Wednesday, July 11, 2012

El Naschie Update

Thanks to Abi for picking again, l'affaire El Naschie (this time, on time!). Now that it is established by a UK court ruling that El Naschie published 290 of his own articles in CSF, which is,
excessive and unwarranted and amounted to an abuse of his position as Editor-in-Chief
and he has
failed to provide any documentary evidence whatever that his papers were the subject of peer review,
let me give my bloggers' update.

Firstly, I had queried in my second post then, about the peer reviews of those 290 papers. I suggested those PRs to be published in the open to clear the name of EN, if he is a deserving scientist who is 'wronged' by 'libelous criticisms' of 'jealous academicians'. That those peer reviews are non-existent according to the current ruling provides a closure to my post.

[To digress, I wrote a subsequent post on the necessity for open peer reviewing to avoid EN-like mishaps, which is a relevant issue worth discussing at nanopolitan. Later.]

Back when this scandal broke out, I picked it with trepidation, by providing quotes from two links in my first post, one from John Baez and the other by Jacques Distler, both well respected physicists (n-Category Cafe group blog; Azimuth blog by John). Among others, Bee (Sabine) had also linked to John's post, while discussing the EN-issue at her Backreaction. The comments section of that post was closed by her due to excessive sock-puppetry.

You will not find those original posts by John and Jacques anymore on their sites. This vanishing act happened around Jan 2009, just a month or two after their original posting dates (~ Nov 2008). I suspected then that both could have received possible legal threats from EN. There is some tangential corroboration now from Quirin Schiermeier (Nature reporter who wrote the article on EN), who while writing about his "EN libel experience", says:
[...]those who raised their voices, in blogs or letters, were silenced by his threats of litigation.
[in above quote, his = EN]

In this context, it is scary to note what QS observes about UK libel laws,
[...] English libel law can stifle justified discourse, including open scientific discussion. The burden of proof falls too heavily on the defendant to prove what they said was true, not on the accuser to show that it is false. The law is therefore more likely to stifle free speech and suppress legitimate criticism than defend the interests of science or society at large [...]
Even in Feb 2009, one Jason started a blog El Naschie Watch and collected all news and "facts" about EN -- many of which were shown to be false or duped claims; browse the archive of that blog. ENW blog also linked to the original posts of John and Jacques, and after similar bafflement about their disappearance, had the time and tenacity to scrounge the internet archive to restore their content.

Here it is, in a suitably titled, That Hard-to-Find Baez Material.

But, back then, when the posts of John and Jacques disappeared, I felt shafted. I resolved never to pick up a discussion from blogs authored by those who I am not acquainted with. May be now John Baez would write about why he removed his criticism from n-Category Cafe. May be he won't. We all move on.