Granville Sewell
Photo courtesy of Granville Sewell.
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A Mathematics Professor

Granville Sewell

  • Professor of Mathematics at University of Texas, El Paso

Since the publisher’s public guidelines state that withdrawing an article after it has been accepted is only to be done in extreme cases, for example, when serious errors or plagiarism are discovered, I was afraid people would think that the journal had followed its own guidelines and would assume the paper was seriously flawed, or I had committed some sort of ethical crime.


Article Withdrawn Without Notice

Dr. Granville Sewell, a tenured professor of mathematics at University of Texas, El Paso, and author of over 50 journal articles and four academic books on numerical analysis, wrote a technical article challenging unguided evolution. He submitted it to the journal Applied Mathematics Letters in 2011; the article was peer-reviewed, accepted, and published online as a pre-print. Then, a blogger objected. This blogger was not a scholar or a professor. He did not have a PhD in mathematics, physics, or any other field. Nevertheless, the journal editor pulled Sewell’s article without even consulting Sewell or giving him an opportunity to respond. In the process, the editor violated the publicly expressed standards of his own journal, which stated that the removal of an article “can only occur under exceptional circumstances, such as” the violation of “professional ethical codes,” “plagiarism,” “bogus claims of authorship,” “fraudulent use of data or the like.” “Since the publisher’s public guidelines state that withdrawing an article after it has been accepted is only to be done in extreme cases, for example, when serious errors or plagiarism are discovered, I was afraid people would think that the journal had followed its own guidelines and would assume the paper was seriously flawed, or I had committed some sort of ethical crime,” Sewell noted. Sewell obtained legal assistance, and the journal issued a statement apologizing. “The published apology states that the article was withdrawn ‘not because of any errors or technical problems found by the reviewers or editors, but because the Editor-in-Chief subsequently concluded that the content was more philosophical than mathematical,’” said Sewell. “It’s hard to imagine a more blatant assault on intellectual freedom and the free exchange of ideas,” Sewell’s attorney Pete Lepiscopo said. The journal paid him $10,000 in attorney’s fees. Sewell went on to present the paper at a conference on design at Cornell University, and a revised version was ultimately published in the academic book Biological Information: New Perspectives, published by World Scientific in 2012. Most recently, Sewell published an article in the peer-reviewed journal Physics Essays. It covers some of the same content as the paper for Applied Mathematics Letters, and it is entitled, “On ‘compensating’ entropy decreases.”

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