Libel case against the scientific journal Nature begins

Nov 14, 2011 by Bob Yirka report
Nature logo

(PhysOrg.com) -- The British science journal Nature, which publishes both purely academic papers and editorial pieces, is being sued in a British court by a former editor of the theoretical physics journal Chaos, Solitons & Fractals, for libel. In the suit, Mohamed El Naschie, an Egyptian mathematician and engineer, alleges claims made by Nature in an article published back in 2008, damaged his reputation.

The case highlights a growing concern in the , at least in Britain, that individuals or corporations are increasingly turning to libel suits to prevent information about them being released. The end result, some worry, is that it will lead to less scientific debate, and subsequently sloppy science that will serve no one but those conducting science purely for the purpose of profit.

In the case of Mr. Naschie, Nature pointed out in the article in question what it had come to learn from speaking with various sources in the scientific community, namely that Mr. Naschie was using the journal he was working for to further his own career by publishing his own articles, rather than other’s in the field as is traditionally done in other such journals. The point being, that such articles wouldn’t necessarily have to pass a stringent process before being printed, which might lead some to suggest that they weren’t up to snuff. Which is pretty much what Nature wrote.

But in printing such assertions an article, the publishers at Nature chose to attack an individual, which they knew would severely damage his reputation. They stuck their necks out for what they believed was a noble cause: exposing a research scientist who was side-stepping the time-tested process used by scientists the world over to maintain trust in the scientific community, the peer review process. Without it, journals would be filled with articles claiming all manner of nonsense forcing those interested in serious science to seek more private avenues to discern what was actually being achieved in any particular field.

Thus, the case is not just about Nature and Mr. Naschie, it’s about the rules of law and whether they can or should be used by those seeking to subvert the peer review process or whether journals such as Nature should be allowed to lay claims against an individual in such a public and sometimes humiliating way.

Of course this one case won’t settle the matter once and for all; law is a constantly evolving process. But whichever side wins in this case, it’s likely to serve as a very important precedent in future lawsuits.

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User comments : 13

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Squirrel
3 / 5 (8) Nov 14, 2011
Thankful Mr. Naschie has chosen Nature which is backed by a publisher with very deep pockets to fight this claim. Whatever the legal outcome, politically it will put the need for libel reform on the agenda for urgent change.
Pirouette
2.9 / 5 (10) Nov 14, 2011
I'm with the journal "Nature" on this. Although they went about it seemingly without a care for possible future libel suits, they DID warn legitimate and productive researchers against improper use of science media. I agree with Squirrel that there needs to be libel reform amongst the scientific community (I assume that's what he meant). If Mr. Naschie had been better informed as to the "peer review" rule, he should not have put himself in the position where a legitimate accusation could be hurled at him by a competing journal (Nature) with credible information about Naschie's lack of peer review before publishing his own work.
It happens in other media also, such as in news journals where plagiarism sometimes is detected. Where is the honesty?
rawa1
3.9 / 5 (11) Nov 14, 2011
El Naschie is a candidate in the 2012 Egyptian presidential elections. He also dislikes RationalWiki in particular, although the translation is so ropey it's not entirely clear why.

http://rationalwi..._Naschie

There was speculation that the editor-in-chief of Chaos, Solitons & Fractals, M. El Naschie, misused his power to publish his work without appropriate peer review. The journal had published 322 papers with El Naschie as author since 1993. The last issue of December 2008 featured five of his papers. http://elnaschiew...ost.html
El_Nose
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 14, 2011
i gave the preceding two people 5's for making a valid analysis even though someone seems to have gone through giving ones -- wierd -- i wonder if they even read what you all worte
rawa1
2.7 / 5 (7) Nov 14, 2011
- wierd -- i wonder if they even read what you all wrote
"Orac" is voting troll, he downvotes many people here mechanically. He never checks the content.

http://www.aether...orac.gif
Pirouette
1.7 / 5 (6) Nov 14, 2011
I shouldn't lose sleep over the Physorg rating system when we all know that strange people like Orac and FrankHerbert and their alter-egos go after anyone who has ever contradicted them with the truth even once. I gave everyone a 5 here also and would do it again if I could.
Callippo
1 / 5 (4) Nov 14, 2011
If all people here will be downvoted, all people will disable the filters in discussion and no one will care about voting anymore. All well meant activity becomes destructive when it's exaggerated - even for itself.
The privacy of action is the basic principle of democracy. IMO the public voting is counterproductive from this perspective - the people should be able to disable the users and their posts on private basis, but their voting shouldn't affect the others, until they're explicitly agree with it. For example, if I don't like the ommatur's posts, I should have the opportunity to disable him from all threads (optionally including all posts, which are reacting directly to him). But for other people such posts would remain visible. Such approach would eliminate both spammers, both voting trolls soon.
I'm somehow surprised, why no forum implemented this simple feature yet. If nothing else, it would eliminate the traffic. Why to download the posts from server,which I don't want to?
Jotaf
1 / 5 (2) Nov 14, 2011
I know of at least 2 cases of senior researchers who got tired of having their papers rejected and so founded their own journals or conferences. Which is a disrespect to any serious scientist out there. When you see a researcher's web page, disregard all publications made in conferences/journals he created. Over 300 papers... wow, that's a new record.

Of course everyone else has to bust their rears working. The few exceptions have no shame; they're usually a joke in their respective communities...

About the commenting system:
Agreed with Callippo. An alternative solution I'd like to see is an option to see only the 1st post of each commenter. This way you ignore long discussions and see only varied opinions.
Moose Dr_
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 15, 2011
What about truth? If Nature published the truth, it is not libelous. If Nature exaggerated, stepping outside of truth, let 'em loose in court. When tromping on the reputation of others, one should be very diligent not to overstep what can be proven to be truth.
88HUX88
not rated yet Nov 15, 2011
others'
Saltpeter
5 / 5 (1) Nov 15, 2011
I found the elnaschiewatch blogspot useful in getting some background to the case.

Ethelred
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 15, 2011
What about truth? If Nature published the truth, it is not libelous
That seems reasonable EXCEPT they are British not American

Nature is BRITISH. They have rather unusual libel laws. This site is also British BUT the servers are in the US, last time I checked anyway it was in Fullerton CA.

From Charles Stross's website:
http://www.antipo...icy.html
Unfortunately, the server this blog is based on is sited in London, and is therefore subject to the English law on defamation and libel, which is entirely batshit crazy. Here's a concise layman's guide to what that means. I expect you to avoid making libelous postings for the same reason I expect you to avoid going into a friend's house and smearing shit on their kitchen worktop: it's smelly, unpleasant, and leaves a mess for them to clean up. Hint for Americans: your First Amendment right does not apply outside the United States, and braying about it will not pay my legal fees.
>>
Ethelred
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 15, 2011
The link he used:
http://www.urban7...bel.html

This part is interesting
Update 2009: High Court ruling on bulletin board cases

The High Court has ruled that defamation on internet bulletin boards is akin to slander rather than libel.
So maybe things aren't quite as bad Web sites like this and Charlie's as he imagines.

Still the rules in England for libel are quite different than in the us. This guy could sue the British bookstores that carry Nature. The lorries that ship it. The guy that carried it from the lorry to the shop. Its WAY over the top. Unless the guy is dead then they say anything. Perhaps Nature might look into that. Accidents happen but I suspect he would have to have been dead at the time they wrote it. The murder rate in London would start to look like Los Angeles or New York.

Ethelred