Monday, August 03, 2009

Why viXra?

viXra is a new electronic e-print archive (not a mirror site of arXiv.org;-)) giving hopes for people like me in attempts to overcome the censorship wall making impossible to communicate using ordinary channels. The following quote summarizes the reasons why for viXra.
In 1991 the electronic e-print archive, now known as arXiv.org, was founded at Los Alamos National Laboratories. In the early days of the World Wide Web it was open to submissions from all scientific researchers, but gradually a policy of moderation was employed to block articles that the administrators considered unsuitable. In 2004 this was replaced by a system of endorsements to reduce the workload and place responsibility of moderation on the endorsers. The stated intention was to permit anybody from the scientific community to continue contributing. However many of us who had successfully submitted e-prints before then found that we were no longer able to. Even those with doctorates in physics and long histories of publication in scientific journals can no longer contribute to the arXiv unless they can find an endorser in a suitable research institution. The policies of Cornell University who now control the arXiv are so strict that even when someone succeeds in finding an endorser their e-print may still be rejected or moved to the "physics" category of the arXiv where it is likely to get less attention. Those who endorse articles that Cornell find unsuitable are under threat of losing their right to endorse or even their own ability to submit e-prints. Given the harm this might cause to their careers it is no surprise that endorsers are very conservative when considering articles from people they do not know. These policies are defended on the arXiv's endorsement help page. A few of the cases where people have been blocked from submitting to the arXiv have been detailed on the Archive Freedom website, but as time has gone by it has become clear that Cornell have no plans to bow to pressure and change their policies. Some of us now feel that the time has come to start an alternative archive which will be open to the whole scientific community. That is why viXra has been created. viXra will be open to anybody for both reading and submitting articles. We will not prevent anybody from submitting and will only reject articles in extreme cases of abuse, e.g. where the work may be vulgar, libellous, plagiarius or dangerously misleading. It is inevitable that viXra will therefore contain e-prints that many scientists will consider clearly wrong and unscientific. However, it will also be a repository for new ideas that the scientific establishment is not currently willing to consider. Other perfectly conventional e-prints will be found here simply because the authors were not able to find a suitable endorser for the arXiv or because they prefer a more open system. It is our belief that anybody who considers themselves to have done scientific work should have the right to place it in an archive in order to communicate the idea to a wide public. They should also be allowed to stake their claim of priority in case the idea is recognised as important in the future. Many scientists argue that if arXiv.org had such an open policy then it would be filled with unscientific papers that waste peoples time. There are problems with that argument. Firstly there are already a high number of submissions that do get into the archive which many people consider to be rubbish, but they don't agree on which ones they are. If you removed them all, the arXiv would be left with only safe papers of very limited interest. Instead of complaining about the papers they don't like, researchers need to find other ways of selecting the papers of interest to them. arXiv.org could help by providing technology to help people filter the article lists they browse. It is also often said that the arXiv.org exclusion policies don't matter because if an amateur scientist were to make a great discovery, it would certainly be noticed and recognised. There are two reasons why this argument is wrong and unhelpful. Firstly, many amateur scientists are just trying to do ordinary science. They do not have to make the next great paradigm shift in science before their work can be useful. Secondly, the best new ideas do not follow from conventional research and it may take several years before their importance can be appreciated. If such a discovery cannot be put in a permanent archive it will be overlooked to the detriment of both the author and the scientific community. Another argument is that anybody can submit their work to a journal where it will get an impartial review. The truth is that most journals are now more concerned with the commercial value their impact factor than with the advance of science. Papers submitted by anyone without a good affiliation to a research institution find it very difficult to publish. Their work is often returned with an unhelpful note saying that it will not be passed on for review because it does not meet the criteria of the journal. In part viXra.org is a parody of arXiv.org to highlight Cornell University's unacceptable censorship policy. It is also an experiment to see what kind of scientific work is being excluded by the arXiv. But most of all it is a serious and permanent e-print archive for scientific work. Unlike arXiv.org it is truly open to scientists from all walks of life. You can support this project by submitting your articles.
I love physics but -to be honest- find it very diffult to say the same about physicists in general. I used to think that people with highest academic ranks would behave like civilized human beings but my fate has been to gradually learn that too often scientist is what you obtain by subtracting what makes us humans - ethical behavior. Just a few days ago I learned that a new queen of beehive kills mercilessly all other candidates for queens. This could be understood as basic biology: Dawkins might speak about selfish genes. This brought to my mind the behavior of dictators like Stalin and what quite generally happens when a new idea is transformed to ideology. As super-string theory -just one example about a winner meme- became an ideology it used its fanatic proponents as instruments to kill competing memes using censorship and funding policy. This behavior brings to my mind a small child who thinks that he is the center of the world but slowly learns that also other human beings have desires and goals. Human kind has gone through a long cultural evolution and developed something called ethics and this kind of 'ideology justifies anything' and 'winner takes all' behavior means regression from culture to mere biology. My hope that viXra could help to create a new culture of science in which intellectual freedom would prevail and barbaric crackpot labeling and exclusion from scientific community would not be the everyday practice to treat those who have courage and ability to develop new views about reality.

6 Comments:

At 10:30 AM, Blogger Ulla said...

When I first heard of this new archive I thought, wau, how good, what a revenge.
In general openmindedness creates good discussions and new ideas, such that is badly needed these days. But the contributions should be interesting and have a fairly good class. Really hope that those who submit articles have selfcritisism, and it will be a success.

History is always written by the winners, and they are always right, no matter how wrong they might be. But if you want a change it must always begin from "downside" and small circumstances.

A small child have trust in what he/she is doing. Let it be that trust in the new archive will prevail and grow. Culture and memory must expand all the time, and so consciousness too. That is very important for our future.

I love biology, and I hope you have more loving thoughts to say about biologists than of physists:-) Though biology is a big anomaly:-)

Good luck with the new archive.

 
At 11:41 AM, Blogger Kea said...

That's great, Matti. I really hope Phil can keep this going without having to employ more people.

 
At 11:14 AM, Anonymous PhilG said...

It does not take much time to add in new submissions, and I can even find time to add a few new features. Today I added links in the author list so you can get a page of all Matti's works for example.

I could easily add a comment system now using Haloscan. What do people think about that? I could add it for every paper (on the abstract page) or just for authors that request. It would be too hard to let people moderate comments on their own papers so I would just use central moderation to remove anything rude, like on FQXi essays. I'd like to hear what people think about it before I do it.

 
At 7:48 PM, Blogger Matti Pitkanen said...

Haloscan is fine unless it causes too much work to you. It would be sad if you had to spent one hour in day in deleting insults.

 
At 2:38 PM, Blogger Gary said...

Interesting article
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090821135020.htm
Gary Ehlenberger

 
At 5:43 AM, Blogger Matti Pitkanen said...

To Gary:

also in science people believe what they want to be true. It is amazing how little skills in logical thinking help when one has decided to believe. I hope that I will not turn out to be a school example in this respect;-)!

 

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