The April Fools

Today is the April Fools. I was thinking what kind of joke is better to post on our blog. It was not hard to find it, as very often it happens that the funniest things are just true stories. The joke came to my hands when I checked my email… Here is the story.

In January we sent our “Comment on “Gauge Symmetries and Dirac Conjecture” by Y.-L. Wang, Z.-P. Li, K. Wang and some other counterexamples to the Dirac conjecture” to International Journal of Theoretical Physics (see our post below or link to “Comment…” here). When we found the paper by Wang, Li, Wang published in IJTP, full of mistakes, we decided to write a comment to the journal. The authors presented some counterexamples to the Dirac conjecture, which is not a new subject in the literature. In both examples the transformations found by the authors are not gauge symmetries of the corresponding Lagrangians. So, the authors’ claim that “Dirac conjecture loses true to this system” is wrong. The third example was the Maxwell theory which was used by the authors to “prove” that the Dirac conjecture works in some cases. However, the authors’ “gauge” transformations of the Maxwell theory are the most novel that we have ever seen. It is not difficult to check that the Maxwell Lagrangian is not invariant under those transformations. Mysteriously, this paper, which is based entirely on the flawed analysis, was accepted for publication. When we sent our comment to IJTP, we thought that the Editors would be grateful for saving the journal from embarrassment, but we were wrong…

After waiting two months we got the funniest referee report that we could ever imagine. Here it is:
——– Original Message ——–
From: “H. Saller” <>
Date: Mar 30, 2012 8:27:16 AM
Subject: Editor’s decision on IJTP5656
To: Natalia Kiriushcheva <>

Dear Dr. Natalia Kiriushcheva,

I have received the decision from the Editor on your manuscript, IJTP5656 “Comment on “Gauge Symmetries and Dirac Conjecture” by Y.-L. Wang, Z.-P. Li, K. Wang and some other counterexamples to the Dirac conjecture”

We thank you for your kind offer to let us publish your manuscript,but regret to inform you that we have decided not to accept your offer. The paper did not undergo technical review and is not being declined for any technical error. Relevant comments are to be found below. We wish you every success in finding an alternative place of publication.

With best regards,

International Journal of Theoretical Physics
H. Saller
Editor in Chief

We could not find a referee who gave a scientifically relevant
report. Either the referee declined or he didn’t give a comment.

The Editorial Manager is at:

So, the Editor could not find a referee who would give “a scientifically relevant
report” on correctness or incorrectness of a few simple examples (including the Maxwell theory)! Hello, IJTP! Is anybody home?

I would rather believe that this is the April Fools joke, but unfortunately, this is the true story…

Maybe, it is better to take the Editor’s advice and seek for “an alternative place of publication”, but it does not solve the problem that we are faced every time sending a paper to a journal: what is the peer review? Who are these anonymous referees and even anonymous Editorial Boards (try to talk to Classical and Quantum Gravity) making decisions about scientific relevance, significance and novelty of the results submitted for consideration?

I looked at the dictionary for the definition of peer review: “evaluation of a person’s work or performance by a group of people in the same occupation, profession, or industry”. It seems to me that I should consider myself as a part of this group: who accepted a wrong paper and who failed to find a referee with “a scientifically relevant” opinion on simple examples like exercises from a textbook in Physics.

In another letter from the same journal it was written: “Physics publishing is not an exact science.” It sounds contradictory: publishing papers in Physics, which is an exact science, is not an exact science. Especially it is strange to hear such a phrase from the Editor who determines the policies of the journal.

It reminds me the dialogue between Ellie Arroway and David Drumlin from my favourite movie “Contact” (“I’ve always believed…”).

David: “I know you must think this is all very unfair. Maybe that’s an understatement. What you don’t know is I agree. I wish the world was a place where fair was the bottom line, where the kind of idealism you showed at the hearing was rewarded, not taken advantage of. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world.”

Ellie: “Funny, I’ve always believed that the world is what we make of it.”

If the peer review is what we have made, did we want it? Are we part of it?

I should stop writing my post. It looks now more like a scary story rather than an April Fools joke…


About Natalia Kiriushcheva

I am a theoretical and computational physicist.
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One Response to The April Fools

  1. Pingback: Our replies | Gravity attraction

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