Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Being Thanked in the Top Physics Journal

One of the truly gratifying aspects of being a Professor is having students that have graduated write back and stay in touch. Last semester, one of my former undergrads, who had taken my transportation & logistics class, brought to my attention a paper that had been published in the top journal in physics, known as "Phys. Rev. Letters." What amazed this graduate of our Operations Management program at the Isenberg School of Management was that he understood the material and much of it was familiar. News about this article, entitled, "The Price of Anarchy in Transportation Networks: Efficiency and Optimal Control," [Phys.Rev.Lett. 101,128701(2008)] had gone viral with articles appearing in The Economist, the Boston Globe, and the New York Times.

After reading the article it became clear to me that many references were missing and, in scholarship, it is imperative to do a thorough literature search, which establishes precedence. Towards that end, with my husband, who has a PhD in physics, we wrote a response documenting some of the major relevant milestones in transportation network research that should have been included in the article. The rebuttal was not published but, lo and behold, this week there is an errata by the authors in Phys. Rev. Letters {Phys. Rev.Lett. 102, 049905 (2009)], which thanks us and includes some of our suggested references. We are pleased that the authors now understand that science moves forward by standing on the shoulders of giants.

The original article had also motivated my Letter to the Editor to The Economist.