Some of My Best Friends Are Authors…

Over at New APPS, the comments continue. Jeff Shallit, my co-author on the paper in Synthese, weighed in with a brief comment:

Apparently Prof. Laudan thinks it is justified, if editors have a problem with a single paper or two in a special issue, to issue a general disclaimer that potentially impugns the integrity of every single author in the issue under question.

As a co-author of one of the papers in the special issue, I am shocked by both the behavior of the editors and the endorsement of that behavior by Prof. Laudan.

Jon Cogburn took issue with Jeff, expanding at length on his opinion that the EiC disclaimer in no way impugned the integrity of authors in the special issue.

And I replied to a part of Cogburn’s comment:

“I mean the editors did not say that some of the authors abused students or committed plagiarism or that some of the papers were unsound or not deserving of inclusion. They just said they thought some of the papers were too impolite and further clarified that this was an editorial oversight, one that clearly could have been addressed in the revising period of the papers.”

It seems ironic that tender sensitivities must be protected of everyone *except* the authors, who are apparently supposed to simply overlook anything other than outright accusations of high crimes and misdemeanors.

The distinction you make about editorial oversight might arguably be part of the just-released online response from the EiC (though I think it isn’t nearly clear enough to be described in just that way), but it isn’t part of the original disclaimer. I think arguing that it might be implicit in the original disclaimer would not be satisfactory.

We may need to agree to disagree about the scope of effect of the disclaimer on the authors.

Maybe you can touch upon another aspect of this. Given that the EiC felt it necessary to attach a disclaimer that might be applied severally to each and every paper in the volume (and the response in the IDC community shows that this is exactly what is happening, whether justifiable in each case or not), was it appropriate for the EiC to omit notice of their intended action and to deny each of the contributors the opportunity to withdraw their work? As Jeffrey’s co-author, I am in agreement that we would have withdrawn our paper if we had been informed of the nature of the disclaimer that would be published with our work. Maybe that would not have been your choice in the same situation, but I would hope that you would allow that opinions vary, especially with respect to protecting one’s own reputation. We were not notified of any of these concerns and intentions prior to the appearance of the printed issue. I, at least, see that as an irresponsible and unprofessional lapse on the part of the EiC at Synthese.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.