I am a long time physics arXiv content provider with >38 articles deposited since 1999 (partial list) in various fields of physics reflecting my research activity. In addition the arXiv is supported financially by all German universities, which are in turn also financed through research grants, including mine.
Since October 26, 2015, I find myself in a very awkward situation markedly different from previous years. The arXiv stopped working as a pre-print (or even re-print) server, despite its mission statement striving for good scientific practices (principles of the arXiv’s operation):
1.5. Criteria and standards for depositing content in arXiv are maintained by the Scientific Advisory Board, and deposit is governed by transparent and publicly posted policies and procedures.
The arXiv once provided a direct way of sharing forthcoming physics articles (often before peer review, thus the name pre-print as opposed to re-print server) and announcing the abstract of forthcoming contributions on mailing lists.
At the moment arXiv submissions seem to be in a worse state than old paper-journals, which took weeks to reach their destination by surface mail. The problems I am facing are
- a submitted article is put seemingly randomly “on hold” for months by (anonymous) moderators/editors without any explanation. This amounts to a complete lack of accountability and puts any appeal process in limbo.
- inquiries and updates regarding the pre-print are ignored and not followed up. How can it be that an article published meanwhile in a peer-reviewed physics letter journal requires months of attention by arXiv moderators to decide if it should be put on the arXiv?
- the arXiv seems to not follow its own protocols. For instance endorsements were introduced to do a basic checking if a scientific style is kept and the topic fits the arXiv guidlines (but the endorser should not “referee” the manuscript). I was not asked to obtain endorsement.
This turns the arXiv preprint server into a random post-journal publication selector of articles. Articles get meanwhile published in the relevant peer-reviewed journal. This has severe consequences for me as a scientists: I cannot rely on the arXiv to provide an un-biased selection of articles submitted by an author and to provide timely (pre-print!) references to prior work – I want back the valuable open access Los Alamos preprint server!
If there is indeed a high volume of physics arXiv submissions which get published in peer-reviewed physics journals but are put on-hold by the arXiv moderators for months (as implied in the reply by the arXiv moderators), that is very alarming news and calls for action to keep the arXiv in a useful state for the scientific community.
Here are the specifics of my case leading to this blog entry. My inquiry from Jan 15, 2016
Dear arxiv moderators,
since Oct 26 2015 I have not received any statement about the moderation of our article “Prevailing dust-transport directions on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko”, meanwhile published in the American Astrophysical Societies Letter Journal “Astrophysical Journal Letters”, http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015ApJ…813L..33K
besides saying that there is no decision has been reached. The arxiv posting was done before the article got published in the journal (a “pre-print” in the best sense).
I am astonished by the delay and lack of approval of the arxiv moderation regarding a standard (and meanwhile published) astrophysical paper and would like to bring this extreme case to the attention of the named person overseeing the moderation process listed in the Scientific Advisory Board.
NONE of the criteria listed on the web-pages applies:
-inappropriate format: not the case, article meanwhile published as LETTER in the main journal of the AAS
-inappropriate topic: not the case, many articles about comets are put on the arxiv
-submission of copyrighted material: not the case
-excessive submission rate: not the case
As a long time and loyal arxiv user and content provider since 1999
I am deeply worried by this lack of action and hope for a fast resolution and explanation what went wrong here. If not, this undermines the usefulness and the very purpose and justification of a preprint server financed internationally.
With best regards,
Response from Jan 16, 2015:
Dear Tobias Kramer,
We apologize for the delay for your article. Unfortunately we do not yet have a final decision on your submission. Due to the volume of submissions we are unable to provide any updates on submissions that are in “on hold” status. Upon a decision, your article will either be deposited or we will contact you with further information.
— arXiv moderation
I will be happy to receive and (if wanted) share comments I receive about similar cases. I am not talking about dubious articles or non-scientific theories, but about standard peer-reviewed contributions published in established physics journals, which should be on the arXiv, for instance on the astrophysics of comets these.