“Irreconcilable difference of opinion” divides math preprint

arxivA fight over a paper posted on preprint server arXiv.org has divided two mathematicians.

The authors initially posted the paper, which looks at the mathematical properties of spheres, in 2013. And that’s when the trouble started.

Apparently, after submitting the paper to a journal and receiving reviewer feedback, co-authors Fabio Tal at the University of São Paulo and Ferry Kwakkel, who got a PhD at the University of Warwick, began to fight over the content of the paper, causing Kwakkel to post his own version, and Tal to withdraw the previous one. “I believe we are severely at odds now,” Tal told Retraction Watch.

In February 2015, Kwakkel, posted a second paper on arXiv.org that he said is his “version” of the 2013 paper, with which it has “substantial text overlap.” Tal requested that the first paper be withdrawn; the note that now appears on “Homogeneous transformation groups of the sphere” cites an “irreconcilable difference of opinion”:

This paper has been withdrawn by an irreconcilable difference of opinion between the authors on its presentation and content.

And here’s the note on the paper that Kwakkel submitted on his own:

This preprint is the author’s version of arXiv:1309.0179, with which it has substantial text overlap. That work was jointly authored with Fabio Tal, who no longer wishes to be included as an author.

Tal told us that, based on the comments from reviewers, the authors modified the paper and uploaded a new version to arXiv. According to Tal, Kwakkel was charged with preparing the manuscript for publication, and eventually sent him “a completely different manuscript,” which he planned to replace the arXiv version. So Tal decided to withdraw the original paper.

I believe the results in the paper are absolutely correct, I just withdrew it because of a severe dispute with my co-author on the contents of the work to the point where we could not find any more common ground. He then decided to publish part of the results in arXiv, results for which I’m positive I have authorship rights, without giving me proper credit, an action I’m disputing. I believe we are severely at odds now, and while I can extend on the reasons for our disagreement, I’m still wary of exposing Dr. Kwakkel, or of beginning a petty public co-authors fight.

And in a subsequent email:

As I believe this last version has introduced serious mistakes, which I pointed out to Dr. Kwakkel, I have no intention of signing it.

Kwakkel gave us further details via email (edited lightly for clarity):

I find it odd that you are writing to me about this and there is very little to say.
The preprint you mentioned was work with Fabio Tal, with whom I have had many discussions about the subject, and who retracted the preprint you mentioned after we had difficulties finding a good version to publish about.
My part from the joint preprint, in particular the list of problems, I have put in a new preliminary preprint that I have put on arXiv and is part of the research that I am currently working on.
The disagreements arose during and after posting it on arXiv, and it should not have appeared in this form on arXiv, as the print was not well written and some of the results too weak to be interesting.

The problem is very interesting, and I am currently working on a better version that I hope to complete in the near future, where I will dot the i’s and cross the t’s.

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2 thoughts on ““Irreconcilable difference of opinion” divides math preprint”

  1. If your are already going with the “irreconcilable differences” the you could also have said “divorced” instead of “divided”
    Cheers 🙂

  2. Do the authors then plan to republish as two different papers? I would be curious to read the COI statement of the final paper(s), as well as the authorship declaration/responsibility.

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