By now you would probably have heard about the 22 year old teaching assistant in maths (Stockholm university) that has a paper in the pipeline in the journal Nonlinear analysis. The paper was accepted for publication on October 3, the proofs has been corrected and it is now in press. It is available here.
According to sources referenced by Peter Lindberg, Oxenhielm has met with criticism from colleagues who claims that the paper should not have been accepted. Professor Grigori Rozenblioum writes to Nonlinear analysis:
Dear Editors of Nonlinear Analysis,
Probably, this was not meant to be so, but the paper by Elin Oxenhielm, on the 16-th Hilbert problem, to be published soon in ‘Nonlinear Analysis’ has caused an ‘unhealthy’ publicity here in Sweden, in various media. I have downloaded the paper and I have a very strong feeling that it was a heavy mistake to publish it in such a respectable journal.
The letter is available in full on Tesugen.
Now, what I find particularly interesting is neither the tale of the young mathematician finding something that is criticised by older, more established, colleagues nor the mechanisms in which media enters the research process. Scientific controversies played up in media is, after all, quite common, as is glitches in the peer review system. Oxenhielm’s interest in publishing a popular book about the proof – several popular maths and science books have sold a lot in recent years – is also interesting, but not unusual. The gender aspect of some of the media reporting is, alas, not unusual.
What is interesting is the role of the net.
Oxenhielms (former) teacher Yishao Zhou (she seems to have supervised Oxenhielm’s masters thesis, but not the paper for Nonlinear analysis) has published an open letter on her homepage that is quite critical. I have a suspicion that we will see something more at Oxenhielm’s homepage www.oxenhielm.com in the future, at the moment it is an empty page displaying a 403 Forbidden message. E-mail messages have been made public on the blog Tesugen. There is an interesting interface between mathematicians such as Grigori Rozenblioum and other interested people in the long debate at unstruct.org.
I guess that this will become more common in the future. We already have public preprint archives such as arxiv.org and electronic publishing has been gaining momentum for quite some time (PLoS and others). Scientists in the biomedical fields discuss questions at biologging. Will electronic publishing + public electronic discussion/blogging self-evolve to some kind of open or semi-public peer review? Or will scholars use the web for furthering their causes in controversies, such as the Oxenhielm case? Or both?
UpdateNow (11.50 am), Elin Oxenhielm’s web page is active.