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Vital resource should be open to all physicists

Putting control in the hands of a few can enforce orthodoxy and stifle innovative ideas.

Sir

Your News story “Rejected physicists instigate anti-arXiv site” (Nature 432, 428–429; 2004) reports a response from Paul Ginsparg, the founder of the preprint server arXiv.org, to criticisms of its publication policies. Ginsparg states that the rules governing who can and cannot publish are clearly stated on the site, and that the archive is designed for “communication among research professionals, not as a mechanism for outsiders to communicate to that community”.

The cases documented by myself and others on the ArchiveFreedom website show that there is more to the story.

The exclusion of particular individuals and particular ideas from arXiv appears to me to be deliberate. If a rule can be invoked in support, however tenuous the link, the rule is quoted; otherwise, submissions are simply ‘deleted as inappropriate’. For example, having stated that a very distinguished physicist's strong support of a submission carried no weight because this physicist “was not intimately familiar with the work in question”, the moderators simply ignored subsequent support from an endorser with publications on the same subject.

In another example, the moderators' response to the information that more than one eminent physicist had an interest in a subject that they wished to bar was: “We are always thrilled to hear when people find an avocation that keeps them off the streets and out of trouble.”

ArXiv has become a vital communicative resource for the physics community. The moderators' attitude to any challenge to conventional thinking is likely to result in the loss to science of important innovative ideas. Radical changes are required in the way the archive is administered.

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Josephson, B. Vital resource should be open to all physicists. Nature 433, 800 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/433800a

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