problems with arXiv

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Phillip Helbig (undress to reply)

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Feb 9, 2022, 7:44:29 AMFeb 9
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It seems that my own preferences for public online discussion---usenet
over blogs over Twitter---is rather the reverse of the popularity of
those media. As such, I recently joined Twitter to publicize what I see
as a serious problem with arXiv. To some extent, I'm blowing my own
horn, but the problem is much bigger than my problem, and others who are
affected are probably more heavily affected and moreover are afraid to
speak out because of fear of getting banned by arXiv (which is itself a
problem).

Although I'm happy to answer questions here, I've probably said all I
need to say in a guest post on John Baez's Azimuth blog:
https://johncarlosbaez.wordpress.com/2022/02/04/submission-to-arxiv/ so
check that out and follow the links in that post and in the comments.
(For many years, John Baez was one of the moderators of this newsgroup.)
There is also a link to Twitter. I'm new at Twitter so no expert. Try
to find relevant posts---recent ones by myself, John Baez, Steinn
Sigurdsson, and Toby Bartels for a start---and like and retweet
(preferably with some substantial comment) the good ones as much as you
can. That shouldn't be the way the world works, but it is. As for
Sigurdsson's tweets, please point out their shortcomings.

So far, it seems that everyone is defending me and no-one is defending
arXiv. arXiv's strategy seems to be to suggest that my problem is
something of a one-off, when in fact it is more widespread. I would be
happy to hear from people similarly affected (and will keep it
confidential unless you explicitly say that I can mention you). The
most important things are to gather and present evidence that many
others are affected, and publicize the problem as much as possible.
There is a hope that arXiv might be forced by public pressure to admit
their wrongdoing here.

Stefan Ram

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Feb 16, 2022, 4:16:18 AMFeb 16
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hel...@asclothestro.multivax.de (Phillip Helbig (undress to reply)) writes:
>So far, it seems that everyone is defending me and no-one is defending
>arXiv.

Instead of these three long paragraphs digressing into
irrelevant sidebars about the popularity of Twitter or who
once moderated this newsgroup but making a secret of what
actually /is/ your problem with arXiv, I'd have preferred
the following structure of a post titled "problems with arXiv":

My problem with arXiv is ...

Phillip Helbig (undress to reply)

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Feb 17, 2022, 2:42:44 AMFeb 17
to
In article <archive-202...@ram.dialup.fu-berlin.de>,
that a paper published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical
Society, one of the handful of top journals in the field of cosmology,
is not allowed into the obviously appropriate astro-ph category at
arXiv. The Scientific Director of arXiv, Steinn Sigurdsson, has now
publicly stated that SCOAP3 somehow prevents all MNRAS papers from
appearing in astro-ph, claiming that arXiv would get sued if that
happened. He doesn't say by whom or why. arXiv refused to tell me why
my paper had been reclassified (to gen-ph; I have since deleted the
submission, which I was exceptionally allowed to do, but then arXiv
still complained that I broke the rules by doing so) until some
prominent colleagues put in a word for me, but even then they were told
different reasons from those I was told. Throughout arXiv behaved in an
arrogant, condescending, and thorougly unprofessional manner.

Most people think that Sigurdsson is lying (or at least severely
misinformed, which would imply gross incompetence on his part and
negligence on the part of arXiv for keeping him in post now that that is
known), but if so, then why? If SCOAP3 does prevent all MNRAS papers
from being in astro-ph (and presumably similarly for other journals and
other fields), the community should be aware of it.

The main downside of this is that most of the community believes that
all serious papers can be on arXiv if the author wants them to be (and
the journal allows it). That is manifestly not the case, which leads to
a huge disadvantage for authors of such papers, made worse by
irresponsible people in power who claim that any good paper can be on
arXiv (and hence that papers which are not are not good).

Much of the community relies on arXiv, but arXiv behaves
unprofessionally and can continue to do so because it is accountable to
no-one.

More at https://johncarlosbaez.wordpress.com/2022/02/04/submission-to-arxiv/

Stefan Ram

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Feb 18, 2022, 3:52:25 AMFeb 18
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hel...@asclothestro.multivax.de (Phillip Helbig (undress to reply)) writes:
>In article <archive-202...@ram.dialup.fu-berlin.de>,
>>My problem with arXiv is ...
>that a paper published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical
>Society, one of the handful of top journals in the field of cosmology,
>is not allowed into the obviously appropriate astro-ph category at
>arXiv.

Already on 2017-03-03, Hontas Farmer complained about
something similar on a Web page titled "Censorship at the
arXiv: endorsements, and even publication won’t matter.".


Phillip Helbig (undress to reply)

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Feb 18, 2022, 4:26:21 PMFeb 18
to
In article <publications-...@ram.dialup.fu-berlin.de>,
r...@zedat.fu-berlin.de (Stefan Ram) writes:

> hel...@asclothestro.multivax.de (Phillip Helbig (undress to reply)) wri=
tes:
> >In article <archive-202...@ram.dialup.fu-berlin.de>,
> >>My problem with arXiv is ...
> >that a paper published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical
> >Society, one of the handful of top journals in the field of cosmology,
> >is not allowed into the obviously appropriate astro-ph category at
> >arXiv.
>
> Already on 2017-03-03, Hontas Farmer complained about
> something similar on a Web page titled "Censorship at the
> arXiv: endorsements, and even publication won't matter.".

I'm not familiar with his case. (Certainly not everyone who complains
about refusal by arXiv has a valid claim. arXiv definitely needs
moderation; if there were none, then it would look like viXra. And even
crackpots can get endorsed (by someone) and published (somewhere).)

Having said that, most cases I have looked into seem to be legitimate
complaints. I'm grateful to John Baez for hosting my guest post, but
unfortunately there is little discussion there. He said that he would
tweet about it, and I joined Twitter so that I could follow the
discussion. Initially, there was some vibrant discussion. Sigurdsson
(the scientific director of arXiv) was desperately trying to defend
arXiv, now claiming publicly that SCOAP3 somehow prevents arXiv from
allowing all MNRAS papers into astro-ph (and presumably similarly for
other journals and other fields) and that arXiv would get sued if it
did. But when people (not just I) asked who will sue arXiv, or on what
grounds, there was no response. (Many also doubt that SCOAP3 applies in
my case at all.) I decided to give Ginsparg another chance to fix
things before too much damage to his legacy is done. I seem to have got
his attention, and since then Sigurdsson has been silent; I don't know
whether there is any connection.

Ginsparg knows what is going on. When I first contacted him
several months ago (after I had the impression that nothing more would
happen unless I go public), he said that he is no longer involved in the
day-to-day running of arXiv. This time, when I stated that Sigurdsson
is now publicly trotting out the SCOAP3 explanation, he responded very
quickly and asked for concrete details.

The main problem is not my paper, especially since Sigurdsson is
claiming publicly that it wasn't the (lack of) quality which got it
reclassified, but rather some sort of legal pressure. Sure, it's not
the best paper on arXiv, but there are worse, and no-one who has read it
thinks that it shouldn't be on arXiv in astro-ph (whatever else they
think of it). The problem is that practically everyone assumes that all
papers from the major journals are on arXiv if the author wants them
there (and perhaps if there are no restrictions on the part of the
journal). It's not a huge disadvantage for me, but if something similar
happened to someone's first paper, the consequences could be
catastrophic.

There is little actual discussion at Twitter. If there is disagreement,
usually one side just criticizes the other with vastly exaggerated
claims (e.g. if you support J. K. Rowling then you are a Nazi; if you
are concerned about climate change you want the government to take away
all individual freedom) or just block them and so don't read any
opinions which disagree with them. There is something to be said for
discussion within a learned society or whatever, where someone has the
floor, there are rules of order, and people cannot only make their case
but those who want to engage at all have to hear it and might even be
convinced. But it seems that learned societies are no longer calling
the shots on research, but rather strange behind-the-scenes coalitions.

Rock Brentwood

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May 17, 2022, 2:46:05 AM (2 days ago) May 17
to
[[Mod. note -- Long lines rewrapped. -- jt]]

On Wednesday, February 9, 2022 at 6:44:29 AM UTC-6, Phillip Helbig (undress to reply) wrote:
> It seems that my own preferences for public online discussion---usenet
> over blogs over Twitter---is rather the reverse of the popularity of
> those media. As such, I recently joined Twitter to publicize what I see
> as a serious problem with arXiv. To some extent, I'm blowing my own
> horn, but the problem is much bigger than my problem, and others who are
> affected are probably more heavily affected and moreover are afraid to
> speak out because of fear of getting banned by arXiv (which is itself a
> problem).

The answer is simple and immediate: fork it, clone it, and take
control away from arXiv. Acquisition of the archive contents can
be done distributively rather than from a single location. But in
these days of at-home pB storage (which is a thing now), storage
itself need not be distributed - though it should for reasons of
security against single-point-of-attack take-downs. A good task for
Anonymous ... who has now gone onto Mastodon-run federated social
media. It may be time for USENET, itself, to follow suit and meld
into and with federated social media ... as we noted last year in
a brief e-mail exchange. I think you're beginning to see more clearly
why I made an issue of over-centralization in my heads-up last year.
The difference between then and now is that you're no longer a mere
spectator: "they've come for you".
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