Yesterday someone who signed themselves simply as A. M. posted a message on The Scholarly Kitchen blog. The post claims to be the first reaction from the Editorial Board of the Elsevier journal Chaos, Solitons & Fractals (CS&F) to the recent Nature article on M. S. El Naschie, the journal's current editor-in-chief.
Released on Wednesday, the Nature article published a number of allegations about M. S. El Naschie, including allegations about his publishing activities, his claimed affiliations, and the quality of the peer review undertaken at CS&F.
The Scholarly Kitchen post states, "It is the view of the Editorial Board that the article contains serious errors of fact as well as libelous material". And it predicts that there will "either be a retraction and an apology from Nature and the Journalist [who wrote the article] or a court case in Germany and in England."
A number of obvious questions arise, not least why, if this is really a response from the Editorial Board of Chaos, Solitons & Fractals, it has been made under an alias, and on a blog.
However, the post does underline the necessity for the Editorial Board to respond to events, and the best way of doing so would be by means of a collective statement. Importantly, that statement will need to have real names attached to it, and it will need to be made via an official channel — Elsevier's media department perhaps?
With anonymous posts now appearing that claim to speak for the Board, and the noise about the affair growing in the blogosphere, let's hope such a statement comes soon. As it is, we are witnessing more questions arise each day, and very little in the way of answers.
More importantly, Elsevier itself needs to respond, and to answer the many questions arising from the affair. If it doesn't do so, and soon, the research community will undoubtedly reach its own conclusions.
In fact, it is already doing so: Writing on the Uncommon Ground blog, for instance, Kent Holsinger concludes "Whether Elsevier admits it or not, their oversight of this journal appears to have been non-existent. It appears they were more interested in the $4250 in annual subscription fees El Naschie's journal garners than in ensuring 'that all published reports of research have been reviewed by suitably qualified reviewers', as required by the Committee on Publication Ethics."
On Wednesday I received an email from an Elsevier spokesperson informing me that M. S. El Naschie would be retiring as editor of CS&F in the New Year, and indicating that someone from the company would speak to me in more detail about the controversy by the end of the week. I have my questions ready; I wait to hear back from Elsevier.
Update 16th March 2010: CS&F has been relaunched with two new co-editors-in-chief, a new editorial board and refined aims and scope.