Noncommutative Analysis

Category: politics in math

Worse than Elsevier, worse than …

I recently received the following email from Cambridge University Press:

Submit your article online now

Dear Dr Shalit
We are delighted to announce that the online submission systems forForum of Mathematics, Pi and Forum of Mathematics, Sigma are now live. Forum of Mathematics offers fully open access publication combined with peer-review standards set by an international editorial board of the highestcalibre, and all backed by Cambridge University Press and our commitment to quality.
Don’t forget:
  • For the first three years Cambridge University Press will waive the publication charges
  • After this, a publication charge for authors will be set at £500/$750, this charge being based on real publishing costs and overheads
etc., …,

Authors benefit from:• Peer-review by experts

• Free, permanent, worldwide access to your article
• High editorial and production service
• The author will hold the copyright of published papers via a Creative Commons license
• State-of-the-art online hosting, including forward reference linking and extensive content alerts
• Free online colour
• Global dissemination of your paper
Kind regards,
Cambridge Journals

To which I replied:

Dear ************,

I will not submit a journal to FOM because I strongly object to author processing charges, and your journal endorses this practice.

Kind regards,
Orr Shalit

I blogged on this subject before. I just want to add here that in my opinion, the fact that FOM does no collect money from authors for the first three years does not make it better than other predatory journals, it makes it worse. Cambridge University Press uses its prestige to endorse the practice of author charges, and it uses its money to make it look sustainable, to get us used to the idea.

I really hope that mathematicians will not flock behind the leaders of this initiative. The overall impression I get is that my hopes are hopeless. So here is one last cry: you are going in the wrong direction! Even if dpearments change so much that everybody gets a fair budget for publishing (which I find hard to believe), do we really need another item in our academic lives where we have to fill in a form to get $750 for a simple academic activity? And how can one possibly consider submitting a paper to FOM when one can submit to some other journal for free and save one’s department $750?

 Here is an example of how to do it right.

Reflections on the New York Journal of Mathematics

As I have just announced in a previous post, Matt Kennedy and I have just published a paper in the New York Journal of Mathematics.

The New York Journal of Mathematics is a nonprofit electronic journal, which posts papers openly online so that anyone can read them without any subscription fee. And of course (funny that this has to be noted) it does not require that authors pay for having their papers published. It exists simply for the benefit of mathematical research and the mathematical community. This is how journals should be. There are others like it: there is the BJMA in which I have published in once. See also the list of free online math journals here.

The NYJM is more than a community project – it is a good general math journal. How do I know? The same way I know that other good journals are good: first, I take a look at the editorial board, and I see that there are distinguished mathematicians among the editors (and most importantly for me, I check that there is an editor who is close to my field so he/she will know what to do with my submission); second, I check to see if mathematicians whom I know and highly respect have published there; third, just to be on the safe side, I can browse the index and see if any famous mathematicians which I have heard of have published there too; fourth, I check to see if the journal is on MathSciNet’s Citation Database Reference List (it is); after that I may or may not decide to submit (and this of course also depends on what my coauthor thinks), and if I submit I also get an impression of how professional, smooth and fast the publishing process is. My impression from my recent experience is that the publishing process in NYJM is as professional, smooth and fast as I could hope for.

Unfortunately, some committees which make decisions regarding tenure and promotion also need to decide if the journals in which candidates publish are good journals. There are several “bibliometrical” tools which help committees and administrators figure out if journals are any good. Here at BGU the tool usually used is something called ISI Web of Knowledge. Now guess what ISIWoK says about NYJM. Seriously, guess: do you think that ISIWoK says that NYJM is a good journal or an OK journal or a bad journal?

HA! Trick question! According to ISIWoK, the New York Journal of Math doesn’t exist. There is no such journal. Now, the NYJM has been coming out since 1994, so somebody at ISIWoK hasn’t been doing a very good job. Or maybe they have?

Well: luckily my university has decided to treat NYJM as a real journal (I am sorry to admit that I probably would not have published there otherwise). Unfortunately, there is still a way to go: my university still uses ISIWoK to count citations, so for this paper of mine there will be no data. I hope that this will change before I am up for promotion.


UPDATE February 5, 2013: Mark Steinberger commented below that NYJM is now covered by Thomson-Reuters Web of Science, and that this is retroactive to Volume 16 (2010).

Worse than Elsevier

Recently, I received the following email:

Dear Dr. Shalit,

I am writing to inquire whether you have received our previous email inviting you to submit an article to the Special Issue on “Uncertain Dynamical Systems: Analysis and Applications,” which will be published in Abstract and Applied Analysis, and the deadline for submission is October 19th, 2012.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,


To this, I replied:

Dear ************,
I am sorry, I did not realized that you were waiting for an answer from me.
The special issue sounds interesting, but I do not submit papers to journals that require processing charges from the authors.
Best regards,
Orr Shalit

This has been my opinion for a long time, and it didn’t change when Gowers and Tao joined the bad guys. Here’s what I think is bad about the publishing model where authors pay to have their papers published.

  1. There is an obvious conflict of interests here, which might corrupt science.
  2. These journals always seemed to me to be a nasty way to wring money out of mathematicians that either don’t know better, don’t believe in their own worth, or couldn’t (for some reason) publish their work in a normal journal.
  3. It will decrease mobility: it creates another obstacle for mathematicians with no grant money or from weaker institutions, making it harder for them to eventually get grants and move to perhaps stronger institutions.
  4. And even if I do have grant money, that’s not how I want to spend it.

And don’t tell me that in the eighteenth century or ancient Greece scientists payed to have their work published: because here people are not paying to have their work published – everybody’s work is published on the web if they wish it – here people are paying to have their work published inside a journal, meaning that they are buying their work’s credibility.

Only two good things about this model. First, it is open-access, which is great, but as I’ve said that doesn’t matter any more, since all papers are open access anyway (even if the official journal version isn’t). Second good thing, and this is really a good thing: in this model people have to think about what they are sending for publication, because publishing also has a price. So hopefully this can create eventually a situation where people publish a little less papers, but these papers are more complete and contain less repetition.

That last point is really is something to think about. I can think of at least one different means of attaining this goal: tenure.