Thursday, February 16, 2012

The future of journals II

If you have scrutinized the list of signatories of the boycott of Elsevier you may have noticed the absence of my name. I admit to being cautious.

Maybe it is my age showing but I am pessimistic about the nature of science today in which financial considerations,  and numerical evaluation seem to dominate and distort the development of science.
This might be seen as an argument against Elsevier.

However I do not want to lose the valuable parts of journal publishing in the excitement of the new, and there are very few journals for which my work is suitable. So what would I lose if there were only one or two journals in which I could publish?

For me, it is not a question of adding to a list that could be counted, to give me grants and promotions. Further, it would not make impossible the publishing of my work: nowadays that occurs when I put my papers in Arxiv.

What I would lose are carefully-considered anonymous referees' reports. In mathematics it has been the tradition for the referee to read seriously the paper. I remember well the incredible effort Max Kelly put into refereeing, to the great advantage of the subject. I am not a very good referee myself but attempt to be serious, if dilatory. (I have not found the same tradition in Computer Science where the pressure to publish in conference proceedings makes such seriousness impossible, and judgements are made more on sectarian grounds.)

I haven't seen any discussion of this loss in the comments following Tim Gowers' post. There is much more interest in the possibility of publishing rapidly, as though delay is the main enemy of progress in science.

Update: I have now added my name. I found a formula which expresses my intent. I feel I should have lamented much before.



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