got mail

In fact I got a few e-mail messages concerning Vincent Fleury in my e-mail this morning. One of them was from Jamie Davies, Editor in Chief of Organogenesis.

Somebody contacted him to say that in one of my blogs, dloale or iorsd, the question was asked if Fleury didn’t used his position as editor of the journal Organogenesis to publish what would not have been able to publish as an ordinary author.

In fact, the question was concerning Fleury and Organogenesis, but wasn’t presented with the names displayed, just links, to avoid Google’s display:

It would be nasty if somebody else contact them to ask questions about the way the papers of members of their editorial board are reviewed and why they aren’t correctly labeled: “Hypothesis:[title]” [source]

Somebody, let’s call him John Doe, is a quite fuzzy informer. He failed to provide the direct link and text, didn’t knew exactly which blog was concerned, didn’t gave my full name and personal e-mail… John Doe isn’t the kind of persons I would like to receive mail from. Reminds me of somebody I added to my « spam » list recently.

Kindly, Prof Davies, wrote me, in his quality of Editor in Chief, to certify that Fleury’s papers were processed as usual, without any favoritism for a member of the editorial board. I was glad to read that, and I replied first of all to thank him for answering a question I hadn’t yet time to e-mail him, and to ask for further commenting:

Dear Dr Davies,

Thank you for your message concerning our questionings about Vincent Fleury’s papers in Organogenesis handling.

Intriguing that the person that contacted you didn’t gave you my full name and e-mail: Antoine Vekris, avek@…

One question and only one concerning Fleury’s papers: Why aren’t they labeled « Hypothesis ».

And I personally asked the question if his status as member of the editorial board changed your way to consider his papers. So, now I know that this isn’t the case. It is not reassuring to learn that hypothetical models, not supported by experimental evidence aren’t always displayed as such by Organogenesis, tagged with the term « hypothesis » in the title.

Certainly it’s quite common to publish hypothetical models to facilitate discussion and it’s a good policy to promote such work. But it is also quite common, and it should be mandatory IMO, to clearly indicate the status of the work. Your journal seem to use such annotation, e.g. « Hypothesis: A New Role for the Renin-Angiotensin System in Ureteric Bud Branching », Ihor V. Yosypiv, Organogenesis, Vol: 1, Issue: 1, Pages: 26-32

I was planning to prepare a letter to you, as chief editor of Organogenesis, I’m glad you contacted me first, to ask for a corrigendum at least for the title of the first of Fleury’s paper, to make it: « Hypothesis: An Elasto-Plastic Model of Avian Gastrulation », Vincent Fleury, Vol: 2, Issue: 1, Pages: 6-16. That’s quite helpful for the laymen to know that a model isn’t yet validated. Allows discussion without possible misleading.

Would you consider the case?

And I hope that you wouldn’t call Fleury’s hypothetical models concerning gastrulation a ‘theory’, as he do, at least not a scientific one, not a single hypothesis being empirically validated yet. (a comment on Fleury’s claims is in preparation and you are one the the listed persons to whom it will be addressed [edit Agathi posted the first draft of a synthesis already]).

I’m glad that you are not wishing to discuss the matter in a public forum or a blog, you point of view being much healthier than the one of Vincent Fleury, who declined an invitation to do so several months ago (1), considering that my proposal for peer-review of his ‘theory’ was rather a cabbala. PLoS ONE was suggested both in support to Open Access publishing and because it allows commentaries and discussions to be opened either in situ or via science blogs, features that are missing to Organogenesis.

But you may want to keep an eye on dloale as the new posts, if any, will be in english.

On the other hand, iorsd concerns only ideological positions and if some posts concern Fleury it is clearly in relation with his acquaintances with the ‘local’ neocrationists movement and his genetics and evolution denialism, nothing to do directly with his publications; just verified (2) to be sure, and « Organogenesis » is not mentioned in this blog (your information source seems to be a little bit fuzzy).

Looking forward to hear about the corrigendum I proposed,

Best Regards,

Antoine Vekris, Docteur ès Sciences
Molecular Biologist

CC Vincent Fleury, Anne Renault

(1) from http://www.sur-la-toile.com/viewTopicNum_47665_3_90_L’evolution-,-l’embryogenese,-aspec.html

Date: 17 jan 2007

Dr Fleury,

as you point, time will tell. But it will take much more than time, it will take acute scrutiny of your theory, and not just by me personally, but from a panel of specialists. Would you be interested to help me prepare it? It would take a translation of your theory (either the book or a summary of what is already published with the addition of the extensions you presented at the Web in french) and then two possible actions:

the submission to PLoS ONE, or

a pre-examination from a panel of experts (let’s say three proposed by each of us).

PLoS One is certainly the best choice as comments and discussion may follow the publication, after the peer-review process.

Would you accept the challenge? Nothing that it doesn’t fit to your every day work there. If so, and PLos One is your choice, jump here and good luck.

Otherwise you have my e-mail address.

(Oldcola aka [AV])

P.S. Let’s keep it a Science matter and avoid making it personnal, we are in a Science forum here, even if non scientists have full access.

(2) http://iorsd.wordpress.com/?s=organogenesis

Prof Davies readily replied and I asked him if I could cite a part of his message:

Dear Dr Davies,

Thank you for the reply.

I understand that you don’t consider publishing a corrigendum as I suggested, considering that the term « model » in Fleury’s paper is sufficient to signify that his take is an hypothesis rather than a proven mechanism. Personally I will stick with the dictionary’s definitions (1), as english isn’t my native language and I prefer avoiding any source of misunderstandings.

May I cite this particular paragraph « Your comments […] was clearly about a model only » with proper attribution publicly?

Thank you for your invitation to submit a critic of Fleury’s paper, but if do I find the time necessary to prepare such a manuscript I will certainly propose it at PLoS ONE, not Organogenesis, so Fleury will have the possibility to discuss it publicly and without the restrains of the policy of Organogenesis.

I would like to clarify that I mentioned acquaintances between Fleury and neocreationists, not that his is neocrationist himself. And I’m glad to know that you aren’t a creationist, despite the fact that this has nothing to do with the present case; my comments were to describe you briefly the content of iorsd- blog, the initials standing for Intelligent or Silly Design.

Best regards,

Antoine Vekris, Docteur ès Sciences
Molecular Biologist

CC Vincent Fleury, Anne Renault

(1) model: a schematic description of a system, theory, or phenomenon that accounts for its known or inferred properties and may be used for further study of its characteristics

hypothesis: A tentative explanation for an observation, phenomenon, or scientific problem that can be tested by further investigation.

Le 1 oct. 07 à 16:11, Jamie Davies a écrit :

[snip, not authorized to cite the content of this message]

Prof Davies replied that his statement was personal and offered to provide a more formal one to be publicly display. I asked him to do so:

Dear Dr Davies,

I’m sorry I misunderstood your last mail as an official one, based on:

I am writing to you now, as Editor in Chief of that journal, [snip, personal message!]

If you can spend a few minutes to answer my request for a corrigendum, as Editor in Chief of Organogenesis, it will be great. My concern is to make clear if the content of the paper you consider as an « hypothesis » or a « validated hypothesis » that could be used to the built of a scientific theory without further investigation, especially without proof from wet biology.

Thank you for your time,

Best Regards,

Antoine Vekris, Docteur ès Sciences
Molecular Biologist

PS This may be of interest for you, and this is at the personal level: http://agathi.wordpress.com/2007/10/01/vincent-fleurys-theory/

CC Vincent Fleury, Anne Renault

Le 1 oct. 07 à 17:35, Jamie Davies a écrit :

[Snip, personal message]

At this point I received a message from Anne Renault asking to stop CCing my correspondence with Jamie Davies to her. That’s interesting but not to be discussed here.

Kindly, Prof. Davies send me this message:

Dear Dr Vekris (c.c. Ron Landes, publisher),

I have considered your request for a corrigendum of the title of Vincent Fleury’s article « An Elasto-Plastic Model of Avian Gastrulation ». I should begin by stating that we normally accept corrigenda only from the authors of papers, although we do always reserve the right to remove a paper if it is found to be fradulent. In this case, though, I do not think that there is a need to add the word ‘Hypothesis’ before the title of Dr Fleury’s paper, as you suggest we should. Let me first explain our general editorial policy;

Organogenesis publishes three main types of paper; reviews, original experimental findings and papers that present novel hypotheses, viewpoints or models. The editorial policy is that titles of papers should not be misleading; reports of experimental findings can therefore have declarative titles (eg « gene X is involved in process Y ») but reviews should have titles that do not suggest that they are original experimental reports. Titles of papers that present hypotheses, models or viewpoints should be clearly identifiable by the use of a word like ‘model’ or ‘viewpoint’ in their title, or by the title being prefixed with the word « Hypothesis: ». The title of the Fleury article « An Elasto-Plastic Model of Avian Gastrulation » clearly includes the word ‘Model’ and carries no false implication of experimental verification.

You said in your e-mail that « My concern is to make clear if the content of the paper you consider as an « hypothesis » or a « validated hypothesis » that could be used to the built of a scientific theory without further investigation, especially without proof from wet biology. » I know of no area of biology in which purely theoretical hypotheses and models can be considered firm foundations for anything, until they have been validated experimentally. Certainly, experimental validation is critical to the acceptance of hypotheses in the general field of developmental biology. This does not, however, preclude the publication of unverified hypotheses and/or models as a stimulant to wet lab investigation and Organogenesis encourages the submission of interesting models and hypotheses, especially those that present an unusual viewpoint, precisely because they might stimulate thought and experimentation.

I am grateful for your interest in the journal, and I hope that you understand why we are more interested in having a journal that can carry heterodox and stimulating models and ideas rather than one that is restricted to being a repository for uncontested facts.

Yours sincerely,

Jamie Davies (Prof.)
Editor.

Now, Jamie Davies sign a message that doesn’t support Vincent Fleury’s use of his papers when saying that parts of his theory is published in Organogenesis including in his references this particular paper. JD considers that the word ‘model’ in the title isn’t misleading, and that proof from wet biology should be produced.

I certainly not see why he specify that unverified hypotheses should not be rejected from publication, all I was asking is that the unverified hypotheses should be clearly labeled as such to avoid misleading statements from the authors, later.

With the last paragraph I’m certainly OK, but…

Let me make my point about that. I love heterodox and stimulating ideas and I’m spending time to read pre-publications and new hypotheses as much as possible, because they are the substratum for new theories and paradigms. But I like them clearly labeled and the word ‘model’ isn’t clear enough for me if it is not clearly connected with experimental data. If the work is to be done, ‘hypothesis’ is much more clear.

It is not clear either for Vincent Fleury, citing this paper as part of his theory, published by a peer-reviewd journal.

Let’s not forget that I asked Fleury to publish his theory, repeatedly, and all I got was insults. Maybe because I was asking for some parts claiming that genes don’t play a major role in organismal determination, or that evolution don’t explain complexity, to be included in the publication (he does claim so in fora and blogs I don’t see why not properly present it to a scientific publication).

Bottom line:
Vincent Fleury,
« purely theoretical hypotheses and models can [not] be considered firm foundations for anything, until they have been validated experimentally ». As you admitted that you don’t have any experimental data in support of your hypothesis, I suppose it’s time for your to stop writing general public books to present your theory and try experimental validation. That will be much harder if possible.

2 Réponses

  1. Sir,

    I am surprised by the general tone and content of this post, clearly defamatory.

    The comment of Mr Davies is a general comment at large about theoretical papers.

    My work is not a « hypothesis » without any experimental support, conceived out of the blue.

    Especially the article which you discuss with Prof. Davies contains only two true hypothesis, namely

    first : that the blastula is much wider than thick, a fact well established (the « sheets » of the blastula being about a hundred times wider than thick,).

    The second hypothesis is that there exists a contraction area in the shape of a crescent or sickle. I, of course, did not invent out of nothing the existence of this. It is the well known Koller-Rauber sickle. These are the only hypothesis of the model, and they are based on wet biology, as you say.

    Then, it follows from sound mathematics a number of consequences :

    that the deformation field in the blastula should be of vortices, which are observed

    that there should exist a flow oriented caudally, which is the case,

    that the flow lines recirculate around a saddle point, which is observed

    and that this point is the point of highest stress at right angles of the antero posterior axis, located where Koller Sickle intersects the AP axis. This suggests that the engulfment of the epiblast which starts there is induced by mechanical forces, not by chemicals.

    Next, I did a number of other things, which are not in that paper, but which are also backed by experimental data (I have shown that many features such as blood vessels are aligned in the stretch field, etc.) most of which is published

    I demand that you leave this message as a response to your defamatory claims.

    If you don’t I shall take any legal step to enforce it.

    You certainly do not have a right to hold a blog where such defamatory statements are left for good, and in which the only victim is not allowed to reply.

    In addition, I demand that you cancel all links towards neocreationnists pages, in relation to my name. Otherwise I will have these cancelled by law.

    You are not in a position to forbid to anyone to write books, especially considering that you do not yourself read the books in question.

    Monsieur

    les textes que vous laissez sur ce site sont diffamatoires, et vous exposent à des poursuites judiciaires. Je vous demande de vous conformer immédiatement aux réglementations en vigueur, sous peine de quoi une action en justice sera intentée.

    En particulier, j’exige que tout lien associé à mon nom et conduisant à des pages créationnistes soit immédiatement suspendu, sous peine de poursuites, sans délai.

    Vincent Fleury

  2. […] when he wrote this commentary, Fleury knew exactly what the personal opinion of Jamie Davies is about the absence of the […]

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