August 4 , 2008
Anomalies Within the Anomalies Conference
On July 31, Larry Forsley of JWK Technologies Corp. sent an e-mail to Ashraf Imam, secretary of the technical program committee, and Jed Rothwell, responsible for the compilation of abstracts for the 14th International Conference on Condensed Matter Nuclear Science and Cold Fusion (ICCF-14).
"I just received the ICCF-14 agenda, and I note that my abstract is missing from both the oral and poster sessions," Forsley wrote. "Has it been rejected?"
On the same day, Rothwell wrote back to Forsley and said he had just spoken with Dave Nagel, chair of ICCF-14 conference. According to Rothwell, Nagel said that Forsley's paper, "Quantitative Spatial Analysis of Pd/D Co-Deposition Induced Nuclear Particle Tracks," had not been rejected but had not been included in the schedule.
On Aug. 1, New Energy Times reported that Forsley had not been scheduled to speak at ICCF-14.
On Aug. 2, Nagel apologized to Forsley for the "confusion" about the omission of a speaking opportunity for Forsley and advised that he had now been provided an opportunity to speak on Friday, Aug. 15 from 9:45 a.m. to 10 a.m.
This brings to light some additional peculiarities of this conference. Some speakers have been afforded 30-minute time slots, others 20-minute time slots, and others only 15-minute time slots. Ordinarily, plenary talks at a science conference are clearly designated as such, and the respective speakers are given more time than other speakers. From the looks of the most recent draft schedule, the provision of speaking time afforded to speakers seems to follow no consistent pattern. What is the explanation for this?
Such an uneven allotment of time suggests political favoritism and runs counter to the principles of fair play, good will and open science. It also runs counter to precedent, for example in the last ICCF conference and the recent "Anomalies" conference organized by Bill Collis, executive secretary of the International Society for Condensed Matter Nuclear Science.
How can such favoritism breed anything but contempt and divisiveness within this research community, pitting the favored researchers against the nonfavored ones? How can the provision of incentives to some researchers and disincentives to others be viewed in any other way than as a political control mechanism?
They Come to Praise Yoshiaki Arata and Stan Szpak
It gets even stranger. Conference organizers have planned two sessions supposedly honoring two current members of this research community.
The concept of the "Arata Fest" and the "Szpak Fest," as they were called by conference organizers on July 6, is unprecedented in recent, and perhaps all of, ICCF history. On July 29, these sessions were relabeled "Honoring Yoshiaki Arata" and "Honoring Stanislaus Szpak."
Isn't singling out Szpak and Arata like this fundamentally wrong?
As the conference organizers know, Szpak won't even be there because he is not well enough to travel.
Not that Arata and Szpak don't deserve praise and honor, but this is a conference for and about the community. Isn't it divisive for conference organizers to be showing such bias toward particular researchers who are active in the field? Dozens of researchers in this community deserve special recognition. How can the consequences of this honoring be anything but divisiveness?
At the Catania conference in October, George Miley - a participant, not an organizer - took it on himself to honor Giuliano Preparata, an Italian pioneer in cold fusion theory who died in 2000.
The Szpak Fest / Arata Fest is an entirely different matter that can only breed animosity among peers. This unintended consequence was almost certainly not considered by the conference organizers. They may wish to reconsider.
Country History and Commissioned Topical Review Projects
In Catania, Melich announced that, as part of the plan for ICCF-14, he has started two projects.
"Our current plans envision the preparation and publication of a series of Cold Fusion Country Histories that will document, country by country, the progress of the research over the past twenty years," Melich wrote. "These histories will be in the language of each country and should be completed prior to ICCF-14. These will form the basis of sessions at ICCF-14 showing the scientific foundation of the field.
"The sessions at ICCF-14 on the scientific work in the various countries, when added to the translated histories, will be edited into a series of books in English to be published in 2009. These books will provide the scientific community the organized material to let the field grow."
Melich also explained that the Country Histories would be guided by an editorial board in each country and would include the names and biographies of everyone in each country's research community. He said the ICCF-14 series of books would be directed by a project editorial board. The identities of the members of the editorial boards and the project editorial board have not been released publicly.
The histories will not be written by impartial historians or journalists trained for such tasks but rather by a few arbitrarily selected scientists in the field.
Not all members of the community are enthusiastic about this idea, as one longtime Russian participant in the field - who feared retribution from Melich - wrote to New Energy Times.
"Melich said that all Russian scientists engaged in Cold Fusion WERE TO submit a detailed report of their work to some fishy Editorial Board, which he chose to consist of Andrei Lipson and Ivan Chernov and some other unknown Americans," the Russian source wrote. "[We were] just baffled because it was unthinkable TO FORCE people to disclose their professional secrets." [Emphasis original]
The other project is called Commissioned Topical Reviews, a collection of reviews of specific topics within the CMNS/LENR research field that he said would be available before ICCF-14. No information about the results of this project has been released although the conference starts in six days.
According to several New Energy Times sources, Melich has commissioned the talents of selected CMNS/LENR researchers to collect and write the country histories and the topical reviews in exchange for their travel costs to ICCF-14 and their conference fees. Those costs and fees, as well as the publication costs of the books, would effectively come out of the pockets of other researchers and the conference sponsors. Is this fair?
Cold Fusion Conference Organizers Avoid Public Spotlight
The public outreach for ICCF-14 is somewhat secretive; this is rather odd for a community that has been hungry for media and government attention. With the exception of one announcement to a list server for the National Association of Science Writers, Nagel and Melich have not issued a single press release for the conference since October.
Conference organizers have yet to distribute a press release to the major related online publications in the field - New Energy Times, Infinite Energy and LENR-CANR.org - or post a press release to their own conference Web site.
The conference starts in six days, and a schedule and book of abstracts have yet to be published officially. (The July 29 draft agenda obtained by New Energy Times was not provided to us by conference organizers.)
Edmund Storms, a member of the ICCF International Advisory Committee, speculated in an e-mail that "visa problems as well as other issues might be a factor in not having a final agenda."
We reported in our CMNS/LENR Update July 30, 2008, that some of the Russian researchers were having visa difficulties with the U.S. State Department.
One observer of the field, Horace Heffner, wrote a most interesting comment in the Vortex e-mail list.
"Difficulty obtaining visas for a conference on a fully discredited fringe subject seems to me to be extremely newsworthy," Heffner wrote.
New Energy Times agrees. However, many months ago, a number of the Russians reported to us frustrations and delays in getting their invitation letters [which are required to obtain visas in some countries] from ICCF-14 organizers.
Jed Rothwell, collaborator with Storms on the LENR-CANR.org project, is working with Nagel and Melich to edit and build the book of abstracts. In an e-mail to the Vortex list, Rothwell blamed the participants for the delay in the agenda.
"I am sorry to say that in many cases it is because so many participants are old and in bad health, or broke," Rothwell wrote.
The draft schedule and the invitation to the press reveal further inexplicable anomalies. Conference organizers are encouraging members of the press to attend only on Monday and/or Tuesday of the weeklong conference.
Researchers who are speaking during the rest of the week, as well as those researchers relegated to poster sessions, will have little hope of gaining public recognition for the research that they have been pursuing diligently during the past year.
The organizers' decision to favor Monday and Tuesday presenters to the press creates the potential for collateral damage. Most reporters for major scientific journals would be very suspicious of such restrictions and might not be willing to come as a result of these restrictions.
Furthermore, in the absence of an openly published agenda and schedule on the conference Web site, most journalists who cannot attend the entire conference will have no way to make their own decision about which talks and sessions they want to attend, or to plan their personal schedule. In the absence of a published schedule and abstracts, they will be influenced to come on Monday and/or Tuesday.
It would be a tragic loss for this community if all its hard work, which clearly demonstrates a new, important and legitimate field of science, is not recognized by mainstream media and by the U.S. government.
To their credit, Nagel and Melich have arranged for at least one prominent government leader not only to attend but also to participate. Vice Admiral G. Peter Nanos, second in command of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, will give the keynote address, on “The Fleischmann-Pons Effect: Evidence and Importance.”
Best of luck to the CMNS/LENR researchers for their important work, some of which will be reported at ICCF-14 in Washington, D.C., next week.
Steven B. Krivit
Editor, New Energy Times
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