American Journal of Physics and peer-review

Raimo Lonka 28.12.2009

  At the beginning of November 2009 I submitted an article titled "On the relation of entropy and evolution" to the American Journal of Physics (AJP).
  My article included criticism against two other articles ("Entropy and evolution" by Daniel F. Styer and "Evolution and the second law of thermodynamics" by Emory F. Bunn) published earlier in the AJP. I was surprised because I received only one referee report. Usually there are two (or three) reports. The referee had found several errors in my article and did not recommend publication.

  AJP Editor told me that they do not want a new revision of my article. Later I sent my article (corrected some typos) directly to Daniel F. Styer and Emory F. Bunn and I asked for a comment. Prof. Bunn did not want to comment but prof. Styer did send me his comments. Again it was time to be surprised. Prof. Styer's comments included exactly the same phrases as the referee report I received from the AJP! The only conclusion I could make was that the referee had been Styer himself. We are told that the peer-review is impartial, fair and free of bias. Nice words indeed!

Here's my correspondence with prof. Daniel F. Styer and AJP Editor Jan Tobochnik:

Lonka vs. Styer:
========================

RL:
  Referring to your article published in the AJP I'm enclosing my article which includes criticism about the claims/speculations presented in your article. Please feel free to comment.

  I think that the entropy&evolution topic is very relevant in the origins debate and I'm planning to set up a web site devoted to this topic. I would like to include also your article in the site. I'd like the site to be a kind of "open source" including all, or a good deal of material related to this topic so that any interested 3rd party would have access to all arguments (including your possible comments) presented. Please let me know whether you are able/willing to give such permission. AJP editor Jan Tobochnik biefly said to me that he can not give the permission.

  P.S. I'm specially interested how do you see the apparent conflict between your (&Bunn's) paper and the papers of Annila et al. about the effect of evolution on entropy (neg vs. pos).


  Comments concerning "On the relation of entropy and evolution" by Raimo Lonka (version of 30 November 2009)

Comments by Dan Styer copyright (c) 4 December 2009:

I just took a skim at this paper and found multiple errors in the first
[cut]

"[E]nergy is converted into heat." No. Heat is a form of energy transfer, not a form of energy. But if heat were a form of energy, then energy would be converted from one form to another, not from "energy" into "heat".

[cut]

RL:
  Thank you very much for your comments. What is most interesting is that you write exactly the same way (using exactly the same phrases) as the anonymous referee, who evaluated my article for AJP. So I can conclude that you must be the referee! Congratulations! (I would also like to be a referee for articles critical to my article! =D. What a perfect position to defend yourself!!) Well,
  I'm only an honest amateur and I really thought that the peer-review process would be more open and impartial. But anyway this is very interesting material for a web site!

An excerpt from your mail commenting my article:

"[E]nergy is converted into heat." No. Heat is a form of energy transfer, not a form of energy. But if heat were a form of energy, then energy would be converted from one form to another, not from "energy" into "heat".

An excerpt from Referee's report on AJP manuscript 23081:

"energy is converted into heat." No. Heat is a form of energy transfer, not a form of energy. But if heat were a form of energy, then energy would be converted from one form to another, not from "energy" into "heat".

What a coincidence, like a spontaneous emergence of life!
[cut]

DS:
  If you have substantive things to say, I'll try to discuss them with you. If you wish to discuss social issues rather than science, or if you wish to chatter about which of dozens of definitions of "heat" is the one most appropriate to thermodynamics, I'll not discuss them because there's no reason to.

RL:
  The substantive things are in my article and currently I'm quite satisfied with your comments so far. In my opinion the peer-review process is not a social issue and I expect it to be a process that is impartial, fair and conducted in a manner free of bias. In my case these fundamental principles have been violated.

  I'll be preparing (later) a web site, which will include all arguments presented and your comments & referee report and my response to them. I will also include the details of the "peer-review" process in my case, which is a good example of "self-defending" science making.
Your further comments are welcome and will be added to the site.

DS:
  My remarks to you on 4 December was copyrighted and you may not legally post it on any web site. I remain open to questions about science.

RL:
  Oh, don't worry, I will not break the law. I need only some citations and you can be sure that I will not forget to mention the source...

Lonka vs. Tobochnik
========================

RL:
  Have you send the referee report on AJP manuscript 23081 to anyone else than me?
If you have, please list all those who have received the report.

JT:
I send the reviews to reviewers.

RL:
  One further question:
Does the reviewer have legitimate right to send the referee report to any 3rd party or is it a confidential issue between AJP and the reviewer?

JT:
  It should not be sent to a 3rd party. You may discuss it with individuals to help you understand it. But if it ever appeared in public we would consider it a breach of professional ethic.

RL:
  You did not seem to understand my question, so I try to make it more simple: Is this the complete scenario what happened when I submitted my article "On the relation of entropy and evolution":
1) You sent my submission to the reviewer
2) Reviewer wrote the referee report and sent it only you and not to any 3rd party
3) You sent the referee report to me with the decision about publication
Please add if there were any other steps or procedures or any other correspondence with any parties not mentioned here.

JT:
  As I believe I already explained, I do send the review of reviewer r1 to r2 and vice versa. Otherwise what you write below is correct.

RL:
  So there should be two reviewers r1 and r2.
Why I received only one report?
Please tell me also how do you guarantee that the review process is impartial and free of bias?

JT:
The other reviewer simply wrote comments to me, saying the same thing as the first reviewer.
Thus, I didn't send you the comments directed to me. I have had enough of your questions. I will not respond to any further emails from you.

Here's a concise guide to aid a newbie in submitting an article to the American Journal of Physics (AJP).

1) When you receive the manuscript id, which means that your submission has been accepted for a peer-review remember to ask the number of reviewers and remember to demand that all referee reports must be send to you, OK.
2) If you need to make any questions to the AJP Editor you should remember
2a) to formulate your questions so that you can expect to recieve an understandable and informative answers
2b) to make straight and simple questions so that you can expect to recieve uninterpretable and clear answers
2c) to minimize the number of your questions, so that you can expect to receive an answer to all of your questions

  Please remember that following these guidelines does not guarantee that your article will receive an impartial, fair and unbiased peer-review in the American Journal of Physics (AJP), but it may help you to deal with the situation. Good luck! ;-)

  Science is our best means of gaining information about the world we are living in. However it will perform only as well as the weakest point of it. Unfortunately science is not a restless and incorruptible robot just producing new data. There is also a human factor involved. Scientist, scholars, students and scientifcally oriented individuals should work together to demand for a truly impartial, fair and unbiased peer-review process, which is an essential part of the scientific scrutiny. I think that we all deserve it.

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29.12.09