Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chaos, Solitons & Fractals: Alive but quiescent

A year ago Elsevier told me that M. S. El Naschie, the founding Editor-in-Chief of its non-linear science journal Chaos, Solitons & Fractals (CSF), was retiring as editor.

The next day Nature published an article in which a number of allegations were made about El Naschie, and the manner in which he had been editing CSF.

These allegations were evidently refuted by M. S. El Naschie, and on 12th November The Press Gazette reported that he is suing Nature for libel in the English courts.

As The Press Gazette put it, "According to a writ filed with the High Court by legal firm Collyer Bristow, El Naschie claims the story alleges he used his editorial privilege to self-publish numerous papers he'd written, which would not have been published elsewhere as they were of poor quality and had received no peer review."

When I contacted Nature by email they said that at the moment they were unable to offer any comment on the matter.

But what about the journal at the heart of the dispute: what is its current status and what does the future hold for it?

After El Naschie's retirement Elsevier continued to publish around 1,000 papers that had been accepted under his editorship. Then in June the publisher announced that the journal was no longer accepting papers. Commentators were quick to conclude that this was a signal that the journal was "closing shop".

But Elsevier's Shira Tabachnikoff tells me that this is inaccurate and the journal is not closing. Below is the brief email exchange I had with her recently.

Clearly, re-establishing the journal in the wake of El Naschie's retirement is proving a slow process.

RP: Can you give me an update on the status of the journal Chaos, Solitons & Fractals?

ST: We are currently working with the editorial board and other advisors to identify a new editorial structure, as well as reviewing the aims and scope of the journal, the editorial policies and submission arrangements.

RP: The journal is not closing then?

ST: Elsevier does not have the intention to stop the publication of the journal. We are working on renewing the aims and scope, editorial structure and ensuring a transparent online submission system is in place.

RP: But you have yet to recruit a new editor?

ST: Currently there is not a new Editor-in-Chief in place for the journal.

RP: And in the meantime, submissions to the journal have been closed?

ST: All the papers handled by Dr. El Naschie have now been published and nothing further will be published until the new editorial structure is in place. We are therefore not currently accepting any new submissions to the journal Chaos, Solitons and Fractals.

Once we have a new editorial structure in place, we will open the journal up to new submissions.

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.


Anonymous said...

Out of curiosity I looked at the CS&F website today, and found that it looks very much as it would if none of this had ever happened. All indications are that it is accepting papers again (there's no statement the contrary and the links to submit appear to work as far as I followed them); I didn't find the statement that was there previously about looking for a new editor and revising the aims and scope; and El Naschie still appears at the top of the editorial board as "founding editor" (there's no editor in chief).

Am I missing something, or did Elsevier just wait for the controversy to blow over and then go back to past practices?

Richard Poynder said...

CS&F was relaunched today.