strengthen your point. Concerning the arXiv, it is a service that rests on the assumption that people will use it responsibly. Just imagine what would happen if everybody started posting whatever they like. I don't know specifically the cases that you mention in the post, but I wouldn't find it outrageous if somebody who has abused the system once or twice was barred from using it again.
    Cheers, Ptrslv72

    dorigo
    "Abused the system" ? Don't be silly. People in good faith who spend time on something they consider important research, who have a maybe biased view of what is considered good science by their more established colleagues. This is what we are talking about, not people writing april fool's stuff!

    Cheers,
    T.
    Read my posts, what I was comparing to April fool stuff is your "experiment", not the crackpottish papers (which obviously don't look crackpottish to their authors). And at least some of the "blacklist" cases under discussion (such as the one linked by emulenews) seem to involve real abuses, such as forged affiliations and false identities. Cheers, Ptrslv72

    "... our community is rather rich with people who believe the Arxiv is to be protected from meaningless papers. ... none explain why we should consider it morally acceptable that an author is flagged and banned from such an important service." - Tommaso

    Hi Tommaso,

    Rhys explained the answer:

    "... there are a hell of a lot of crackpots out there who would love to pollute our community with their 'ideas'. ... the hundreds of people who claim to have alternatives to relativity or quantum mechanics, yet don't understand the first thing about either topic."

    This was of course the reason why Pauli rejected Feynman's path integral paper, which begins with the words:

    "This paper will describe what is essentially a third formulation of nonrelativistic quantum theory."

    (Reviews of Modern Physics, vol. 20 (1948), p. 367.)

    Dirac, Teller, and Bohr also thought he didn't understand quantum mechanics and was wrong for ignoring relativity. Now, the path integral formulation is used for quantum field theory, but Feynman made the "mistake" as promoting it originally as a third formulation of quantum mechanics, which upset everyone who had worked very hard to learn and to appreciate the mathematics of Heisenberg's and Schroedinger's approaches. Also, Feynman's theory was not originally developed with all the applications it gained when applied to the quantum fields of the Standard Model.

    About morality: it's the opposite to what you think, Tomaso. The modern reason to dismiss "crackpots" is not scientific, but is actually moral and emotion. The mainstream think that "crackpots" (people with too non-mainstream ideas) are immoral because they are ignorant and don't bother hard enough to go through the mainstream textbooks and check out mainstream ideas before moving to alternatives, which is what happend to Feynman and his supporter Dyson when Oppenheimer attacked Dyson as ignorant in seminars.

    Feynman stated in his Dec. 11 1965 Nobel lecture:

    "I ... had a personal feeling, that since they [Dirac, Heitler, et al.] didn't get a satisfactory answer to the problem I wanted to solve, I don't have to pay a lot of attention to what they did no."

    He goes on that his ignorance of some of the details of such mainstream work was actually a BENEFIT in his case, because if he had been more educated he would have ignored his own idea for some of the problems it originally had (nonrelativistic, in some ways less useful than existing approaches, etc.):

    "... the idea seemed so obvious to me and so elegant that I fell deeply in love with it. And, like falling in love with a woman, it is only possible if you do not know much about her, so you cannot see her faults. The faults will become apparent later ..."

    - http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1965/feynman-lectur...

    (Tommaso, please just delete my comments if unhelpful, I'm not trying to have an ego or compare to Feynman...)

    dorigo
    I do not see why I should delete your comment, Nige. It is concise (for your standards ;-) and to the point...
    Cheers,
    T.
    Blacklisting is a good service to crackpots as they will feel shunned by established science (and can rant about it). So, this can make everybody happy.

    Haelfix: "And if it really is an important result, someone somewhere will pick up on it and bring it to the communities attention."

    ...under their own name...

    Hfarmer
    The way I see it there are a few things that can happen.

    1. The Arxiv filters based on reputation of a person or research angle (or the lack thereof) and the result is that they have great credibility, and their papers get published in true journals 99% of the time.
    2. The Arxiv filters based on reputations of people, groups, or types of theory, and misses something new, original, ground breaking, seminal and/or paradigm shifting.  Which by almost definition is more likely to come from an outsider. 
    Number one will keep ArxiV safe in the near term.  Eventually though they will filter out an call a crackpot what will turn out to be a very important paper and will suffer a loss of some credibility because of that.  Instead of looking at Arxiv as a place to read the latest, it will become a place to read the established and therefore somewhat dated. 

    I did not see the following referened forgive me if you have mentioned this.  There are already some websites on this topic.  http://www.archivefreedom.org.  One of the pieces there by Brian Josephson begins with.

    Covert censorship by the physics preprint archive

    A personal perspective from Brian Josephson


    It is just an ordinary day at the headquarters of the physics preprint archive.  The operators are going through their daily routine and are discussing what to do about recent emails:

    Some "reader complaints" have come in regarding preprints posted to the archive by Drs. Einstein and Yang.  Dr. Einstein, who is not even an academic, claims to have shown in his preprint that mass and energy are equivalent, while Professor Yang is suggesting, on the basis of an argument I find completely unconvincing, that parity is not conserved in weak interactions.  What action shall I take?

    Abject nonsense!  Just call up their records and set their 'barred' flags to TRUE.

    And here's a letter from one 'Hans Bethe' supporting an author whose paper we deleted from the archive as being 'inappropriate'.

    Please don't bother me with all these day to day matters!  Prof. Bethe is not in the relevant 'field of expertise', so by rule 23(ii) we simply ignore anything he says.  Just delete his email and send him rejection letter #5.


    Introduction

    The first portion of the above exchange is fictional of course, but might well have happened had Einstein and Yang had dealings with with the physics preprint archive arXiv.org, administered by Cornell University, today.  The second part is not fictional.

    Quoted verbatim from here.
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Is this from the Brian Josephson who earned the Nobel prize in the 70's for superconductivity, or from his evil twin who now studies telepathy and complains that papers on the topic are unfairly rejected? ;-)

    Hfarmer
    Yes.
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    I'm not sure who is muddled here. My own joint paper on telepathy was in fact accepted by Foundations of Physics. Someone with my name gave a special lecture at Freiburg University's Institute for Advanced Studies which I gather was well received last year, and it seems the same person will be giving the special Sir Nevill Mott Lecture at Loughborough University's Physics Department in the near future. I recommend to Ptrslv72 that he/she takes up meditation to help clear his/her thinking. Re arxiv.org, it seems to be run by crazy people (or are they robots, like Dennett's zombies?), incapable of distinguishing between innovative and wrong, that's all I can say.

    Brian Josephson

    "The Arxiv filters based on reputations of people, groups, or types of theory, and misses something new, original, ground breaking, seminal and/or paradigm shifting. Which by almost definition is more likely to come from an outsider. " - Hontas

    In 1905 the mainstream was dominated Maxwellian ether cranks plus Kelvin's stable vortex-atom theory quacks who were already being discredited by experiments on radioactivity and quantum phenomena. According to Planck, who published Einstein's first papers, the quantum revolution occurred as old theorists died off, and younger physicists became bored with the over-hyped, unsuccessful mainstream fashionable dogmas...

    Tommaso, aren't you being a bit inconsistent? Nielsen's paper prompted a vicious attack from you [quite rightly!] but people working on non-existent applications of category theory to physics are ok, no matter how bizarre their claims may be. The point is that Nielsen made you angry because you were familiar with the machinery at CERN. You can be blase' about [yet another] claim to have produced a magical mathematical technique that will explain the universe because this is not your field. Can you understand that those of us in theoretical physics are just as capable of detecting theoretical bullshit as you are of detecting experimental bullshit? How would you feel if one of us put up a blog encouraging all you narrow-minded experimentalists to be more accepting of Nielsen and others like him? Believe me, we have seen this kind of junk so many times before --- quaternions, Hestenes' geometric algebra, etc etc etc. To us these people are in exactly the same category as Nielsen is for you.

    As for your claim that crackpots do not exist --- may I take that as an invitation to forward to you all the weird emails I get, for your careful consideration?

    Hfarmer
    Detecting theoretical bullshit? The archive is supposedly not peer reviewed so just who does the BS detecting?  The danger is that there is just one person, who's personal preferences and knowledge are deciding what will be considered BS.  Thus suppose this service existed when Satyendra Bose lived?  The archive rejecting his papaers on statistics for their obvious error until Dr. Einstein endorsed him would look like naked racism (which it was in the real life instance).  Filtering based on reputation and the idea that what someone writes is total BS without reading it, is a really bad way to conduct the business of science.   
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    dorigo
    Hontas, I totally agree with you on this.
    Cheers,
    T.
    dorigo
    Hah AN, your comment makes me chuckle. Sure, I do get those emails aplenty, because of my blog and my visibility. Some of them are real cranks, but I try not to judge what I do not understand.

    I object to your objection. You say I was touched by the Nielsen paper because it dealt with running (or not) the LHC, while I stay put with category theory papers because I obviously do not know the field. But neither do I know backward causality formalisms! The Nielsen paper smelt bad from at least three different angles. One, for pretending to mess with experimentalists schedules. Two, for the very idea it supports. Three, for the HORRIBLE English. Don't take me wrong: I am kind of snobbish about this. I think their English would be enough to censor their paper from the Arxiv, but if you read between the lines, in the post about the Nielsen paper I do not advocate to censor them, despite being brought to throw up. Rather, I have fun of the guys.

    My whole point about the arxiv blacklist is simple: I do not thnk we need censors in the arxiv. First, because nobody elected them to do this for us. The arxiv is a private endeavour from Cornell, but it has reached such meaning and importance that it does not belong to them any longer, it rather belongs to us, the users. Second, because I think that a slightly higher rate of bad papers in the arxiv would not make people waste hours while browsing through them, as some in this thread argue. I do not advocate a totally free system, but certainly, banning authors rather than objectively outlandish ideas is a bad practice.

    Cheers,
    T.
    Hi Tommaso,
    you write that you "do not advocate a totally free system", so you probably agree that some sort of screening is necessary. Now, screening the papers by subject would require an army of experts to check the submissions on real time - it was rightly pointed out that you need to be competent in a given field to spot "objectively outlandish" ideas. It is then inevitable that a loose cut be performed on the authors. Formerly the cut was the academic affiliation, which admittedly was leaving "independent researchers" out. Now it has been relaxed to the endorsement system, which seems quite reasonable to me. After all, if these guys are doing serious research it shouldn't be so difficult to find just one person with an academic affiliation who thinks that their work is worth submitting to the arXiv. I am thinking in particular of Sheppeard: what is exactly her problem with the arXiv? I would expect that if somebody valued her work enough to give her a job in Oxford, they would not have a problem endorsing her. On a second thought, why don't you just try to endorse her by yourself and see what happens?
    Cheers, Ptrslv72

    Hfarmer
    There are a couple of real problems with the endorsement system as it is currently practiced.  Just with who can endorse according to them...

    Endorsers must have authored a certain number of papers within the endorsement domain of an archive or subject class. The number of papers depends on the particular subject area, but has been set so that any active scientist who's been working in her field for a few years should be able to endorse IF her work has been submitted to arXiv and IF she is registered as an author of her papers.(1)
    • The endorser can't be just anyone with a academic affiliation at any university. They have to have been the registered author of a paper.
    • They have to have submitted papers to ARXIV in some sufficient, unknown, secret and arbitrary quantity to become endorsers.  (I strongly suspect that it's not a number fixed per subject area.  It feels so likely that certain names get to endorse without much hassle, while others wouldn't get to endorse no matter what).
    • There are reported cases of endorsers being stripped of their endorsing privileges, and of the archive refusing to publish properly endorsed papers.  (2)
    • By it's very nature the endorsement system, even if there were no signs of misuse, would rely on social networks and being part of the archive administrators in group or in with someone who is a member.  Which in this case would be physicist with the right name, right affiliation, or a popular and mainstream research program.
    There has to be a better way than the endorsement system as practiced. I would propose the following.

    The system needs to be totally transparent all around.  So, each and every paper should need to have two endorsements which can come from any scientist who has published in a relevant journal, or arxiv.  If a paper is under peer review for publication, that should count as an endorsement, some action from a journal should be able to confirm this. Each and every paper should need these two endorsements, and who endorsed a paper should be publically available knowledge.  When you email with the archive it should not be to an anonymous unaccountable address. 

    The idea of making the archive more blog like with comments and perhaps a rating system for each paper should be looked at.  Perhaps once an author is endorsed, each paper will be posted to their arxiv blog.  Where you can praise or riddicule or question it openly and with full accountability. 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    ERRATUM: Vimble40 points out below that the endorsing system amounted to a tightening - not a loosening - of the admission policy of arXiv. After reading the arXiv help page I see that he's right on that. However, this does not change my opinion that it is a rather reasonable system and it does not necessarily shut out unaffiliated researchers (as Vimble40's own experience seems to confirm). Cheers Ptrslv72

    I can't help but think you are a little biased Tommaso, b/c you are an experimentalist. Hep-ex is almost completely free of crackpots. The immense majority of papers are valuable or at least nontrivially wrong.

    Not so for many of the other hep categories. Gr-qc is almost painful to read b/c its so speculative, Gen-Phys is a cesspool of errors, and even hep-th has its share.

    The worst papers aren't even the crackpot ones, b/c you can usually identify them by the abstract or even the prose and hence not waste any time. Its the ones which are almost correct, but then possess an obvious error even a grad student wouldn't make, buried 10 pages in (with weird notation) which invalidates the whole paper. Or alternatively, completely fails to mention an obvious shortcoming which usually empirically rules it out. Those we usually end up spending time on. In fact, its more or less b/c of this wasted time that we are so hostile in the first place. After 7 years of reading arxiv, day in and day out, it really gets frustrating.

    dorigo
    Ok Haelfix, I understand that. But this amounts to saying that theory papers need peer review before they can get to your table, doesn't it ? Maybe for hep-th the arxiv is less useful than for hep-ex after all. You cannot have the best of both worlds -the fast system of non-peer-reviewed stuff coupled with perfect weeding off. I claim that weeding on the name or on the IP is stupid and morally reproachable, that is all.
    Cheers,
    T.
    Two years ago, i finished writing a physics paper, and hoped to self publish it. Because I don't have any institutional links, i didn't get anywhere near getting a Arxiv submission. To get on Arxiv you need someone who has already published there to endorse you, I begged in Physics Forums, I searched the net, I even emailed a couple of Author writing about similar subjects, but couldn't get any response. In fact I found it easier to submit to paper journals, Elseviers online submission process took my paper quicky. Sadly I was rejected by the peer review process 15 months latter, but at least it got there. Feels like, ArXiv publishing is a club that won't have me as a member. And it looks my first SM extension idea (having neutrinos interact via a U(1) force, that reverses with spin), will also be my last.

    I think ArXiv would be much more useful to the scientific community, if it followed a Slash-dot like policy. Let anyone publish, but also let people comment, and moderate and meta-moderate, the value of the papers.

    Hank
    Slashdot is an advertising model so I assume that would work.    Honestly, folks, if someone can get me a mockup of what it would look like, I could have one of these up in a week.   The issue becomes how is it created in a positive spirit?  Very few successful entities get created because of a negative one ("arXiv won't publish some papers") and arXiv was created as a positive idea.

    For every negative comment on it, there are going to be 100 people who like it.   A better system would be tough to create but I have also seen this topic on Scienceblogs and PhysicsWorld so I am sure it is getting noticed.

    BDO, I can understand your frustration.   We have moderators also and I am reasonably sure you wouldn't be published long here if your stuff is that far outside the mainstream.    It's not a knock on your work but the moderators are PhDs so they have the final call.   Heck, I cant even write on physics here and I pay the bill for the servers.  :)
    dorigo
    Hi Hank,

    you are right about the positive attitude. In fact, I think we all love the arxiv; some of us think we would like it to be better than what it is, and the recipe is simple: have them stop banning IP addresses and specific authors, and relax the endorsement requirements.

    Cheers,
    T.
    Ptrslv72: you've missed the point already spelled out above, that finding an endorser or even trying to upload isn't the problem. The problem is the policy of arXiv stated at http://arxiv.org/help/endorsement

    "'We don't expect you to read the paper in detail, or verify that the work is correct ...You should not endorse the author ... if the work is entirely disconnected with current work in the area. ... If you endorse a person who makes an inappropriate submission, we may suspend your ability to make endorsements. If you feel uncomfortable about endorsing an author for any reason, don't do it - ask the person to find another endorser."

    It's actual enforcement of a prejudiced policy to encourage people to work on only fashionable ideas. There are some unfashionable ideas in key areas of arXiv, but they are from those who have friends in the right places or those who have elite status for something mainstream. The arXiv rules are not only prejudiced, but they are applied unfairly to only certain people, which makes it corrupt (not just needing more revised rules which will be misapplied).

    On the contrary, the policy that you quote seems quite reasonable to me, and "entirely disconnected with current work in the area" is not the same as "unfashionable". As Tommaso admits too, the arXiv is *not* a public service and its administrators have all the rights to require a modicum of validation for posting there. The endorsement system puts the burden of the validation on the scientific community itself: if you can persuade at least one established scientist that your work deserves to appear on the arXiv, it will.

    In fact, we could be excused for suspecting that at least some of the people who claim to be blacklisted by the arXiv are not telling the whole story, and they earned their spot in the black list (assuming there is one) by trying to game the system and eventually pissing off the administrators. In the blogs of some of the people mentioned by Tommaso you can read about murky stories of misused affiliations, use of "pseudonyms" or threatened lawsuits. It would be interesting to hear the administrators' version of these stories...

    Let it however be clear that I have no reason to believe that Sheppeard belongs to the latter category, which is why I was asking for more details on her problems with the arXiv, and wondering why she can get a job in Oxford (hats off) but she cannot find an endorser.

    Cheers, Ptrslv72

    The blacklisted people mostly happen to be people who are active on the blogosphere and who are not the best of friends of Lubos Motl. Is it a coincidence that Peter Woit's trackbacks are not posted either?

    Is it also just a coincidence that reading the math section of arxiv you regularly encounter crackpot papers about proofs of the Riemann Hypothesis, elementary proofs of Fermat's last theorem etc. etc., and that the authors of these papers who, as can be verified by clicking on their names, publish nothing more than similar crackpot papers, are allowed to continue posting on the arXiv?

    The social purpose behind endorsement and moderation at arXiv is to make the papers that are put there more likely to be interesting to the avearge physicist. The average physicist is almost incredibly mainstream so it is quite natural that new ideas are hard to put up on arXiv. That's the way it is supposed to be. Nor do off broadway ideas, and their purveyors, have any right to force others to be aware of them. I think the system as it is, is okay.

    Re getting endorsements, over the years I've tried to get endorsements three times and each time succeeded. The first time I had some problem uploading the paper and didn't bother fixing it. The second time I uploaded a paper to hep-ph and it was moderated out of existence. After the paper received citations in the peer reviewed literature I asked for the moderator to reconsider and they put the paper up for me on gen-ph. I asked them to take it down because I had a newer version and then never submitted the new version. And this last time, I submitted a paper to gr-qc and it was moderated to gen-ph. So my experience has been, overall, that it is possible for amateurs to put papers on arXiv. They just tend to be put in gen-ph, but this is probably where they belong. I have no PhD in physics, haven't been in college in many decades, and have pictures of me working in construction on my website. I'm about as amateur as one can get.

    Hontas Farmer: "Formerly the cut was the academic affiliation, which admittedly was leaving "independent researchers" out. Now it has been relaxed to the endorsement system, which seems quite reasonable to me."

    It is very easy to get an email with an academic affiliation (*.edu). Just take an extension class at the local community college. The new endorsement policy was a tightening of policy, not a loosening. The problem with the old academic affiliation restriction is that it let in huge numbers of silly papers from those who are academically affiliated.

    Haelfix: "Gen-Phys is a cesspool of errors, and even hep-th has its share."

    On average, about one paper is put on gen-ph per day, so it's not a terribly significant cesspool.

    Count Iblis: "The blacklisted people mostly happen to be people who are active on the blogosphere and who are not the best of friends of Lubos Motl."

    This is hilarious. He has no "best of friends".

    Count Iblis: "Is it also just a coincidence that reading the math section of arxiv you regularly encounter crackpot papers ..."

    Moderation is done by Cornell grad students who don't know know considerably less about mathematics than they do about physics. One of the social facts about physics is that the less a researcher knows about a deep and problematic subject the more likely they are to be certain that the mainstream view is the only one that is logically possible. See the book on gravity waves, "Gravity's Shadow", for more on the sociology of physics.

    fefino
    I agree with Tommaso in that the relative number of crackpot eprints that would be arXived would not amount to much. I also think that blocking and strongly filtering a non-refereed database can work in favor of some crackpots, considering that most of them only look for publicity and enjoy feeling rejected by the establishment.
    On the other hand, the chances of having an impressive breaktrough by an outsider (a la Eisntein, Bohm, Feynman, etc..) are quite slim and the arXiv in its present mode is really at no appreciable danger of loosing the opportunity of having in their site the next science-shaking eprint.
    So, yes, we all love the arXiv and yes, it can be better. Sure, why not?
    dorigo
    Alfredo, there is a point that people tend to forget in this discussion: that the arxiv, being such an important tool, should be fair. We should protect our minorities. It is not just what we might lose in terms of ideas already developed: it is also a matter of not losing people who have off-stream ideas and might get discouraged from working on physics, when they have the potential. Also, it is about not appearing a closed circle, a matter of insisting that science is free and for everybody, it is in this respect also a matter of transparency.

    Cheers,
    T.
    Some of those are just scary, but there are worse papers there. This is the reason most people just avoid physics.gen.

    "On the contrary, the policy that you quote seems quite reasonable to me, and "entirely disconnected with current work in the area" is not the same as "unfashionable". ... if you can persuade at least one established scientist that your work deserves to appear on the arXiv, it will." - Ptrslv72

    Ptrslv72, again you don't grasp the very basic problem: endorsers are banned from allowing work unconnected with current work from being endorsed: "If you endorse a person who makes an inappropriate submission, we may suspend your ability to make endorsements." By the way, "current work" is synonymous with "fashionable", just as alternatives to current work are unfashionable, and this is due to things like the pro-string theory prejudices.

    You haven't read what was quoted, or I'm sure that even you could have grasped this, despite your prejudice. Merely asserting that you think it personally "reasonable" misses the point being made that the policy causes a problem. If if you think a policy that causes a problem is reasonable, fine. But you haven't disproved the existence of the problem.

    (Your anonymous opinion that prejudice is reasonable simply doesn't address the point made. Many people in the world sadly support prejudices, particularly from behind the cloak of anonymity. But even even those who are proud to put their name to prejudiced opinions, won't change the fact that prejudice is causing a problem for science by preventing any further scientific revolutions, unless such ideas come from the mainstream against the stated arXiv rules and are thus examples of double-standards when permitted in arXiv. )

    However, you people are doing a service to highlighting, repeatedly, why the arXiv administrators and founders has no shame - but actually have pride - in stamping out radical ideas "unconnected to current work" (unfashionable).

    Dear Nige,

    my nick contains in a very thinly disguised way my surname, name and age. It is surely less anonymous than "Nige". Although I am a very minor player in my field of research, I suppose that the few among Tommaso's readers who know me personally have already figured out who I am. For the others, it just makes no difference whether I use my full name or not.

    This said, prejudice and a quality cut are rather different things. As the post of Daniel Rocha shows, there are quite a few unconventional papers that make their way to the arXiv every day. Obviously the authors of those papers managed to convince some serious physicist that their papers were worth circulating. If others can't manage to do the same, perhaps it is not because they are victims of a global conspiracy, but because their work is just not good enough. And if there is really such thing as a blacklist in arXiv, I reiterate my suspicion that it contains mostly people who pissed off the administrators by trying to bend the rules.

    Cheers, Ptrslv72

    I'm not sure I understand the workings of the arXiv correctly.
    First, there is the "official" endorser system, which nobody seems to be able to clearly explain, and whose official guidelines look quite threatening like, if you endorse the wrong paper will ban you, and similar stuff.

    Second, there allegedly are the blacklists, which according to some do exist, but not according to others. Then, some say those blacklists are automatic, others say they are manual.

    Third, several posters above have mentioned a shadow system of moderators, who nobody mentions by name, not even their number or attributions, but someone above claims them to be Cornell grad students.

    And all of this labyrinthine, Kafkian underworld is housed and sponsored by a major US university and funded by the NSF. Like I said, it looks difficult to believe let alone understand.

    Hank
    It took two years and a congressional investigation to get the NSF to stop its employees from watching porn during work, you think they are going to figure out how its money is being used at Cornell any time soon? 

    As has happened many times, bloggers find things peer review misses and bloggers can solve the arXiv issue as well.
    After thinking it over, I think TD is right. What harm can it do to have a little more crap on the arxiv? As long as we recognise that it is indeed crap.

    Haelfix says: "Not so for many of the other hep categories. Gr-qc is almost painful to read b/c its so speculative, Gen-Phys is a cesspool of errors, and even hep-th has its share. "

    What's wrong with being speculative? Those papers are often the only interesting ones. Indeed, what really makes reading the arxiv painful is the sheer boredom of it. You know, the papers that lead nowhere. Often, in fact, usually, they contain no errors; or rather nobody should care whether they do, because the result is so boring that it really doesn't matter. In fact, I really believe that wrong papers are more likely to be useful than boring correct papers. After all, 99.9% of arxiv papers contain nothing important: the most we can hope for is that something in them will stimulate the Wittens and Maldacenas to do something genuinely important. And a wrong paper is just as likely to do that as a correct one.

    This doesn't contradict my earlier stand against crank papers, because those are usually just as tedious as the mainstream ones, maybe [as in the case at hand] even more so.

    Ptrslv72: the difference is, I quoted facts. Nige is hyperlinked, not anonymous. Again you state your opinions while ignoring again the point. You state:

    "there are quite a few unconventional papers that make their way to the arXiv every day. Obviously the authors of those papers managed to convince some serious physicist that their papers were worth circulating. If others can't manage to do the same, perhaps it is not because they are victims of a global conspiracy, but because their work is just not good enough. And if there is really such thing as a blacklist in arXiv, I reiterate my suspicion that it contains mostly people who pissed off the administrators by trying to bend the rules."

    I've already explained to you:

    The problem is the policy of arXiv stated at http://arxiv.org/help/endorsement

    "'We don't expect you to read the paper in detail, or verify that the work is correct ...You should not endorse the author ... if the work is entirely disconnected with current work in the area. ... If you endorse a person who makes an inappropriate submission, we may suspend your ability to make endorsements. If you feel uncomfortable about endorsing an author for any reason, don't do it - ask the person to find another endorser."

    It's actual enforcement of a prejudiced policy to encourage people to work on only fashionable ideas. There are some unfashionable ideas in key areas of arXiv, but they are from those who have friends in the right places or those who have elite status for something mainstream. The arXiv rules are not only prejudiced, but they are applied unfairly to only certain people, which makes it corrupt (not just needing more revised rules which will be misapplied).

    Of course, your tactics of repetitively asserting your opinion and repetitively just ignoring the facts exactly mimic the actions of the mainstream, who ranted on about the problem of Feynman or Einstein giving a predictive approach that can be checked, while expecting the taxpayer and the student to worship their charlatan rubbish such as ether, epicycles, etc. There are a lot of mainstream scientists who do scientific work and don't hype speculations that can't be checked, but they don't cause the problem for science. The major problem is not the loud mouthed dictator who rebuilds his country and improves the world, but the quiet dictator who goes around ignorantly and maliciously kicking dissenters in the teeth for having the guts to oppose his corruption and self-delusion...

    Lubos, according to the crackpot index that you pointed out (http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/crackpot.html), string theory satisfies the most strong criterion: "50 points for claiming you have a revolutionary theory but giving no concrete testable predictions".

    Dear hyperNige,

    you keep citing Einstein and Feynman, but it surely does not escape you that those two *are* mainstream now, and so they were even in their own times, winning their share of honorable mentions ;-) and prestigious academic jobs - no matter how controversial their theories sounded when they first formulated them. Indeed, they had a couple of advantages over nearly all of the cranks who now complain about being shut out of the mainstream: first, they were extremely smart guys, with a scientific background that allowed them to communicate successfully their ideas to other scientists; second, and most important, their theories were correct - a fact that the scientific community could not ignore for long as the evidence accumulated. Nowadays, people with unconventional theories have a lot more - not less - outlets to circulate them than 50 or 100 years ago, respectively, and science suffers from a chronic hunger for new stuff. You can be assured that, if you come up with a new groundbreaking idea and present it in a sufficiently clear way, on the long term you will find somebody who picks it up, with or without the arXiv. No matter what you like to think about it, the creeping dictator of the mainstream is not busy stamping out your dissent. You are simply below his radar. Do some good physics and he will pay attention to you.

    Cheers, Ptrslv72

    Hfarmer
    You forget a couple of things.

    Einstein and Feynman were considered crackpots for a good while before they published.  Einstein could not get a job, had no academic affiliation, and had ideas which from the perspective of the day were totally bizzare.  i.e. thinking that the lumineferous ether (the dark matter of the day) did not exist!  As for Feynman if he hadn't won the Nobel prize would we consider him a great physicist or a kook who visited topless bars and played the bongo's?

    We live in a much more credintialist and prejudiced time than they did.  You heard right MORE prejudiced in the sciences than back then.  Back then a theoretical physicist needed to be educated for sure, but they did not need to have a PhD. just to get people to listen/read their ideas.  These days a self taught individual, or even some one with a masters probably won't not get the time of day, they certainly would not get on ArXiV.  Their papers would not even get read.  For example Journals assume that anyone sending them papers is a PhD.* and correspondence is in my experience always addressed to Dr. Farmer.  I used to correct them but then I thought...why?   

    Third you make it sound like correct Ideas will win out on their merits no matter the adversity.  If those ideas are never heard by the right people, then have they really been heard at all.  Their correctness can only be recognized once they have been published not before. Publication in a journal or ArXiV etc is not supposed to mean the work is correct, only that it is free of obvious errors, and is novel. That's it, that's all.

    * I suppose that is only true of papers that are at least properly formatted, in latex, with good credible knowledge of physics.
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Hi,

    in real life the Nobel prize is not all. If you look at the string of Feynman's contributions to physics you can be sure that we would consider him a great physicist even without the Nobel. The list of his academic appointments before he got the prize is a testament to that.

    On your second point: regardless of how unconventional your research is, I suppose that a mainstream scientific education (whether academic or self-taught) *is* indeed necessary to get people's attention. But this is not necessarily because scientists are snobbish, but rather because, to communicate with people, you need to speak their language. By analogy, if you go to an international conference and start giving a talk, say, in Turkish, nobody will bother trying to understand you. In the same way, if you think that you have new ideas on quantum gravity but you cannot express them in a coherent mathematical formalism nobody will make the effort to decipher your jargon. This said, having or not having a PhD cannot really matter so much, otherwise no graduate student would get his/her papers published...

    Finally, I guess that in science correct ideas *do* prevail no matter the adversity. This is because there is only one nature and it works in only one way. The road to recognition can still be long and bumpy, but - again - if you really were the first to have a good idea you have many more ways to prove your ownership nowadays than it was the case 50 or 100 years ago.

    Cheers, Ptrslv72

    Hfarmer
    You seem to think I am talking about myself in some indirect way.  I am speaking in general.  There are more than a few physicist with and without PhD's who note snobbery in this field by those who have PhD's or prestigious affiliations. 
     I would abolish the PhD system. The PhD system is the real root of the evil of academic snobbery. People who have PhDs consider themselves a priesthood, and inventors generally don't have PhDs. --Freeman Dyson
    As for quantum gravity, and mathematical formalism. 

    In the same way, if you think that you have new ideas on quantum gravity but you cannot express them in a coherent mathematical formalism nobody will make the effort to decipher your jargon.

    It is possible that a new formalism would have to be invented to finally truly solve the problem of quantum gravity which could look "incoherent" to those who are either too snobbish to spend their time, or too dull to understand it.  Too snobbish if the theory comes from the wrong person, or the wrong affiliation.  Which is at the heart of this blog posting, affiliation, and reputation along with personal feuds, and prejudices seem to be used as criteria to decide which theories should be officially on record at ArXiv.

    I also mention prejudices being used to decide who get's published.  It reaches to who get's a job as well.  Watch this talk by Ben Barres on the topic (the lack) of women in science.  The information is quite starteling.  He talks about academic bias and snobbery against females.   Which I can personally confirm. There are male academics who talk to me, and other females as if we were fools. 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    dorigo
    "their theories were correct - a fact that the scientific community could not ignore for long as the evidence accumulated"

    Ptr, I can recall that still in 1917 -12 years after 1905- the Austrian Academy gave Einstein a recognition by acknowledging him some successes, but saying that his theory of quanta was a faux pas.

    I do not know what you mean when you say "could not ignore for long". For sure now things develop more quickly, but I would not subscribe to your way of putting it.

    In any case, I insist that the problem is of another kind. We have a monopolistic institution, they cannot be the ones who decide what gets broadcast and what does not. It is a matter of freedom of information, in a sense, besides being a matter of freedom of science.

    Cheers,
    T.
    Hfarmer
    In any case, I insist that the problem is of another kind. We have a monopolistic institution, they cannot be the ones who decide what gets broadcast and what does not.

    Exactly, the archive has almost become more important than journal publication in certain fields.  I totally agree. 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Hank
    'Nature abhors a monopoly', if I can paraphrase.  If someone - anyone - can come up with a methodology where such a site can be open but then not overrun by crap, I'll build it next week.   I just think it is harder than everyone realizes.   I am betting the huge majority of arXiv people are happy with it so they must be doing something right.
    Hfarmer
    I would say having a completely credible, completely independant, alternative to ArXiV which was every bit as free, open, and respected would go a long way. 

    Having an alternative archive which, had as a criteria for publication that an article be on ArXiV wouldn't be much help.  Having an alternative archive which had some mechanism for judging each paper worthy of inclusion would be enough.  Set the bar at simply "is this paper good enough to be sent for peer review?"  Are there any obvious mistakes that any fool can see, then let the experts comment and authors respond.  Kinda like a moderated blog.
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Hi T,

    "In any case, I insist that the problem is of another kind. We have a monopolistic institution, they cannot be the ones who decide what gets broadcast and what does not. It is a matter of freedom of information, in a sense, besides being a matter of freedom of science."

    First of all, why do you say that "they" cannot decide? "They" are the ones who set up and manage the arXiv, so they might have a say on what gets on it. Publishing in journals or speaking at conferences are not universal human rights, you must be accepted by the editor or invited by the organizers. Similarly, I don't see it as outrageous that a *much looser* quality cut is applied also to what gets on the arXiv. Moreover, the endorsement system appears to be designed precisely to shift the task of setting the cut from the administrators to the scientific community at large. Finally, let me state again that it would be interesting to hear the administrators' version on the reasons why some of the people that you mentioned were banned from posting on the arXiv (assuming that they really were). Cheers, Ptrslv72

    Hank
    True, there is a modern sense of entitlement in the internet community that everything has to be both free and unlimited; neither is true.  I read one sanctimonious blogger a day or two ago who had a whole list of why they didn't like some sites; one was for carrying an ad.    They were writing for free on a service (perhaps, in the magic world of science economics, everything is just free and it exists for them to exploit it) and had a real job they did not do for free so it is always odd to read that kind of arrogance; they deserve to be paid but no one else does.

    The other thing I see a lot is the belief that being on the internet means there should be unlimited freedom of speech.  Not so.   We have had any number of people here claim censorship because they had articles unpublished but we are not bound by the Constitution - if people do no science or lousy science, they get unpublished.   There are people making those decisions and they have varying levels of tolerance.   It's an at-will community on both sides.   

    I just don't see that arXiv is doing that badly.   Would Marni or Carl's articles have survived here?   Maybe with Tommaso but with Georg, it's tough to say; he is much more strict about the reputation of the physics section.
    dorigo
    Hank, the problem is that once a player in the internet becomes a monopoly, for me it stops having the right to decide, because its decision becomes too important for the community. It becomes an issue of freedom of speech. Thinking in terms of the economics of it does not help, in this case.
    Cheers,
    T.
    Hank
    GM is out of business because they could not make a nice car that gets decent gas mileage for under $35,000.   They instead talked about how their new car gets good mileage and has better performance than a Porsche - but it isn't a Porsche and cannot be.    So they were meeting a demand that did not exist for a bad price.

    If arXiv is truly not meeting the demands of the physics community, someone will replace it; and you can bet it will be me.  I just think that the problems are slight compared to the value it provides, so there is no spot for a replacement.   If they were GM, they would basically have a high mileage car for $12,000 and be selling a lot of it.
    Daniel de França MTd2
    "the demands of the physics community"Hank, arxiv.org is more than physics. There is biology, computer science, statistics, and more stuff there too. 


    Unfortunantely, the overall usage of arxiv outside physics is extremely low. Even worse, in the physics community, the relative proportion of preprints is overall very low, being significant just on high energy physics and astronomy. I saw somewhere statistics that shows that less than 10% of preprints in physics, in most areas, goes to arxiv.
    On a different topic: Tommaso, I asked a couple of times if you could please give more details on Marni Sheppeard's problems with the arXiv. Does she have troubles finding an endorsement? Are her papers posted in a different class than the one she asks for? What else? It seems a pertinent question to me, since the whole point of this post is to find somebody who will put his/her reputation at stake to help Sheppeard overcome such problems....

    Cheers, Ptrslv72

    dorigo
    Ptr, I do not feel I would do a good job telling her story, so why don't you ask her ? You know where she is. kea-monad.blogspot.com .
    Cheers,
    T.
    Done. Cheers, Ptrslv72

    UPDATE: she replied that she does not feel compelled to explain her problems in public and that anyway she's not going to post her stuff on the arXiv. Personally I think that a claim as serious as
    blacklisting should be backed up with details - especially when you are looking for volunteers for such a blind bet - but after all it's you (Tommaso) who made the claim and asked for volunteers, not her. And since I was not going to volunteer anyway, I presume that I am not entitled to dig further in the matter...

    Cheers, Ptrslv72

    I think it's important to appreciate that arXiv's administrators have probably been trying to formulate policy even as the system itself and as well internet access to it have changed. My guess is that the issues they have to deal with have been becoming more difficult. There certainly have been cases where moderation was appropriate.

    But arXiv's very success has changed the equation. It is, as others have pointed out, the primary means by which many physicists communicate their results. As such, the consequences of unfairly blacklisting someone (or unfairly relegating their papers to some category people in their field do not read) would be very severe professionally. Whether the arXiv administrators sought this power or not, they have it now, and with that power come obligations of responsibility.

    I hope that the administrators will work to provide a public statement of what protocols they follow, and what sorts of appeals process exists, and hopefully the protocols will be transparent and usual standards of accountability will apply. I am sure that this will not be an entirely easy project; it raises as many questions as a review process. But it would be good to take up those questions systematically.

    Hfarmer
    Philica seems to be what many people here are describing as an alternative to the arxiv.  In terms of the openness of their access It's not such that an "outsider" can publish there.  In their FAQ they say that academic employment is the filter they use.  (not including graduate students, gradstudents are barred from joining).  They say that if some organizeation employs you, and you bother to write a paper it should see the light of day.   I like the words

    If you disagree with its content you can deal with this by giving it negative reviews which everybody can read, and which can therefore allow people to interpret the paper with caution (or to choose to hide it from their view). But just because you disagree with a paper, does this really mean it should never see the light of day at all? This is academia, not Fascism!

    That said.  I think that the big problem with this website is a low impact factor.  It lacks the impact factor it takes to draw more mainstream writers which would make it more acceptable.  That is I think one of the main problems with setting up a alternative to arxiv.
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Philica is a fast online publication system that includes peer review, but its policy on submissions is very strict. It could be a useful alternative to journals for some people but it is not an alternative to arXiv.

    The new alternative to arXiv is viXra. There are plenty of other specialised e-print archives around, but this is the only one with a truly open submission policy.

    It does not matter if it has a low impact factor. Impact factors are becoming the curse of the scientific publication world causing journals to become repositories for only the safest papers which have the best possibility of clocking up citations quickly. Fundamental physics is at a point where it needs a conceptual breakthrough and we need a publication system that encourages people to look for one. Inevitably there will be a lot of rubbish ideas put forward along the way but people just have to develop their own sifting methods to find what is of interest to them. Do people really want a small group of graduate students filtering the literature for them?

    It is not just the more speculative papers from independent physicists that the arXiv is hindering. Any kind of filtering is bound to be a barrier to all kinds of people. Not all research institutions have easy access to a suitable endorsers and finding one requires a certain amount of effort even if you have good work to publish. Many people simply wont bother especially if they are from outside the US/European academic circle. The result is that their papers are only available through the journals who charge for access. A high profile open archive would solve the problem but the academics wont allow it just because they resent the fact that "crackpots" could use it too.

    Perhaps viXra will catch on and show that an open submission policy is not something to fear. At first they will probably laugh at some of what it contains, but when people find themselves citing e-prints in viXra they may finally get the point.

    Philica is a blatant example of what would become an uncontrolled publishing site. There, referees too appears to be crackpots and you can find a lot of rubbish published and well refereed.

    I think we should be happy on how arxiv is currently managed as we do not see anything like that there.

    The question of outsiders and how some new innovative views could enter into the community is a relevant problem. I could add to notable rejections also Fermi's paper on beta decay by Nature. I think that anyone working in research experienced something like that. Presently, no way out is seen and we use to say that peer-review system is not that good but having nothing better we have to live with it.

    In the area of particle physics, the idea that some your colleagues are crackpots is quite common unless a proof comes out to confute it. Asking for an outsider to enter here is practically impossible being already difficult for members of the community itself to be in.

    If I remember correctly, the reason why Marni had been blacklisted was because she had attempted to help Louise Riofrio get her notorious article uploaded to arXiv. My personal opinion on this is that this was an outrageous act by arXiv. However we may dismiss Riofrio's article as pseudoscience, it was presented at a conference. As long as there is no evidence that an author is submitting articles that are never published in peer reviewed jornals, presented at conferences, submitted to essay competions or other scientific venues, questionable scientific content should not matter. So, Riofrio should not have been blacklisted in the first place.

    Only when you have a author who has the habit of putting stuff on the arXiv that is not submitted to a journal or presented at a conference should the arXiv moderators take a closer look. If the articles are only interesting to the author him/herself, then a warning should be given to the author not to put such articles on the arXiv. If that warning is not heeded, then blacklisting could follow.

    On the long term, the arXiv's only use will be as a database for science historians. Consider someone living 10,000 years from now who wants to study ancient physics theories. Then investigating the arXiv database would be a very effective way to do such research. But then the results could be biased if one wanted to investigate the most fringe of theories that would just be acceptable at conferences.

    I don't know why (or indeed if) Marni Sheppeard is blacklisted by the arXiv. She declines to elaborate publicly on that - which is entirely in her own right. However, if - BIG IF - the reason was similar to the one mentioned above by count Iblis, it seems to me that the story would be quite different from the way Tommaso made it look in his post and subsequent comments. Freedom of expression, the snobbery of academia, mainstream physicist stamping out dissenting opinions, all of this blah blah would have a very marginal role. The whole story would boil down to somebody attempting to crack the submission system of the arXiv and eventually pissing off the administrators. On a second thought, how much different would Tommaso's "experiment" itself be?

    Cheers, Ptrslv72

    dorigo
    Ptr, the "experiment" just tests whether a name is blacklisted. The fact that a paper otherwise banned appears in -maybe temporarily- is a side-effect.

    I think you are dismissing too easily the fact that there are several cases of people who appear to have been inserted in an automatic rejection system, by IP or name or both. We are not discussing one single case here, but the policy of a site which is monopolistic.

    I of course like the service the arxiv does to my discipline, but I think that should be improved; and I think it is reproachable that a few individuals self-elect to decide what gets on everybody else's tables in the morning.

    Cheers,
    T.
    sorry Tommaso my comment was too cryptic. I meant that even your experiment could be seen as an attempt to crack the submission system of the arXiv and could expose your volunteer to sanctions.

    I think that by now you should admit that there are two quite different issues being discussed here. One issue is the general policy for accepting preprints on the arXiv. Even if the overwhelming majority of the users seems to be happy with the present state of things, this issue is surely worth discussing. Ideally, the system should be as open and transparent as possible, but at the same time maintain a modicum of selection to avoid being swamped by crap. In my opinion the endorsing system goes precisely in the direction of shifting the power of selection from a few individuals (the administrators at Cornell) to the larger physics community.

    The second issue is why (and, first of all, whether) a few individuals have been actually banned from posting on the arXiv. If the ban was the result of them trying to post under a false identity or affiliation, or stuff like that, I would not find it outrageous. It is after all the prerogative of the administrators of a system to shut out those who try to crack the rules for getting in. I don't think that ScientificBlogging works any different.

    Cheers, Prslv72

    Hank
     I don't think that ScientificBlogging works any different.
    Indeed, and it's why arXiv is getting a fair chance here.    Like in Wikpedia, there may be overzealous moderators who like that power so if Marni or someone got on their bad side, it could be vendetta-based, I just don't think the actual people involved in running it have that as a policy.

    There is truth to the notion that if you want something done, you write the CEO of a company.    He cares like no one else does, no matter how big it is - it's often the middle managers who engage in silly games or are too lazy to solve problems efficiently.  So if the people really running this see the attention this is getting (and they probably have) some positive changes will get made.
    dorigo
    Yes, there are of course two different issues.

    About the first, I am not satisfied with the endorsement system, although it might be considered a honest attempt. As Nige points out, however, the policy by Cornell with endorsers sounds a little too threatening (see the web page linked above). I personally think the way it is put in their web page makes the endorsement system a rather weak way to make the submission policy fair and equilibrate.

    About the existence of blacklisted names and IP addresses, I think it is outrageous if people get on those lists because their papers get rejected once too often. I admit I do not know the details of the past stories well, so I will abstain to draw conclusions here.

    There is a third thing to note -the back-tracking of links, which in some case have been arbitrarily blocked. This of course is non controversial, so I wonder what explanation can be given here. It seems a rather juvenile act to punish unfriendly sites, which works against freedom of information and scientific exchange.

    Cheers,
    T.
    Sorry I do not understand your third issue. What do you mean by back-tracking of links arbitrarily blocked?

    Ptrslv72 asked
    "... What do you mean by back-tracking of links arbitrarily blocked? ...".

    I attempted to post an answer, but it did not show up,
    perhaps because of the format I used for some web references,
    so I am trying again:

    That issue arose a few years ago with Peter Woit's blog being banned by arXiv from backtracks. See these blog entries:

    www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=353

    www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=357

    www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=391

    Tony Smith

    The issue of blocking trackbacks is very relevant, because I for one am extremely relieved that blocking happens. There are blogs out there whose *main* reason to exist is to attack the research of other people: Lubos Motl and Peter Woit are the most famous offenders, but they are not alone. How would *you* feel if you found that your paper had a permanent trackback to a rabid denunciation by one of those clowns? In that connection, S. Hossenfelder says that, because of Motl's activities, she no longer puts her papers on the arxiv until they have been accepted by a journal. And Peter Woit, who openly questions the professional integrity of his betters on a regular basis --- who wants a trackback to his stupid twaddle? True, no experienced researcher cares about the opinions of outsiders like those two, but think of the effect on a young student. Blocking of trackbacks is an *excellent* thing.

    As far as "openness" is concerned: we now learn that

    "UPDATE: she replied that she does not feel compelled to explain her problems in public and that anyway she's not going to post her stuff on the arXiv."

    So much for openness.

    A. N. Onymous asks:
    "... How would *you* feel if you found that your paper had a permanent trackback to a rabid denunciation by ... Lubos Motl and Peter Woit ... ? ...".

    Does that mean that all critical trackbacks should be banned ?

    What about, for example, Garrett Lisi's paper at arXiv 0711.0770
    which has (as of now) about 26 trackbacks,
    the latest of which is Synchronicity ... Musings... distler ... posted Fri Jun 19 01:07:15 2009 in which Jacques Distler says:
    "... Gordy Kane ... University of Michigan ...[had]... recently given a public lecture, and was somewhat taken aback when, during the question period afterwards, he was asked about the status of Garrett Lisi’s Theory of Everything ...
    The very same day, I received an email from a mathematician ... Skip_Garibaldi ... emory [university] ... working in Representation Theory. He was disgruntled that his student was being asked about Lisi’s work in the course of job interviews. ...
    Skip insisted that it would be helpful to someone like his student to be able to cite a paper in which this stuff had been debunked. ... So I decided to take Skip up on his suggestion and try to distil the arguments ... and strengthen them into a theorem ...[at]... arxiv.org/abs/0905.2658
    ... One gets a ... no-go theorem killing any possible variation of Lisi’s idea ...".

    Should Distler's trackback criticism of Lisi be allowed ?

    Bear in mind that Distler asserts that his paper with Garibaldi at arXiv 0905.2658 is "... killing any possible variation of Lisi's idea ..."
    which
    seems upon reading 0905.2658 to possibly be an overstatement,
    as 0905.2658 seems to be based upon
    1 - chiral fermion spin structure requiring complex representations
    and
    2 - complexity (or not) of E8 representations being related to SL(2,C) subgroup of E8
    and
    it is not entirely clear to me that those assumptions of the Distler-Garibaldi no-go theorem cannot be evaded by some "possible variation of Lisi's ideas".

    An example of evasion of similar no-go arguments is the work of Hawking and Pope (Phys. Lett. 73B (1978) 42-44) and of Chakraborty and Parthasarathy (Class. Quantum Grav. 7 (1990) 1217-1224)
    in which they show that although CP2 does not have spin structure,
    you can define on it a physically useful generalized spin structure that allows you to use it in building physics models.

    Tony Smith

    "Blocking of trackbacks is an *excellent* thing"

    No, allowing trackbacks was an idiotic and unprofessional thing to do.

    Since so many people just don't seem to get it - let us reiterate a few main points:

    1. Nobody, as far as I am aware, has any solid evidence of outright blacklisting. Hence the idea of an 'experiment'.
    2. However, there is very clear evidence that the endorsement system is not transparent, and operates with 'flags'.
    3. My particular case is just not an interesting one (although there are pertinent anecdotes) because I rarely attempt to use the arxiv myself - and hence I see no reason why I should discuss stories involving 'respectable' academics, who I am sure do not want to be named.
    4. Nobody, NOBODY, is advocating a free-for-all submission system, with no filters.
    5. The arxiv is an important means of communication in physics - hence its management should be taken with a serious sense of responsibilty, and ANY apparent shiftiness of any kind is not to be tolerated.
    6. The case of Carl Brannen, which started this latest series of posts, is about a paper WHICH THE PROFESSIONALS AGREE IS INTERESTING. So we are NOT TALKING ABOUT 'questionable content'.

    Kea said
    "... Nobody, as far as I am aware, has any solid evidence of outright blacklisting. ...".

    What about the following message of 14 October 2002 from register-query@arXiv.org to "Arkadiusz Jadczyk" about me (Tony Smith) and another blacklistee whose name has not appeared on this thread (I will not bring it into this thread):

    "... They appear as but two of a large pool here -- typically flagged by
    reader complaints -- encouraged to find alternate outlets. ..."

    Despite repeated requests, I have yet to be told by arXiv who complained about me, or what was the substance of any complaints, and have been given no opportunity to address any complaints.

    The above quote seems to me to be a clear admission by arXiv that they do in fact maintain a "large" blacklist.

    Tony Smith

    Toni,

    it would appear that you claim to be blacklisted by arXiv is based on the facts that your book "about correspondences among Sufi Islam, IFA, the Rig Veda, and Physics and the multicultural backgrounds of Jesus and Mary Magdalene" (I am quoting from your blog, http://www.valdostamuseum.org/hamsmith/CornellBan.html) was moderated out of the arXiv in only 4 minutes and 7 seconds. Believe me, it takes much less than that to read the abstract and conclude that it does not belong in the arXiv.

    Cheers, Ptrslv72

    Hank
    your book "about correspondences among Sufi Islam, IFA, the Rig Veda, and Physics and the multicultural backgrounds of Jesus and Mary Magdalene"
    Indeed, that's clearly more Angewandte Chemie material.
    maybe so, but only if you are thinking of an article on lysergic acid diethylamide

    Hfarmer
    Hmm I wonder if he has tried to submit anything else?  Where "black listing" would become an issue would be if you submit a paper which is rejected for whatever reason, then are subsequently prevented from submitting papers latter. 

    That said I don't think a book like that would belong on arxiv.... It's not the type of thing people go to arxiv to read.  But then with all the string theory on there, which has a real metaphysical aspect to it, who can blame you for adding it.
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Ptrslv72 said that I was "... blacklisted by arXiv is based on the facts that [my] book "about correspondences among Sufi Islam, IFA, the Rig Veda ... " ... was moderated out of the arXiv in only 4 minutes and 7 seconds ...".

    No.
    The year 2005, when I submitted my "book ... moderated out of the arXiv in only 4 minutes and 7 seconds".
    was years after 2002 when arXiv said that I was in "...a large pool here -- typically flagged by reader complaints -- encouraged to find alternate outlets. ...".

    The 2005 book, which does contain a lot of controversial material,
    was submitted by me to the general physics archive (which is where such controversial material had historically gone) in an effort by me to negotiate an end to my blacklisted status.
    In the process of submitting the 2005 book, I had extensive email discussion with arXiv administrators about the book, and I made extensive revisions in line with the discussion, and they accepted it and it appeared on arXiv as physics/0508155
    but
    only 4 minutes and 7 seconds after it had appeared (in the form approved by arXiv administrators pursuant to our discussions, which I had hoped had ended my being blacklisted)
    it was removed.
    Clearly, the removal was done by higher authority than the administrators with whom I had been discussing the matter leading to its initial acceptance,
    and
    the removal was done so quickly that the only reasonable explanation is that the removal was NOT due to content of the book, but due to me being on the blacklist.

    It is (I hope) obvious that submission of a book in 2005
    could not have caused me to have been blacklisted in 2002,

    despite the fact that arXiv HAS accepted papers
    about backward causality, such as 0802.2991

    Tony Smith

    Fine, I rephrase my statement (and correct two misprints)

    It would appear that your claim to be blacklisted by arXiv is based ALSO on the fact that your book "about... the multicultural backgrounds of Jesus and Mary Magdalene" was moderated out of the arXiv in only 4 minutes and 7 seconds.

    Does this change the meaning of my post? Its main point was: the day I have to wade through e-books on Jesus and Mary Magdalene to check the latest submissions, I'll stop using the arXiv.

    Cheers, Ptrslv72

    dorigo
    Ptr, I am sorry to say -but the way you put it, I cannot disagree!
    Cheers,
    T.
    I was blacklisted in 2002, when I had NOT attempted to post anything about "Jesus and Mary Magdalene"
    so
    such material is NOT why I was blacklisted.

    However, if my views are so offensive to you that you want me to be blacklisted because of them, then you are entitled to your opinion that I should be personally blacklisted beginning in 2005,
    but
    you should also acknowledge that my blacklisting from 2002 until 2005 is a different matter.

    I will try to close my participation in this discussion on what I hope is a constructive note by proposing a mechanism that Cornell might implement for arXiv:

    1. Give authorship status (including but not limited to ID and password) to anyone requesting it.
    2. Evaluate each paper on its merits, so that exclusion from the arXiv is not based on the personality of the author. In evaluating any paper, it should be proper to consider the history of any author in determining the degree of detail in which the paper is to be reviewed.
    3. If the evaluation of any paper determines that the paper should be rejected and should not be posted, then the author should be so informed and such information should also include the reasons for rejection.
    4. The administrators of the arXiv should set up a forum (similar in format to a Ph.D. thesis defense) to which any rejected author can appeal rejection by appearing before the forum and stating why the paper should be accepted and not rejected, and have the forum make a ruling after the presentation that would be binding on both the author and the administrators of the arXiv.
    5. Any author appearing before such a forum should be required to travel to Cornell at his own expense, and to pay a reasonable fee that might help defray expenses and pay for the time of those sitting on the forum.
    It should be permissible for non-Cornell people to sit on such a forum, perhaps in addition to regular forum members, but if that is done at the request of an author, the author should pay any related expenses.
    5. Proceedings before the forum should be public, and should be video- recorded at the (reasonable) expense of an author if an author so requests, with an author paying such expense getting a copy of the recording and full rights to use it.

    Tony Smith

    Hank
    This would all be fine except it requires an entire paid staff to do it.   I have said this before, and even in this thread, but there is a great deal of entitlement thinking I have seen this decade - not just in scientists (though I see those more given the stuff I read) but on the entire Internet.   It is supposed to be a low-stress, high value preprint service - your solution is more cost and work than a journal.   :)
    Like Tony I would also like to see the arXiv submission system changed so that I could submit there again. However, I am not comfortable with Tony's proposed appeal based solution because it would favor those able to fund their appeal and would strongly disfavour people from outside the US, especially those who would have difficulty getting an entry visa. So here is what I would propose (if I thought there was any hope of anyone listening)

    1. Abandon the system of endorsements because the ability to submit should not depend on who you know.
    2. Grant access rights to individual authors instead. Anyone should be entitled to an author ID.
    3. Create special categories in which anyone can publish (e.g. an "Open Physics" category) Nobody is forced to read them so why should they object?
    4. Grant access to publish in other categories based on well defined criteria, such as belonging to a suitable university department, having a related PhD, having published in a related peer review journal, an invited paper at a related conference, co-authorship with someone who has access etc.. Although there would be no endorsers, there might be representatives of research institutions who could vouch that individuals meet these criteria. Anyone else would have to provide evidence themselves.
    5. Allow an author to request a paper to be transferred from an open category to a more specialised one and gain access rights for that category on the basis of well defined criteria such as subsequent publication or a sufficient number of independent citations.
    6. There should be a system that allows the administrators to reclassify e-prints or even remove them entirely and revoke access rights in extreme cases for specified reasons such as plagiarism or false claims of affiliation. Whenever this is done the reason should be explained to the authors.
    7. Authors would need to sign up to well defined terms and conditions that required them to accept the decision of the administrators provided they are well documented.

    If I thought a more open system would benefit only a handful of people like nyself and Tony I would have to admit that the extra administration and costs would be hard to justify. But I think the current system is inhibiting a wide diversity of people from using the arXiv including people in less influential universities. It also discourages people from submitting original ideas that not everyone would like unless they are already well established as a scientist.

    The arXiv is of huge importance to the scientific community and should get the funding it needs to be run properly. I dont think a system like the one I am proposing would be unreasonably expensive. Perhaps more funding could be found if the sponsors were able to have seats on a committee that governs the arXiv policies.

    In rereading this thread, I just realized that there is a historical fact that should be stated here for the record.

    For a time, there did exist a realistically useful alternative to the Cornell arXiv, and I used it to post some papers, including these three posted in the early part of the year 2004:

    paper EXT-2004-013 at cdsweb.cern.ch/

    paper EXT-2004-030 at cdsweb.cern.ch/

    paper EXT-2004-031 at cdsweb.cern.ch/

    which had been barred from the Cornell arXiv after my being blacklisted in 2002 (and prior to my 2005 submission to arXiv of my web book with material that Ptrslv72 and Tommaso find to be sufficiently offensive to warrant my blacklisting being continued).

    However, according to the CERN Document Server:
    "... CERN's Scientific Information Policy Board decided, at its meeting on the 8th October 2004, to close the EXT-series.
    Authors are encouraged to submit their papers to the relevant class at arXiv.
    All papers in arXiv are available on the CERN Document Server. ...".

    In other words, up to October 2004,
    the CERN CDS EXT-series had been a useful alternative to the Cornell arXiv that not only contained the arXiv papers but also those of some blacklisted people (including me),
    but
    for some reason CERN's Scientific Information Policy Board decided to "close the EST-series".

    It might be interesting to see the minutes (or any further detailed description by any SIP Board members of that time) as to why the CERN SIP Board took that action,
    so
    this blog might be a useful place to ask some relevant questions about that decision:

    Was CERN CDS EXT being flooded with a huge number of papers from people blacklisted by the Cornell arXiv (if so, CERN should have documentation of the magnitude of such a problem) ?

    or

    Was CERN CDS EXT closed due to political pressure from Cornell to keep their blacklistees from having any reasonable access to the physics community ?

    Tony Smith

    PS - I should note that the papers already posted on the CERN CDS EXT series still remain on the web (as you can see if you go to the links mentioned above for my papers there), although the CERN CDS EXT series was indeed closed persuant to the 8 October 2004 decision of the CERN SIP Board so that no subsequent papers could be posted there.

    PPS - Thanks to PhilG for his comment and proposal for administration procedures, especially for his statement that "... The arXiv ... should get the funding it needs to be run properly ...".

    dorigo
    Tony, I do not advocate blacklisting anybody! In fact, quite the opposite.
    I only said I think a title like the one of your paper is enough to decide that the paper does not belong to a physics preprints site, that is all... If you want to take it personally you have to make an effort to tweak my words.

    Cheers,
    T.
    Tommaso, you have made clear your view about my 2005 web book.

    However, the closing of the CERN CDS EXT-series took place in 2004, which is BEFORE 2005, so that my 2005 web book is irrelevant.

    Do you have any information that might answer any of my questions about the CERN CDS EXT-series or its closing ?

    Tony Smith

    Hfarmer
    Tony I think CERN CDS EXT Archive closed because they recognized the power and influence of arXiv. Perhaps they did not feel they needed a place where their scientist could put pre-prints regardless of American scientific mores.

    The issue as I see it is this, if a person tries to publish something that the arXiv moderators or administrators don't like it seems that ze will be prevented from publishing in the future. The stories I have seen of people being stripped of endorsement ability for endorsing certain people are really scary, and such accusations need to be investigated by whatever agencies are providing funding for them.
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Tommaso, thanks for your reply about CERN CDS EXT.
    Also,
    I would like to clarify for the record about my 2005 web book, about which you said that you think that "... a title like the one of your paper is enough to decide that the paper does not belong to a physics preprints site ...".

    It is OK with me whatever your opinion about it is, but I would like for your opinion to be based on a fuller version of the state of facts than the brief critical statements of Prtslv72.

    The title was "PhiloPhysics"

    The abstract was "This work describes some Religio-Philosophical systems and some Physics models, with comments about some relevant interrelationships. Due to the wide range and many interconnections among the subject matters covered, the sections are not intended to be read in any linear order, but to be read according to interest, with the table of contents and page numbers being provided only for convenience of access. Here are the Contents and Page Numbers: ..."

    The first section was headed "Correspondences between the Sufi Ideas of Ibn Arabi and Physics".
    An examples of such a correspondence:
    "al-khalq al-jadid is the new world that is created at the occurrence of every event"
    corresponds to
    "the branching of the Worlds of the Many-Worlds at each event".

    The subject of physics in connection with religion/philosophy had already been accepted by the Cornell arXiv as acceptable for the general physics category (see for example physics/00101012 by Subhash Kak entitled "Yajnavalkya and the Origins of Puranic Cosmology")
    so there was precedent for my submission of my 2005 web book.
    The 2005 web book was discussed extensively by me through email with arXiv administrators, and accepted by them in the general physics category as physics/0508155,
    but
    was removed so quickly after it was posted that it seem likely that the removal was by an automated blacklist mechanism.

    Apparently the human middle-level administrators who found the 2005 web book to be acceptable were overruled by an automated blacklist mandated by the top-level arXiv people.

    Tony Smith

    Daniel de França MTd2
    It seems that the article "Yajnavalkya and the Origins of Puranic Cosmology" is about trying to reconstruct the common historical origin of different cosmologicals myths given mathematical patterns implied on their texts rather than comming up with a new kind of philosophy or religious thinking.
    Hi Tony,

    you love to feel like a victim of the establishment, don't you?

    read my posts again: I never wrote that you should be blacklisted because of your e-book. I wrote that in my humble opinon *your e-book* should not be in the arXiv, and it takes much less than 4 minutes and 7 seconds for a human being to come to that conclusion.

    Incidentally, I do think that people who try to cheat the submission system might be blacklisted, but I have no elements to claim that you belong in that category.

    Cheers, Ptrslv72

    I guess Tony's being upset about the arXiv is easy to understand. If he took the trouble of contacting administrators before uploading his book, and he was OKed, then why remove his submission afterwards.

    But then, I don't think that book belongs in the arXiv either, just because of its topic and length. Maybe it would be more productive to get over the arXiv rejection and look for other distribution channels reaching a more appropriate audience.

    Tommaso, the latest update: I put my new paper up on arXiv in the gen-ph classification but it didn't show up. Perhaps there was some problem with it. Perhaps it was moderated. It's hard to tell when they don't tell you. Among the reasons for rejecting a paper is because it doesn't have sufficient quality to merit refereeing. I suppose that if this is the problem I will wait until it is in the referee cycle at Foundations of Physics, where it was submitted.

    The previous time I had difficulty like this it was because I left a "copyright" statement in the paper. This paper doesn't have that problem but it's possible that there is something else about it. The title is "Spin Path Integrals and Generations" and I've linked in a copy of the paper, as submitted to arXiv, in the "Homepage" link.

    dorigo
    Thank you for this information Carl. Please let us know here how this story ends.
    T.
    When you post a paper during the weekend it appears on Tuesday. Cheers, Ptrslv72

    Thanks Ptrslv72. If so, then it will be 0908.1209 and should appear in 12 hours or so.

    My paper was removed from arXiv with the comment by email: "Your submission has been removed upon a notice from our moderators, who determined it inappropriate for arXiv. Please send to a conventional journal instead for the requisite feedback. If you disagree with this determination, please do not resubmit the submission to any archive until you first explain the reason to moderation@arxiv.org and receive a positive response."

    Right now the paper is still in the "editor assigned" category at Foundations of Physics since August 4. I think the earliest time at which I could reasonably pester the moderator would be when it transitions to "reviewers assigned". But right now is vacation season in Europe so that could take some time.

    Meanwhile, I've figured out the topic of my next paper...

    The paper is now in the stage "Under review" at Foundations of Physics.

    I've had wonderful news on the paper. Probably more information later. Meanwhile, partly through what I would call vicious (though effective) manipulation by Kea, it's been accepted for a contributed talk at FFP10 in Perth, Australia along with her talk. Presumably she'll blog things later.

    dorigo
    Good to know! Keep me in the loop!
    Cheers,
    T.
    Today the Foundations of Physics editorial decision is in. One reviewer didn't get past the first paragraph, the other was supportive and suggested minor changes. The editor has asked me to make modifications and resubmit. So I can see this getting published after another cycle or two. The previous good news was a strong compliment from a senior researcher. If I'd gotten bad reviews I'd have suggested him as a reviewer (who knows, maybe he was one).

    When an amateur theoretician writes a paper that supposedly explains the generation structure of the fermions, provides a new classification of the hadrons, unifies the treatment of spin and position, and gives the first application of quantum information theory to elementary particles, the above sort of review is about as good as it gets.

    In other news, I got a senior researcher to endorse the paper for quant-ph and I've asked arXiv to reconsider their refusal to publish my paper. Tell you what, if they haven't agreed to put my paper up by a week from now, I'll type up an introduction at the undergrad level and give it to you as a guest paper. If you don't like it, no problem, I'll put it up on my blog.

    dorigo
    Nope Carl, it's welcome here. Anyway, these are terrific news! And one of your earlier sentences made me chuckle, because you might be the only element of the class of "amateur theoreticians" you just coined! In fact, I do not think any of those chaps with a theory of everything in their pockets classify. You have a chance of building a respectable pool of publications, while leaving outside of the academic world.

    Cheers,
    T.
    Latest news; my gravity paper that arXiv removed from gr-qc and put into gen-ph was accepted for publication essentially with no changes at IJMPD. As far as I know, this is the only paper in gen-ph that won an honorable mention in the gravity essay contest (as compared to perhaps 100 such papers in gr-qc, astro-ph or hep-xx). When I get the final acceptance, I'll probably ask arXiv to consider moving the paper's classification back to gr-qc.

    dorigo
    Fantastic! I think it is time for another guest post Carl, one where you highlight the results of your study in a way that is accessible to us humans. Mind you, it is easier said than done... Let me know!

    Cheers,
    T.
    I think I've got the spin path paper rewritten to most of the points mentioned by the reviewers. I like it a lot more, it's now much more focused and single minded. And I've added some drawings. (But I haven't spel cheked it yet.)

    In the introduction, I added a discussion on particle paths as measured in experiments like yours. They look classical (i.e. smooth) because they are approximately classical. If you had a particle detector which plotted the position of the particle with quantum accuracy (i.e. de Broglie wavelength accuracy) it would modify the path of the particle just as a single (sufficiently narrow) slit does.

    The paper claims that the apparent smoothness of spin measurements is only apparent. Just like particle tracks, if you could measure spin accurately enough, you would find that it would jump around. It is a good topic for a guest post and eventually I will get something together.

    Tommaso,

    I've got a first cut for the guest post on the generations and spin. The password is a common 4-letter word for Planck's constant.

    Ah, what's the point. The password is "hbar".

    dorigo
    Hi Carl, where should I use this password ?
    T.
    Tommaso, here's an explicit link. It's just as well you didn't click on my name, the post was complete but I forgot to link in the paper.

    And sure enough, here is the blog post.

    ArXiv pissed me off again. This time they published a paper claiming that the Wolfenstein parameterization is defective. This is a common parameterization for unitary 3x3 matrices and is commonly used on the CKM matrix. I care about this, so I wrote up a "comment on" paper showing that the Wolfenstein parameterization works fine, but arXiv didn't publish it, and didn't tell me why. See http://carlbrannen.wordpress.com/2009/12/10/arxiv

    dorigo
    Hi Carl,

    congratulations for being now an institutionalized researcher! Now, you cannot act like a loose dog any more :) I would wait a week before starting to complain with the arxiv. Send them a friendly message reminding them.

    Cheers,
    T.
    Tommaso, a somewhat entertaining update:

    ArXiv still hasn't gotten in touch with me, but they reclassified the Dita paper. It was originally listed under hep-ph and copied to hep-ex. Now it's classified as gen-ph and copied to hep-ph. They did this without any sort of announcement. And you thought that arXiv was the permanent record. Maybe this was related to my blog post, or my aborted comment; there seems to have been no other interest in the paper.

    And meanwhile, I've typed up a letter for PRL. It's the work on an improved parameterization for the MNS matrix that Marni and I were working on, but without the high falutin' math. I realize that submitting to PRL is likely a waste of time, but they are quick at turning people down.

    I would like to participate here, given that my work was ALREADY PEER-REVIEWED AND PUBLISHED - why can't I get my work onto the archive? Because I mentioned Tony Smith as my friend? It appeared and then vanished. I challenge anyone on the archive to follow my tensor calculations in Weyl space, which are not for the timid., :)

    Links

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/k748qg033wj44x11/

    http://cdsweb.cern.ch/record/688763

    I have several other papers cooking that need to be exposed. I have a real way of uniting the gauge field Lagrange density with that of gravitation, in 6-d Weyl space. People need to see this. It is progress.

    -drl

    Latest news is that Foundations of Physics accepted my spin path integral paper. So I sent an email to arXiv noting this, as they'd asked for this to occur before accepting the preprint.

    Hi all,

    I have incredible problems with the arXiv moderators. I sent a proceeding paper to arXiv that was already published in AIP Conf. Proc. (I provided the full journal reference when I submitted it in order to avoid problems). The paper was peer-review by the organizers of the conference and presents the results of a regular paper published in Foundation of Physics and appeared in hep-th.

    Without any sort of announcement the paper has been reclassified to the junk list physics.gen-ph from hep-th. I asked for explanations and they said: "Our moderators have considered your appeal and maintain that your submission is correctly classified. They are willing to revisit this issue if your article is published in a conventional journal."

    They are kidding me? Do they want that I publish a proceeding paper in a non proceeding journal?

    After two weeks I am still waiting the answer from the moderator.

    Cheers,