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November 6, 2002

Bogdanovs Chronicled

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a piece on the Bogdanov Affair.

Frank Wilczek (as bad luck would have it, Editor-in-Chief of Annals of Physics, one of the journals taken in by the Bogdanovs) is quoted as blaming the formal (divorced from experiment) character of much of high energy theory these days for the apparent difficulty in sussing them out.

I don’t buy it. I’ve yet to encounter anyone with a working knowledge of any of the fields (topological field theory, quantum groups, von Neumann algebras, …) touched on by the Bogdanov papers who had any difficulty deciding whether there was real content there.

If the referees were lazy, and accepted a paper they shouldn’t have, then let’s admit it and move on. We all know that it’s a lot less work to accept a paper than to reject it and then have to deal with the inevitable resubmission(s) from the authors. And, often, after a long, drawn-out battle, the authors will demand the opinion of a new referee who, to your chagrin, will go ahead and accept the paper anyway. The miracle, really, is that the percentage of crap papers accepted for publication is as low as it is.

The Editors of Classical and Quantum Gravity were forthright and 'fessed up. Wilczek should, too, rather than blaming some perceived defect of the field.

More serious, I think, are the PhD Advisor and Dissertation Committees who, apparently abdicated all responsibility for the contents of the dissertations.

But we still don’t really know the whole story of that aspect of the affair. The soap opera continues…

Posted by distler at November 6, 2002 1:00 AM

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