Reviewing a scientific book isn't science ?
"Conquest of the Plane" and scientific integrity versus misrepresentation and slander


The book "Conquest of the Plane" (COTP, 2011) re-engineers mathematics education. It uses the critique on traditional mathematics education given in Elegance with Substance (EWS, 2009). The PDFs are on their websites.

Two book reviewers of EWS and/or COTP advised to read COTP with an open mind. A “review” by Jeroen Spandaw (TU Delft) however misrepresents the analysis and is slanderous. My suggestion to Spandaw to talk about this was rejected.

A subsequent appeal to the TU Delft Commission on Scientific Integrity resulted in their verdict in 2012 that book reviews are not at issue in the rules on scientific integrity, or alternatively that the supposed breach was so minor that it didn’t justify an effort to look deeper into the matter (with an actual investigation).

An appeal to the national supervising integrity body LOWI of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences KNAW confirmed this Delft verdict in 2014.

A somewhat later report by Christiaan Boudri (Arnhem-Nijmegen) in 2013 reacted to Spandaw with the repeat advice to read with an open mind. The integrity committees regarded this as too late, whence it had no impact.

It is amazing that the committees on integrity of science think that reviews of scientific books are not part and parcel of science. When scientists discuss the works of other scientists (listed in their references) then there are standards of fair representation and common decency. Why would those standards not apply to book reviews as well ?

Spandaw’s “review” is in Dutch. My discussion and protest of June 11 2014 is in English.

At no time the freedom of expression of a scientist is at issue here. If Spandaw is not convinced by COTP he is free to say so. At issue is only that you don’t misrepresent and slander and you don’t accept it from others.

The best approach remains that others read EWS and COTP. It is unfortunate that there now is the added burden to have to think about whether you support the misrepresentation and slander or not. All this might perhaps be beneficial for the discussion on mathematics education. Mathematics education might be better than in the year 0 but is rather dismal compared to what is possible. More discussion of EWS and COTP will help to get an improvement.

Traditional mathematics educators like Spandaw think that they defend quality but they close their minds to the wonderful results that are possible when we re-engineer the traditional lores that we teach our students.

The main document

2014-06-11: The proper paper: Reviewing a scientific book isn't science ? "Conquest of the Plane" and scientific integrity versus misrepresentation and slander

Supporting documents from the history of the appeal

  1. 2012-07-07: The protest at TU Delft about the "review" (anonymised, Dutch)
  2. 2012-12-04: The verdict by TU Delft - Commissie Wetenschappelijke Integriteit (CWI) (anonymised, Dutch)
  3. 2013-11-29: The appeal to LOWI against the TU Delft decision (anonymised)
  4. 2014-02-27: Additional information for LOWI (anonymised)
  5. 2014-04-24: LOWI decision (anynomised, Dutch,case nr. 6, LOWI website)
  6. 2015-04-22: Appeal to LOWI on procedure

For researchers in the integrity of science, the complete set of documents can be made available when they indicate that they will respect the anonymous character of the LOWI procedure.

Advised reading for background information