J. S. Lundeen, B. Surtherland, A. Patel, C. Stewart, and C. Bamber,This paper claims to directly measure a complex quantum wavefunction using weak
"Direct measurement of the quantum wavefunction", Nature 474, 188191
(a) JPA held the Comment submission P for almost a year before(4) Concern about the difficulty of genuine peer review in physical science reported
rejecting it. They were unable to obtain a referee's report. (By comparison,
DJ was accepted in about a month despite the fact that JPA was well
aware that its main result was disputed.) The only "reason" given for the rejection
was that "this course [rejection] is the most satisfactory [for JPA]".
(b) Meanwhile, JPA furnished a copy of P to Dressel and Jordan , in
response to which they published in JPA the Corrigendum DJcorr.
JPA never sought my opinion of DJcorr; I only found out about
it by accident.
(c) After noticing the incorrect matrix multiplication which invalidated
DJcorr, I submitted to JPA yet another "Comment" pointing it out.
JPA held this one for about six months before rejecting it on the
pretext that its "claim" that DJcorr's proof is incorrect had already
been posted in the arXiv! Indeed, the author of the rejection (an unnamed
member of JPA's Editorial Board) went so far as to say that it was not necessary
for JPA to even consider this claim [that the proof relied in an essential way on
an incorrect multiplication of two matrices]. This may sound so unbelievable
that the reader may want to read the short rejection letter reproduced verbatim
(including unusual formatting) here.
[NOTE added Feb. 25, 2014: In the originally posted version of this entry, the link
just above linked to the wrong document. It linked to the rejection letter for the
Comment P rather than to the rejection for the later Comment on the error of the
Corrigendum DJcorr.
Also, perhaps I should have mentioned that the substance of the refusal to even
consider the "claim" that the proof of DJcorr rested on the incorrect multiplication
of two matrices is in the short middle section (delineated with "======")
comprising the Board members report. I included the entire email containing
some distracting boilerplate because I was afraid that if I deleted all but
the short Board member's report, it might seem as if I could have
deleted something important. ]
(d) The authors had also published the main result of DJ as part of a long
paper in Physical Review A (PRA), which was written in a different and
unusual notation:
Phys. Rev. A 85, 022123 (2012), arXiv:11100418v2It is generally considered bad form to publish the same result twice,
but perhaps it could be justified in this case because of the different notations.
The proof of the PRA paper contained the same error
[an incorrect matrix multiplication] as DJcorr.
I submitted a similar "Comment" paper to PRA, which initially rejected it
because of two negative referees' reports. Neither of these reports
addressed the issue of the incorrect matrix multiplication! One of the referees
admitted that he did not understand the mathematics of the PRA version of DJ's
proof. The other referee recommended rejection on the basis of an elementary
mathematical error which he made. It was clear from his report that
he didn't understand the mathematics, either.
I appealed the rejection. It took the adjudicator three months to report that
the proof of DJcorr was in fact invalidated because of an incorrect matrix
multiplication.
The adjudicator said that my "Comment" could be published (modulo a few
cosmetic changes), but that it would be better for the authors to submit an
Erratum instead. When I initially submitted the Comment, it was sent to the
authors, who refused to either confirm or deny the error. In case this sounds
almost unbelievable, I stand ready to furnish evidence in the form of the author's
reply which PRA furnished. (Because of the way it was obtained, I don't feel
comfortable putting it on the website, but I will furnish it privately upon serious
inquiry.) After the authors realized that the "Comment" would be published
unless they submitted an Erratum, they agreed. The Erratum has been published,
Phys. Rev. A 88, 039902(E) (2013)
and can be accessed without a subscription at the PRA website here .
(The authors have not posted it in the arXiv, nor as of this writing corrected
the posting arXiv:11100418v2 which contains the error.)
(e) To get back to J. Phys. A, I wondered if their astounding refusal to even
consider the Comment pointing out the error in DJcorr might possibly reflect
not the standards of the journal itself, but instead laziness in evaluating the
"claim" that the proof of DJcorr was invalid because of an incorrect matrix
multiplication.
[I have observed that many physicists dislike carefully reading proofs.
I speculated that it might have been hard to find a referee who would
would rule on the correctness of a proof, for fear of embarassment
should he be wrong. Referees typically prefer pronouncements
so vague as to be impossible to dispute.]
I wondered if the fact that the authors had admitted the error in PRA might
make a difference to JPA. Surely, I thought, the fact that a rival journal
had corrected the error where JPA refused to even consider the matter might
reflect badly on JPA.
So, I wrote to the publisher of JPA in October, 2013 to find out if its decision
not to correct DJcorr's error truly reflected the standards of JPA. The letter is here .
The reply received in December, 2013, makes clear that JPA's refusal to correct
DJcorr does reflect the low standards of JPA:
"Dear Dr Parrott,(3) Final assessment of the standards of the three mainstream journals involved
The Editorial Board and Publishing Staff have given full consideration
to your appeal on your Comment article with reference to our ethical
guidelines and I am writing to tell you that we will not be taking any
further action.
As you acknowledge, the authors have made corrections in subsequent
works. Your Comment does not make sufficient advance beyond these
subsequent works to merit publication in the journal. It is not best practice
to correct all historical articles that have been superceded by amended and
corrected works and we therefore must consider this matter closed.
[signed by the Publisher]
I have a few comments on this. First of all, the above letter to JPA was not an "appeal" to
reverse the decision to reject my Comment. It was an appeal "to publish some sort
[emphasis added] of correction to the claims of [DJ's 'General theorem'] and the Corrigendum".
What I had in mind was inducing Dressel and Jordan to themselves correct DJcorr.
That is what PRA did. If DJ refused, then JPA could publish the Comment.
Because the PRA version of DJ's "General theorem" is written in unusual and complicated
notation entirely different from the JPA version, the two may be almost unrecognizable as
essentially the same by many readers. Few readers of DJ and DJcorr will know that
their main result has been retracted in PRA.
At the very least, JPA could add a link to the PRA Erratum in the electronic version of
DJcorr alerting readers that its proof is invalid. If they didn't want to publish the Comment
and also DJ refused to correct DJcorr, they could add an editorial note to the effect that
DJcorr was disputed, and more details could be found in the PRA erratum.
We are talking about a onesentence notification that readers should not rely on the results of DJ
or DJcorr. Why would the publisher consider this "not best practice"?
It is clear to me that JPA has no interest in correcting erroneous work that they have
published.
in the Dressel/Jordan affair, Physical Review Letters (PRL), Journal of Physics A (JPA),
and Physical Review A (PRA
Standards of Physical Review Letters (PRL):
PRL published the original announcement of the main result of DJ (see above for
reference) with an abbreviated proof in:J. Dressel, S. Agarwal, and A. N. Jordan,This paper contained so many serious mathematical errors that
"Contextual values of observables in quantum measurements",
Phys. Rev. Lett. 104, 240401 (2010), arXiv:0911.4474
to be called DAJ below.
I cannot imagine that the referee(s) could have read it with any
care. The mathematical errors were fundamental, and not of the
nature of the incorrect matrix multiplication of DJcorr. That it
was published does not reflect well on PRL's standards.
[I don't want to make too much of the incorrect matrix multiplication,
which probably could have happened to anyone in a singly authored
paper, though its presence in the doubly authored DJcorr suggests that
one of the authors may not have been pulling his weight. But the serious
mathematical errors in DAJ are of a different nature.
DAJ should never have been published in its present
form. Any competent referee should have caught at least some if its
questionable statements, as I did. ]
In February, 2011, I wrote the authors about the errors and asking about
the sketch of the proof in DAJ of its only nontrivial mathematical claim.
They sent me an expanded proof which was fundamentally wrong. I
replied with my objection, but they never acknowledged it and ignored essentially
all subsequents inquiries about DAJ. Finally, I wrote up my objections in a Comment
paper and submitted it to PRL.
This Comment was not well received by PRL. It took months to persuade
the editor to even send it to a referee. I requested that the referee not be one who
had initially approved DAJ, but they sent it to him anyway. I know this because
his report stated that he had been persuaded to approve DAJ despite misgivings.
He recommended rejection of the Comment on the sole ground that he thought that
it would not be understandable by readers unfamiliar with DAJ.
This was an obvious pretext. Since PRL strictly limits its Comment papers to one page,
it is an obvious impossibility to summarize a complicated paper so that readers
unfamiliar with it could follow all the technical details. Were this requirement uniformly
enforced, PRL could publish almost no Comment papers.
I appealed, and the adjudicator (a Divisional Associate Editor) recommended rejection
on the same grounds. The DAE had the integrity to admit that he did not fully understand
the mathematics of DAJ, and he did not claim that there was any substantive error in the
rejected Comment.
Although the above and subsequent analysis is critical of PRL, I do want to record a note
of praise. Unlike JPA, PRL and PRA have an established appeal process, and part of
this process is that the DAE serving as adjudicator must sign his name to his report.
This is very important. It distinguishes his review from anonymous referees' reports.
Because the latter are anonymous, referees may suffer little embarassment if their reports
are obviously wrong. For example, the referees who refused to recognize the incorrect
matrix multiplication in DJcorr would probably have taken more care if they knew
that their identities would be revealed.
Years later, after the authors had retracted the result of PRA which had been announced in PRL,
I wrote to PRL asking if they might be interested in exploring with the authors the possibility of
an erratum in PRL.
[ The false PRL claim was much stronger than the PRA claim which the
authors had retracted in their Erratum. The PRL claim is known to be actually false. The
PRA claim is not known to be false, though it is known that the proof given in PRA is
incorrect. ]
Or, if the authors refused to correct their false PRL claim,
would PRL consider another Comment? The PRL editor flatly refused to raise the issue of an
Erratum with the authors, and stated that once a Comment on a paper had been rejected, no further
Comment submissions on that paper would be considered.
My conclusion from all this is the same as the conclusion for Journal of Physics A stated above:
PRL has no discernible interest in correcting erroneous work which it has published.
The lengthy details of my extensive interaction with PRL can be found in the August 18, 2012 entry.
Standards of Physical Review A (PRA):
I have long realized that all the Physical Review journals with which I am familiar, including PRL,
PRA, and Phys. Rev. D, publish many papers which are of poor quality and not infrequently outright wrong.
To detail the reasons for this impression would require many pages which would doubtless
strain the reader's patience.
PRA's editorial judgement was poor. It was not necessarily the editor's fault that incompetent referees
were selected, but it should have been obvious from their reports that they were either incompetent or
lacking in integrity (e.g., they both failed to address the incorrect matrix multiplication which was
the essence of the Comment).
Also, PRA's published standards for evaluating Comment submissions were not followed. The published
standards state that the Comment is first sent to the authors of the commented paper, who return a response
(not a formal Reply for publication) which is sent to the author of the Comment. The very sensible idea is to see
how much agreement might be reached in informal exchanges.
However, this was (deliberately) not done in this case. The editor did send the Comment to the authors,
who returned a response that they had decided to ignore the Comment, even if it should be correct. This
response was not sent to me until I specifically asked about it.
PRA seemed to treat the authors' refusal to discuss their paper or the Comment submission
as completely normal and proper. In so doing they were actively enabling the authors' "stonewall" tactics.
It is incomprehensible to me why PRA apparently made no attempt to induce the authors to cooperate
in the evaluation of the Comment prior to the report of the adjudicator of the appeal of the initial rejection.
When the issue is whether two 2 x 2 matrices have been multiplied correctly,
why should it have been necessary to consult two referees and allow a threemonth appeal to drag on?
That said, of the three journals PRL, JPA, and PRA, without doubt PRA comes out the best.
Despite the many questionable aspects of PRA's editorial procedures, it does have a defined appeal
process which did work in this case. The most important erroneous claim of the PRA version of
DJ was corrected in print.
The details of my interaction with PRA can be found in the October 27, 2013 entry.
(The full details are accessed via a link at the bottom of the entry.}
A brief summary is given above in item (d) of (2) above (titled New information on the standards
of Journal of Physics A (JPA)).
Final assessment of the standards of Journal of Physics A (JPA):
As regards DJcorr, this is covered above under the "new information" heading,
so I'll just make a few additional remarks here.
The impression that I have gained from my interactions with this journal is that it
entirely lacks integrity. Besides the deficiencies noted above, JPA often ignores
correspondence.
A typical example is a November 4, 2012 letter raising various issues
which should concern any journal with integrity (e.g., whether the Lemma
of DJcorr would actually prove the claimed "General theorem" of DJ) as DJcorr
asserts. This letter was initially ignored. After a second inquiry,
JPA did reply to my request for the referees' reports for
my rejected Comment that they had held for almost a year.
(They admitted that there were no referees' reports apart from
a few superficial comments from a member of the Editorial Board.)
The reply which admitted that there were no external referees' reports
promised to reply later to the rest of the Nov. 4 letter, but JPA never did.
The letter also responds to an astonishing suggestion from JPA. I had actually
simultaneously submitted two Comment papers to DJ. The longer and more important
one discussed above pointed out a gap in DJ's main result which it calls the "General theorem".
The other Comment pointed out a simple way to accomplish something which DJ treated
in a more complicated and less satisfactory manner.
The shorter Comment was rejected on the grounds that it was too trivial.
[I do not dispute its mathematical triviality, but it is an important triviality whichHowever, the author of the rejection (an unnamed member of JPA's Editorial Board)
Dressel and Jordan somehow overlooked in DJ. There were no external
referees' reports for this Comment, either. ]
made the astonishing suggestion that despite its triviality, JPA would consider the Comment
if it were submitted as a paper coauthored with Dressel and Jordan! Anyone who suspects
that I may be distorting what JPA offered can find it here verbatim.
Dressel and Jordan had nothing to do with the Comment; in fact they had refused to
communicate with me for months. Almost all journals consider it unethical to add authors
to a paper who have contributed nothing to it. That a paper which I alone had written was
considered too trivial for JPA, but would nevertheless be considered if I agreed to add
other authors who had nothing to do with it well illustrates why I consider that
JPA lacks integrity.
More details on my interactions with JPA can be found in the November 23, 2012 entry.
"NanoImaging Feud Sets Online Sites Sizzling" by Robert F. Service,It describes the efforts of two researchers in Material Science, Philip Moriarty and Raphael Levy, to
Science 24 January 2014:
Vol. 343 no. 6169 pp. 358358
DOI:10.1126/science.343.6169.358
NEWS & ANALYSIS
4 Comments.
J. Emerson, D. Serbin, C. Sutherland, and V. Veitch , "The whole is greaterFor background, see the July, 2012 entry commenting on a muchdiscussed paper
than the sum of the parts: on the possibility of purely statistical interpretations of
quantum theory" , www.arXiv.org/abs/1312.1345v1 , abbreviated ESSV below.
J. Dressel, S. Agarwal, and A. N. Jordan, "Contextual values ofand wrote the authors enquiring about what I suspected might be serious errors.
observables in quantum measurements",
Phys. Rev. Lett. 104, 240401 (2010), arXiv:0911.4474
to be called DAJ below,
Dressel, J., and Jordan, A. N., "Sufficient conditions forThese proofs turned out to be wrong, too. Very recently, after a
uniquness of the weak value",
J. Phys. A: Math. Theor. 45 , 015304 (2012), arXiv:1106.1871
Dressel, J. and Jordan, A. N., "Contextualvalue approach to
the generalized measurement of observables",
Phys. Rev. A 85, 022123 (2012), arXiv:1110.0418 .
Phys. Rev. A 88, 039902 .The J. Phys. A (JPA) attempted proof remains uncorrected, as does the original erroneous
Cheong, Y. W., and Lee, SW., "Balance between information gain and reversibility in weak measurements, Phys. Rev. Lett. 109, 150402 (2012), http://arXiv.org/abs/1203.4909I hoped to improve on this solution by obtaining a method which would restore the state with a greater probability than that of Cheong and Lee, but detailed calculation revealed that the probability of success with my more general method was exactly the same as that of Cheong and Lee. Whether this is simply an accident or could be predicted with sufficient insight is unknown (to me, of course!). I can't help wondering if some as yet undiscovered general principle might be responsible.
N. Katz, et al., "Reversal of the Weak Measurement of a Quantum State in a Superconducting Phase Qubit", Phys. Rev. Lett. 101, 200401 (2008)This reports an experimental implementation of the restoration problem above. It was featured in a "Viewpoint" article in the American Physical Society's expository journal Physics , available online without a subscription at http://physics.aps.org/articles/v1/34 . The essay comments on the Katz article and the Viewpoint presentation, as well as the Cheong/Lee paper above.
[The offer was to the journal, not the authors because the authors refuse to communicate with me. The journal has ignored a message asking if the offer was passed on the the authors.]Can you believe that a journal could take six months (and counting!) to resolve the issue of whether two 2 x 2 matrices have been correctly multiplied? Even after all the unprofessional behavior reported in previous blogs, I wouldn't have, but that is what has happened.
These ''Comments" commented on J. Dressel, J., and A. N. Jordan, "Sufficient conditionsOn November 2, I received a rejection letter for both "Comment"s.
for uniqueness of the Weak Value", J. Phys. A: Math. Theor. 45 015304 (2012).
This paper will be called DJ below.
Suppose we have 12 balls, of which 11 are identical and one "odd ball" is heavier or lighter than the rest (but we don't know which).
Given a balance scale, determine in no more than three weighings which is the "odd" ball.
Hardy, L., "Foliable Operational Structures for General Probabilistic Theories", arXiv0912.4740 .I have not attempted to read this later paper in detail. However, I would love to discuss the earlier 2001 paper with anyone who has (or is prepared to) read it in detail.
"The journals of the APS are expanding on library shelves faster than the speed ofThis is mildly amusing because, though distorted, there is more than a grain of truth in it.
light, but this does not contradict the theory of relativity because no information
is being conveyed."
Around October,
2009 
