By Catarina Dutilh Novaes
All of you reading this will certainly have witnessed the uproar this week in response to a paper published in Synthese which is problematic, to say the least, for a number of different reasons. (It is worth noticing, as has been often noticed, that this paper has been online for 22 months, but presumably having appeared in the latest printed edition of Synthese, those on the Synthese mailing list will have received a notification, and someone actually took the trouble of checking the paper. From there on, it went ‘viral’ through the usual channels – Facebook, blogs etc.) In particular, it contains a passage with clear homophobic and sexist content. [But see UPDATE below.] But this is not the only issue with the paper, which overall seems to be below the level of scholarship that one would expect in a journal like Synthese.
[Full disclosure: I’ve known the author, JYB, for many years, and have attended a number of the events he regularly organizes. He was supportive of my career at its early stages. I know two of the Synthese editors-in-chief quite well, and the third I have close indirect contacts with (he is a regular collaborator of one of my closest colleagues). I have 5 papers published in Synthese, two of which are forthcoming in two different special issues.]
There is no question to me that this paper should not have been published in its current form. JY Béziau has made important contributions to logic earlier in his career, but in recent years his work has not been of the same caliber as his earlier work (this is also the opinion of a number of people I’ve talked to much before this episode). So purely on the basis of the paper’s merits, the decision to publish it in Synthese (whoever made the decision) seems to have been misguided. Adding to that the homophobic and sexist content, then the decision to publish it is not only misguided but also deeply disturbing. But the issue I want to discuss here is: what does this say about the editorial process in Synthese? Does this episode warrant calls for the resignation of the current editors-in-chief?