Posted by: Kay at Suicyte | December 23, 2008

Eugene Koonin direct

I have just read the blog post by Derek Lowe ‘Publishing your work the Easy Way‘, which covers the case of M.S. El Naschie, who is Editor-in-Chief of the journal Chaos, Solitons & Fractals and apparently uses this position to publish tons of his own papers in that journal. Nature has also covered this case before, where it has been said that the papers are mostly of poor quality and that El Naschie might also have ‘improved’ his CV by using a wrong affiliation to a respectable institute. I am neither an expert on solitons or fractals (chaos maybe, if you consider the state of my desktop) and I am clearly not the one to  judge the quality of El Naschie’s contributions. Check here for some scientific details.

Reading about this story made me think about how acceptable it is to publish stuff in a journal that you have founded yourself and where you are acting as editor-in-chief. Before knowing about the El Naschie affair, I would not have seen problems here. Sure, you could probably select your own reviewers or bypass peer review altogether. But editors-in-chief are typically prominent scientists (right?) and prominent scientists don’t behave that way. Or do they? Maybe I have been too naive. Obviously, I don’t have any fist-hand experience as I never founded my own journal and no publisher in their right mind would ask me to act as editor-in-chief of anything.  On the other hand, I am on the editorial board of a few journals, and in this role you are typically asked by the publisher to ‘submit your best manuscripts’ to the journal in order to make the world a better place. And for increasing the impact factor.

Another reason for my somewhat careless attitude to ‘self-publishing’ is that I have seen several examples of excellent papers published in self-edited journals. Just by looking at the numbers alone, some journals might appear to be in a situation similar to  Chaos Solitons & Fractals. Maybe not quite the same, if the amazing number of 321 El Nashie papers in ‘CSF’ mentioned in Derek’s post is true.

There is one journal in my area, which is dominated by papers from the chief editor:  Biology Direct. Just look at the numbers: Since its inception in 2006, Biology Direct has published 24 papers from Eugene Koonin. This might appear small compared to 321,  but if you consider that the journal has published only 131 papers altogether,  Eugene Koonin has authored more than 18% of all the published manuscripts. Before you jump to wrong conclusions, there are several big differences to the El Naschie case: Eugene Koonin also publishes scores of papers in inconspicuous journals, including Nature and their ilk, he really works at the NCBI (I have proof of that), and his papers in Biology Direct do make sense (to me, at least). Most importantly, there is undeniable evidence that Eugene did not use his position to bypass peer review: Biology Direct has an open peer review policy, the reviewers’ comments are published with the papers!

Post scriptum: After checking out the web page of El Naschie, I have the strong  feeling that there is some problem with this guy. Even without understanding a single equation of his E-learning E-Infinity  theory, someone who sees himself as a  ‘central figure in the field of fractal cosmology’ and at the same time publishes on how to slow the aging process cannot expect to be taken seriously.

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Responses

  1. Believe it or not

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

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

    Chaos,Solitons and Fractals 25 (2005)545 û548

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Search for a realistic Kaluza-Klein theory

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

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

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

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

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

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

    http://www.engineeringvillage2.org

    One can find:

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

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

    40 articles where the affiliation is Univ of Cambridge.

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

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

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

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

  3. I recommend to discuss the El Naschie case at some more appropriate place, maybe at http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/category/2008/11/the_case_of_m_s_el_naschie.html where the audience is much more likely to understand the arguments.
    Here, I have just used the opportunity to briefly discuss other situations where editors contribute heavily to their ‘own’ journal. As I said above, this doesn’t always have to mean something bad for the journal.

  4. Yah………….there are several big differences to the El Naschie case: Eugene Koonin also publishes scores of papers in inconspicuous journals, including Nature and their ilk, he really works at the NCBI (I have proof of that), and his papers in Biology Direct do make sense (to me, at least)

    • Far be it from me to consider Eugene Koonin and El Nashie as similar cases ! I know that Eugene is a real scientist, and an excellent one for that matter. I actually co-authored a few papers with him. I haven’t followed the El Nashie case any longer – this is not my area and there are clearly more important things to do.

      The main reason for my blog post was to dicuss whether it is ok to publish ‘in your own journal’. If I remember correctly, this was one major argument used against El Nashie, while in the past I wouldn’t have considered this as problematic (hence using Koonin as a counter-example). I am still not sure if publications in yournals where you are the editor should be considered second-rank – it probably depends on how peer review is handled.


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