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What is Science: an assembly of clans competing for recognition, or a society of collaborating enthusiasts?

I am not a physicist, I know that.

But I was trained as such (I have MS in theoretical physics with concentration in Condensed Matter).

Old habits die hard, so (even though most of my work is in education – I also have a PhD in education) from time to time I got an idea I want to explore. I have published some pieces on arxiv.org, and even have one work published in “Physica C: Superconductivity”.

Recently I sent to arxiv.org another piece.

After a couple of weeks, I eventually got an email, which basically asked me one question:

“Who are you?!” (I am paraphrasing, see below).

This is the actual email:

arXiv is intended as a forum for professional members of the scientific community to communicate their formal research results. Please provide the following information to help our moderators with your submission:
1.  Do you have a conventional publication record?  In what field?  Please provide us with a current list of publications.
2.  What is the precise nature of your institutional affiliation?”

As you can see – not a single word regarding the content of my piece.

At first this letter confused me, but then this letter amused me.

For as long as I remember myself, I have been under impression that for a scientific paper only the content of that paper that matters, the social status or affiliation of the author or the authors do not have any part in the decision making process on should the work be published or not.

Evidently, I was wrong.

The so called “Halo effect” has bee known and studied in psychology for a long time now (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halo_effect), it seems like overtime it plays stronger and stronger role even in the scientific society.

For example, it also affects our personal communication.

Recently I read an excellent book “Toward a Science of Education” by Professor James M. Kauffman. I wrote him a short letter. I he wrote me back and even attached one of his latest papers. This is the kind of a scientific communication I find – well – a scientific communication.

I also read a very interesting publication in “Nature” on the study of cognitive abilities of children (http://www.nature.com/news/how-to-raise-a-genius-lessons-from-a-45-year-study-of-super-smart-children-1.20537).

I wrote a short letter to one of the prominent scientists mentioned in the piece. I expressed my admiration of the work, asked for an advice in designing an experiment, but also made a kind of critical suggestion.

This is the letter:

“Dear Professor …,

after reading today a publication by Tom Clynes "How to raise a genius" (“Nature”) I read some of your publications as well.

You work and the work of your colleagues is fascinating!

I am not a psychologist, I am an educator who have been teaching math and physics for many years (my research is in the field of physics education).

Recently I bought a book with a set of IQ tests.

In 8 months I will be teaching physics (summer 2017) and I was thinking about trying some investigation on a correlation between solving IQ tests problems and taking physics courses. But I am not proficient enough in developing a study of such type (since I am not a psychologist).

I am wondering if I could attract your interests and maybe even help in designing such a study - maybe with adding looking at a possible correlation between spatial abilities and learning physics.

My experience tells me that there should be a correlation between mathematical abilities, spatial abilities and success in taking a physics course.

However, I think there is even a feedback correlation, namely, taking physics course has a positive effect on those abilities (like in quantum physics, measuring properties of an object changes the properties of that object).

I thought of presenting to students a set of IQ-like problems before and after the course, but maybe there is a better way to do it, for example using internet based resources.

And finally, may I offer my opinion on a relation between a spatial ability and a mathematical ability.

I would not think that those abilities are independent, like x and y axes in a Cartesian coordinate system.

What I have observed over the years of me teaching math and physics (lately mostly physics, which is applied math) is that students with better spatial skills are better on dealing with math and physics.

I think that might be because when doing math students have to be able to differentiate many different parts of mathematical expressions: in geometry - parts of the shapes or axillary constructions; in algebra - parts of expressions to manipulate with. In physics the reasoning process always starts from drawing a picture, and without being able to visualize what is happening with objects it is just impossible to solve any problem.

Sincerely yours,

Valentin

P.S. if you would like to find out more about me, I am on Facebook and LinkedIn, and keep my own site (below). Hope hearing from you, please feel free to comment, suggest, or ask.” 

Well, time passed, someone looked up my LinkedIn profile, but no one sent any respond.

I do understand that there are several possible interpretations of this event; I will leave it to you, the Reader, to chose the one which fits the best.

Finally, coming back to my original case – my physics piece sent to arxiv.org.

I sent them back this letter:

“Hi,

thank you for your inquiry,

on the matter,

1. I have always been under impression that the judgment of a scientific publication should be like a "blind test", i.e. based only on evaluating parameters of the publication per se, not and the parameters of the author(s) should not have any influence on the decision. If a publication might be of an interest to others, and the level of that interest is above a threshold it deserves to be provided for the community (assuming its general correctness); an example - Albert Einstein publishing work of Satyendra Nath Bose.

2. I was trained as a condensed matter theoretical physicist but my main field is physics and teacher education, but I do have one publication in the field of superconductivity, please follow the link

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921453410006179

(also, the attached picture)

3. I am a full time employee at Boston University Physics Department

Thank you

Dr. Valentin Voroshilov”

Do I have my piece accepted by arxiv.org?

You can find it out on your own – just run an Internet search for “Dr. Valentin Voroshilov”.

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