Friday, October 30, 2009

An article that TIFR student magazine "Imagine" did not publish

I am shocked.
I am saddened.
I am disillusioned.

{Mistakenly some readers of this blog thought that I am perturbed about my article not being accepted to the magazine. I was definitely surprised and saddened at that but that is a much minor reason compared to my central point of protest being that the editors did not inform me of the rejection. I came to know of their decision only when I saw the finished product when all the while over about 2 months I was under the reverse impression! Among many other expected abilities missing from the editors they definitely seemed to lack an understanding of the sensitivities of authors.}

These are those times when I really feel the importance of open-access movement and the great need for blogs in this society when I am faced with the extreme ghetoism that the entire idea of trying to get something published might entail. Like the turmoil and heart-burn I faced during this recent attempt on my part to get an article on open-access published in the magazine called "Imagine" that some noble TIFR students decided to come out with as a part of Homi Bhaba's birth centenary celebrations.

I was naive enough to have put my faith in the professionalism of the editorial team of that magazine. Probably I should have backed out on the entire idea when very early on I received a load of statements from the people higher up when I questioned them on the copyright issues of the magazine. People didn't seem to be thinking enough. The magazine is supposed to come out today and even yesterday when I met some of the members of the editorial board they did not seem to have the basic minimum sense of decency to inform me that my article has been rejected.

And as Mark Antony said on the death of Julius Caesar 'But they are honourable men"

I definitely acknowledge that no matter how stupid their reasons for rejections might be, the editorial team does have the right to reject articles they get. I definitely acknowledge this right they have. What hurt me deeply was the fact that I got to know of the rejection only when I looked at the contents page of the finished magazine which landed on my hands on the day of publication.

The article was not just my own work but it involved extensive painstaking editorial efforts over days by two other people namely Vipul from the Mathematics Department of UChicago and Shreevatsa from the Operations Research Department of MIT. I deeply acknowledge the help and research support that I got from them during the writing of the article.

I definitely have an awkward scenario to face with them as I tell them that the article in which they also put in quite a lot of effort has been dropped by the "Imagine"'s editorial board of TIFR students without any notice.

Hence I make public the article that the esteemed editorial board of "Imagine" neither perceived worthy of publishing not considered worth their stature to inform of rejection:

The article

I feel very sure that Homi Bhaba would have found great satisfaction to see such editorial etiquette being followed by students of his institute.

Or probably there are deeper issues involved here with the publishing of the magazine which I seem to be ignorant of. One of the many pertinent questions that one can raise here is about the ability of the editorial team to read and comprehend articles of size more than 1.5 pages (written in double spacing?) I do realize that not all people have the concentration to read something long especially if it has references and research backing.

I would not want to delineate the issue here but would definitely like to mention here some more associated pertinent questions here regarding the seeming narcissism on the part of the editorial team when they decided to put up a half-page photograph of themselves in the magazine. (Anyone ever heard of it? I have definitely seen magazines like "Scientific American" or "Resonance" where a stamp-sized photograph of the editor comes out but they also put up same sized photographs of every author of the articles which "Imagine" didn't bother to do). One can obviously go on here questioning various other things about the magazine like the pedestrian sense of aesthetics as apparent from the out of context cover page photographs and other such associated cheap publicity techniques. Also one can question the process of selection that the articles written by the editors themselves were subjected to? Or were they given a wild-card entry?

Oh! And before I forget let me thank the noble editors for publishing two of my poems in their magazine. I shall be forever filled with gratitude to the brim of my heart for them doing me this favour.

At least the fact that they did publish two of my poems, lets me claim boldly that this blog post is not just an issue of sour-grapes. Its a question of sustainable transparent policies and honesty.

{Actually this makes me wonder if space was a constraint for the editors then couldn't they have actually asked me to make a choice between publishing those 2 long poems of mine and the article? Somehow characteristically again they seemed to have chosen to play God here and not bothered to give me that option. Given this option I would have any day forsaken my poems and would have opted for this article which took much greater effort for me to write.}

Wishing for a freer world tomorrow.

Wishing in the eternal words of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore,

``Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit.."

PS: To keep the slate clean I should also formally apologize for screaming at one of the editors when I realized this unfortunate state of affairs on the eve of the function. But definitely this apology doesn't mean that I concede even an inch of ground to them.


Pratish Gandhi said...

Hi, the article link which you have given is not working. Please update it.

reader said...

Hi,The link doesn't work.Update it please.Renjan

Anirbit said...

The article link is now active.

I have also made some further edits in the writing.

Pratish Gandhi said...

Two things -

1] The article was pretty good. It was informative and was well written too. If the magazine published your poems, I think they would have done a better job had they published this article instead [assuming its not a literary magazine].
2] But I think you should take criticism with more patience. You seem to have edited your blog post since the last time I checked by removing a few sentences and adding another few to sound more 'balanced' or whatever and have also deleted the comment of some person who had criticized you. I read his comment and it seemed to me he was just trying to make his stand clear. That just shows that probably you are not willing to hear anyone out.

I'm not taking anyone's side here [I'm not entitled to either, since I am not in TIFR], but this is just one impartial [hopefully] observation which I'm making. I hope you will take this criticism as a constructive one.

vivek said...

With all due respect to your poetic senses (Infact I am not even qualified to comment on poets and poetry) I find this article much much much better read than "Lunch and Dinner".

However mindless accusation and unnecessary blame game only foments anger and desperation. What's done is done. The question you should ask now is how you are going to make it better next time. Probably being in the editor's list and a little bit narcissism won't be a bad idea or better still if you still feel revolutionary enough why not bring out separate magazine by yourself. I don't think TIFR has that many literary forefronts that it can't accommodate one more.

Anirbit said...


The guy whose comment I had deleted commented when the blog was only half-written.

I had immediately sent an email to the person whose comment I had deleted stating that I have done so and also stating my reasons for doing so. (the same as I have stated above)

I had invited that person personally to re-read the full blog and re-post his comments.

But it seems (expectedly) that this person didn't have energies left or wasn't motivated enough.

Anirbit said...


There is no next-time here. Unless the editorial body of the magazine is fully changed I shall never again submit any articles to this magazine. It was my first and last try with this project and I see no reason why I should try again.

And obviously I see no reason why TIFR should have more than one magazine! It will be an unnecessary waste of money and time. It is important to have one magazine and it better be more professional and transparent to be credible.

vivek said...

Maybe I have told you this before too on the canteen table but I am of firm view that to change the system for good you have to be in the system. Your abstinence from further contributions towards magazine doesn't help anyone.It definitely doesn't solve the problem that the present editorial board is wasting time and money (if at all)?

Be constructive in your criticism and follow it up with some good work.

Anirbit said...

Definitely I am being constructive and following up. But trying to get into a system to change is not the only way to change things and there is no evidence that it is the most efficient way to change it.

In fact getting into a system might be detrimental to my flexibilities of thought and action.

I will definitely continute to write mathematics articles and articles like this one and thus continue to contribute to the open-access movement and related stuff.

Just that I do not consider it worth my effort to send my writings to this particluar editorial board. May be I will try sending to other magazines or even to this magazine if the board changes.

Anyway I always have my blog and website to communicate to the world. I don't necessarily need to write to a magazine though it has some advantages over the electronic media.

One hopes that with time as a society we will grow out of the need of printed magazines for articles and research publications.

Anirbit said...

The succss of the open-access movemeny crucially depends on getting more and more people to write expository articles regularly on the net.

I keep trying my best in this regard.
Hence I am always being progressive.


Are you going to put in constructive efforts in this direction?

You can definitely start off by writing expository technical writings about your own area of expertise.

vivek said...

I was more or less expecting that question from you. Anyways I think I lack the flair, commitment and motivation to write expository technical articles. I write junk and that too once in a while just to please myself with a bit of self indulgence (don't even bother to go through my blogs).Honestly I have never given a thought to writing these technical articles. Now that you remind me of that I will definitely try and see if I produce a technical junk next time or something really useful.
However what I can assure you is the fact that as an end user I find these articles extremely enjoyable and useful. I would love to help them grow in popularity, you know word-of-mouth publicity.