Topology Board Resigns

One of the most prestigious journals in mathematics is called Topology. It is based at Oxford, its first issue was in 1962 and it has published many of the most important papers in the the field of topology. Since 1994 it has been published by Elsevier, and many mathematicians have been concerned over the high price that Elsevier has been charging for the journal ($1665/year). Today the entire editorial board of the journal resigned, effective the end of the year. In their resignation letter, they stated:

… the Editors have been concerned about the price of Topology since Elsevier gained control of the journal in 1994. We believe that the price, in combination with Elsevier’s policies for pricing mathematics journals more generally, has had a significant and damaging effect on Topology’s reputation in the mathematical research community, and that this is likely to become increasingly serious and difficult, indeed impossible, to reverse in the the future.

A few years ago a group of editors from another Elsevier journal in the area of topology, Topology and its Applications, also resigned, for similar reasons. They founded the new journal Algebraic and Geometric Topology, a free online journal (that also has an annual printed volume). One of this group was my Columbia colleague Joan Birman, who wrote an article for the AMS Notices about the issues involved.

Berkeley topologist Rob Kirby, back in 1997, wrote a letter to Elsevier that also discusses these issues. John Baez has a web-page about this that he has just updated to include information about the Topology situation, including a copy of the resignation letter.

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49 Responses to Topology Board Resigns

  1. LostHisMarbles says:

    Dear Resigning Editors,
    By all means start a new (free) online journal. But be prepared to bear the burden of administration by yourselves.

    LHM

  2. MathPhys says:

    If all parties involved are minimally smart, with minimal common sense, the administration of an online journal is minimal. A typical academic, teaching a typical calculus class for engineers, with a web page and all, has comparable admin work on his hands.

  3. fritz says:

    there is another quite interesting piece of info about elsevier,
    they are involved in arms trade. take a look at that:

    http://www.physics.carleton.ca/~logan/elsevier/

  4. LostHisMarbles says:

    I am not convinced that the administration of an online journal is minimal. Physical Review Special Topics is online-only and free (no page submission charges and no subscription fees), but it is part of a larger umbrella organization (in this case APS journals). An online journal is much more than maintaining a web page and some servers.

    But — give it a shot! ~ “Online Topology” why not? And certainly divorce the journal from arms sales.

    BTW many companies (e.g. Boeing) make both civilian and military products. Many universities (e.g. MIT) have contributed heavily to defense research. The military industrial complex reaches far and wide. Microwave ovens are one of their products. So are bell-bottoms.

  5. Kyle says:

    I’d love it if this resulted in (or was the result of) a growing trend away from Elsevier. It isn’t necessary that something be free; merely reasonably priced would be an improvement.

  6. DMS says:

    I think it is about time. Some mathematics journals are highly overpriced.

    I must say one extremely positive contribution of string theory has been the arxiv, which has now been embraced by the rest of physics, and to a smaller extent other fields like mathematics. It is about time the mathematicians are as enthusiastic about it; many significant papers in mathematics are still not freely available. Perelman, and a recent long proof by Morgan and Tian are notable example. I doubt Perelman’s institution can afford the subscription of many math journals.

    In particle physics, the highly rated JHEP is a recent online journal that started out free. My understanding is that the subscription rate is not high(in fact, free for developing countries…)..

  7. Chris Grant says:

    On bang-for-the-buck metrics like cost per page or cost per citation or cost per recent citation, Elsevier math journals are priced in line with the journals of other commercial publishers like Springer and Wiley (and substantially cheaper than Taylor & Francis).

  8. John Baez says:

    LostHisMarbles writes:


    But — give it a shot! ~ “Online Topology” why not?

    There’s no need for the former editors of Topology to start a new free online journal. A bunch of former editors of Topology that resigned several years ago have already started two such journals: Geometry and Topology, and Algebraic and Geometric Topology!

    These journals are quite successful, and they’re endorsed by SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resource Coalition. This is an alliance battling the dysfunctionality of the current system where journals are run by big conglomerates like Reed-Elsevier, with academics doing most of the work and earning practically none of the money.

    So, the editors of Topology that just resigned can join their old friends and help edit these new journals.

  9. Dick Thompson says:

    This is a fascinating social dynamic at work One of the mainstays of the “Gutenberg Galaxy” was its total incorporation as the atmosphere of the intelligensia. What does everybody think the foreseeable social consequences will be from this accelerated flight from the dead trees and their marketplace? More isolation from the hurly-burly that includes ambitious soap salesmen? But availability to anyone who can learn about it?

  10. Bob McNees says:

    When I was a grad student we had an informal rule: don’t submit to Elsevier journals. This was part of a boycott that I was told a lot of groups quietly took part in. The reason was that the journals were overpriced. Almost embarrasingly so. I was lucky enough to attend a school that could afford them, but many universities outside the US can’t. I don’t really know if those informal boycotts had any impact. I doubt it. But I got in the habit of not submitting there, and I know a lot of people who do the same thing. Maybe, as events like these become better publicized, Elsevier will take notice and change their practices. I doubt that, too.

    I think there are useful parallels with the way the recording industry works. For a long time the need for distribution insured that the middle man who could get content from the artists to the consumer had a place in the business model. Self-distribution was cost prohibitive, so artists didn’t really have a choice.

    We’ve already begun to see the breakdown of this model in the academic publishing industry, at least at the level of journals, as free peer-reviewed journals come online and gain credibility. In High Energy Theory, I think JHEP is regarded as highly as Nuclear Physics B, if not more so. And, as DMS says, there’s the arXiv. It seems like suicide for companies like Elsevier to keep trying to squeeze income out of their outdated and unfair business model. But if they choose to do that instead of adapting, they deserve what they get,

  11. LostHisMarbles says:

    I was thinking that there is a parallel with what is happening in the music/film/recording industry.

    John Baez mentions on his website (among other things) ~ publish in free online journals or **start your own**. The most obvious pitfall here is quality control. In the good old days, there were a (relatively) few prestigious journals, but of course subscriptions have become ever more expensive. One naturally searches for an alternative. But if anyone can start a journal, who is to validate the quality? Baez also points out (in a reply to a post by myself here) that there are organizations like SPARC. So — it falls to the mathematical community to organize its own (free) journals and maintain what amounts to an accreditation board for quality control.

    I read much praise for the arXiv, but I note also that PW has had a long-running battle with it. The arXiv is useful, but is by its nature of uneven quality.

    My guess is that eventually the responsiblity of maintaining these online journals will cause the task to be delegated to a few poeple (not unlike a democratic govt which chooses to use elected representatives), effectively a new species of publisher. We shall see how the dynamic of online publishing plays out.

    It seems we are living out the ancient Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times”.

  12. Moshe says:

    I think one should not care what Elsevier and others are doing, and have a campaign to change their business practices. Even if they had no profit margin at all, their journals would still be too expensive!

    That business model – the print journal- is antiquated and has to go. The new business model- peer-reviewed refereed journals run and published online by acedemics- is much better (also cheaper). Given the clear advantages, I’d be surprised if there still are any print journals left, say 10-20 years from now.

    As for the administrative duties, the point is that even in the Elsevier journals most of them are done by us (referees and editors), additional tasks (once the journal is up and running) are fairly minimal, since lots of things can be automated when they are done online.

  13. Jean-Paul says:

    I am not so sure about bright prospects of online publishing. There must be good reasons why paper survived several millenia. Online journals will have to face tough challenges when the evolution of operating systems accelerates. It is quite possible that a software engineer won’t like “The Large N Limit of superconformal…” and sends it to a trash bin.
    Furthermore, at least in HET, the quality of online journals is lower than the traditional ones. JHEP’s quality is much below Nuclear Physics or Physics Letters. The refereeing process needs not only academics but also professional editors.
    I was always wondering when looking at some JHEP papers: is there anybody there who corrects English grammar? When I referee a paper, I don’t fix spelling error or rewrite franglaise.

  14. ObsessiveMathsFreak says:

    I’m a fairly recent graduate student. I’ve grown up with the internet and in a culture of easy access to information. I was initially very surprised and to be frank, offended when I learned of the current staus quo of artifical barriers in science imposed by publishers. Are you people mad? Why do you sign away your copyrights?

    I don’t subscribe to a single print journal, and every paper I have is electronic. In addition, aside from what my university has electronic access to, I don’t have access to electronic journals either. I’m not alone amoung my age-peers, or even those a little older. People who’ve grown up with the internet would find this situation bemusing if it wasn’t such an obstacle.

    I don’t consider myself at any great disadvantage. When I initially went to the (considerable) trouble of trying to obtain the complete list in a bibliography, I found that most of the papers weren’t of much use to me anyway. Papers under a publishers lock and key really just aren’t worth the time or effort you put into getting them. Especially the time.

    The way I look at it, if you want a publisher to cut off access to your paper, that’s fine. Just don’t expect me to read it, much less cite it. I’m not going to jump through hoops for your sake, and I don’t expect my university library to waste money doing so either.

  15. SteveM says:

    Elsevier are a bunch of gangsters. They also have a vast archive of important material going backs decades that is locked up and now costs a fortune to access. Total ripoff and downright criminal. This material collectively belongs to the scientific community–not them! I needed some old Physics Reports articles from the 70s and 80s and ended up going to the original authors to try and get copies. I succeeded: they were sympathetic and felt that their old articles should be easily available for free or low cost, but it was still a hassle. If Elsevier go under it will be great day.

  16. Michael Edwards says:

    In my opinion the only justification for the continued existence of publishers – as distinct from editors – is to support retail distribution of physical media. I really like the retail model; I like having two excellent new bookstores (one indy, one relatively benign chain) and two excellent used bookstores within walking distance. Ditto recorded music, video, newspapers and magazines. And out in the real world the way editors get paid is by publishers, who amortize off the cost over the market life of the media; it’s a rare author who will personally finance the cost of turning a manuscript into something that someone else will want to read more than once. So when I want a book or a CD, I shell out.

    But I can’t exactly go to the bookstore and browse the latest copies of Phys Rev and JAMS. And from what I hear their publishers don’t finance editorial costs, academia collectively does (with the help of its government paymasters). So I don’t care whether paper journals continue to exist, as long as the Library of Congress archives the online repositories and at least one nonprofit per continent will monitor the citation patterns and bind important-looking papers together for the benefit of libraries in internet-poor countries.

    Modern journals are such a mountain of crud anyway that literature searches have to be done via something like citebase, and I expect the PDF to be a click away. Of course, it’s good to interact directly with individuals from time to time and ask them what papers they personally consider important and/or well written. But why do I need a filtering service that’s anonymous to me, the journal reader, when I have the citation history at my fingertips? Most of us prefilter new papers by authorship (and to a lesser degree institutional affiliation) anyway, so we don’t need journal acceptance as a criterion.

    Now what was it that anonymously refereed journals were for in the first place? Oh yes, to keep the quality up and the cronyism down, so that readers are occasionally exposed to new authors with something original to say. There may be fields in which the journals are still serving that function, even Elsevier’s – for instance, Am J Otolaryngology looks to be justly top in its field, although I haven’t actually read many articles out of it because I have to pay $30 a pop or shlep up to the University – but mathematical physics doesn’t seem to be one of them.

    If I ever write something that I think belongs in the primary literature, I’ll go around pounding on doors until I find a prominent researcher who’s willing to endorse it as a coauthor and upload it to the arXiv. That’s effectively how the system works now, and since I have no aptitude or desire for an academic career, sharing the credit will cost me nothing.

    Cheers,
    – Michael

  17. Chris Grant says:

    SteveM:

    According to WorldCat there are 460 libraries that subscribe to _Physics Reports_. Couldn’t you just go to the library nearest you and photocopy the articles you want? Afraid that Elsevier’s goons would kneecap you on the way?

  18. Brett says:

    The prices of some journals are ridiculous, but there isn’t that much one can do about the situation. Nuclear Physics B is an important example. This is a very prestigious journal; the only ones in particle physics that are thought of more highly are Physical Review Letters, Physical Review D, and Physics Letters B. JHEP is a respected journal, but it is not in the same league–impact factors notwithstanding. This is not a commentary on the actual quality of what these journals publish, but rather on how they are perceived based on past history–and in the age of electronic publication, the past quality of a journal is actually much more important than the present.

    Nobody reads the print versions of journals any more, and many libraries have dropped the print versions entirely. (Nobody can sit in the library and leaf through Physical Review Letters any more, since the last time I checked, there wasn’t a reasonable way to get a paper copy of only this journal.) The bound volumes get sent away to storage, since people can read years’ worth of articles from any computer on campus. But with an electronic subscription, there is no backup if the subscription is later cancelled. You lose access to everything, so even if Nuclear Physics B stopped publishing good papers tomorrow, it would still be worth the $15,000 per year (or whatever it is now) to use the online archives.

    Moreover, to ask a young researcher not to publish in Nuclear Physics B is simply unfair. An established physicist may have the luxury of picking and choosing, but for somebody without tenure, choice of journal can be crucial. If you want to publish a longish paper in high energy theory, your meaningful choices are quite limited. If you can’t get it into Physical Review D, the Nuclear Physics B is where you have to try next. Anything else is a big step down, and publishing in most lesser journals won’t mean anything it all to a hiring or promotion committee.

  19. AnotherObsessiveMathsFreak says:

    Computer Science Theory literature history has had at least 2 similar drives:

    1. Journal of Algorithms Resignation in Dec. 2003: [John Sidles‘ link] Prof. Knuth’s commentary was after his resignation from the board.

    2. Forty Editorial Board Members Resign from Kluwer‘s ‘The Machine Learning Journal’ in Oct 2001.

  20. ObsessiveMathsFreak says:

    Couldn’t you just go to the library nearest you and photocopy the articles you want?

    That’s illegal. It might sound harmless, but it is illegal in the same way that downloading an mp3 is illegal. Why should I have to break the law to get my hands on a paper?

    Afraid that Elsevier’s goons would kneecap you on the way?

    Aren’t you? Elsevier will take their cue from the software and entertainment industries. Expect ever more stringent terms and conditions on inter-library loans in the future, as well as some strongarming of your local institution.

  21. ObsessiveMathsFreak:

    The way I look at it, if you want a publisher to cut off access to your paper, that’s fine. Just don’t expect me to read it, much less cite it. I’m not going to jump through hoops for your sake, and I don’t expect my university library to waste money doing so either.

    With this attitude you only impair your own ability to do research, that’s all. Access to journals is absolutely essential to scientific work. In my studies I had many instances when I found crucial pieces of information and insight in obscure and hard-to-find publications. I think it is very important to have access to a good library. If your library is not so rich, you can always use interlibrary loan. In old times people used to write each other postcards with reprint requests…

    I totally agree that in the Internet age there is no excuse for scientists to pay huge money to the printing industry. They can manage the online publication process themselves. Peer review, editing, etc. is not that difficult and expensive to arrange. Expensive journals are doomed.

  22. Couldn’t you just go to the library nearest you and photocopy the articles you want?

    That’s illegal. It might sound harmless, but it is illegal in the same way that downloading an mp3 is illegal. Why should I have to break the law to get my hands on a paper?

    Making one copy of an article for your own scientific research is perfectly legal. The copyright law encourages you to do that.

  23. Michael Edwards says:

    Er, no. The 1976 US copyright law codified the judicially created “fair use” doctrine as an equitable defense against prosecution for copyright violation. The Berne Convention doesn’t go nearly as far, and most jurisdictions around the world have much weaker “fair use” provisions (if any). “Making one copy of an article for your own scientific research” is by no means automatically fair use, and relying on the historical non-prosecution habits of academic publishers is a risky proposition even in the US. You might also read up on contributory infringement, for which libraries and even authors who encourage such a practice may be liable. Best to stick to e-prints.

    Cheers,
    – Michael

  24. SteveM says:

    Chris,
    At the time, living out in the country, the nearest library with the journal was just way too far away. Besides, as Obsessivemathsfreak points out the photocopying and loan conditions have gotton more stringent anyway, and since I had graduated with a doctorate I would then have had to rejoin the library at quite a cost. Just all a big hassle when I feel I should be able to access and download old material via the internet at reasonable cost. Incidently, if you want to pay for an obscure old paper from Elsevier via credit card , and you are temporarily not affiliated with any institution, it will cost you anything from $70-$100.

  25. Former string theorist says:

    As managing editor for a moderatley priced journal, I would like to point out that the value added in the editorial process for a well-run journal is significant. Diligent work by referees and editors (working without compensation) often greatly improves the content of the papers, and a careful copyediting process helps these results to be communicated much more efficiently. It is true that a great many journals from commercial publishers are overpriced, and the tactics used by some publishers are indeed disreputable, but for a more reasonably priced journal, which can basically only sell to libraries, the profit margin is much less than you might imagine. I support the ideas behind free online journals, but traditional refereed journals have much more to offer than simply an officially sanctioned citation list.

  26. Chris Grant says:

    Michael wrote: “Making one copy of an article for your own scientific research” is by no means automatically fair use

    And it is by no means automatically violation of fair use. Practically nothing in the law is automatic.

    and relying on the historical non-prosecution habits of academic publishers is a risky proposition even in the US.

    Oh, Puh-leze. There’s less chance of an academic researcher in the U.S. being found guilty of copyright violation for photocopying an article from a journal for him to refer to in his research than of you being struck by lightning. Feel free to stay in your Faraday cage if you wish, but don’t be disappointed if the rest of us don’t join you.

  27. Michael Edwards says:

    Like I wrote, “publishers – as distinct from editors”. In disciplines in which there is no functioning market economy, where people write and referee and edit at their granting agency’s expense, the rational choice of “publisher” is a laser printer under my desk.

    If you want to publish a journal, run it like The Economist – snappy, well written and edited, topical, priced for home subscription with Internet archive access thrown in – and cross-subsidize it from a research arm that sells in-depth analysis in book form at a price that the market will bear. That’s how Springer used to be run, and that’s why a working mathematician’s bookcase is liberally sprinkled with gold.

    For better or for worse, publishing is just as subject to Gresham’s Law as any other industry. Fiat currency and gold don’t circulate interchangeably for long.

    Cheers,
    – Michael

  28. John Sidles says:

    No one has yet mentioned PLOS–these biologists and medical researchers are well-organized:

    http://www.plos.org/about/principles.html

    http://www.plos.org/journals/index.html

  29. Michael Edwards says:

    (This is off topic for Peter’s blog, so I’ll provide a reference and some analysis and leave it at that.)

    If you have the patience to read beyond the verdict into the judicial reasoning process, I recommend CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada, [2004]:
    http://www.canlii.org/ca/cas/scc/2004/2004scc13.html

    Canada has the most explicit and liberal statutory exception to copyright infringement for library research of any country I know of. The library’s custom photocopying service didn’t push its luck: according to the decision, “The Access Policy states that the Great Library will typically honour requests for a copy of one case, one article or one statutory reference.” The library provides self-service photocopying facilities only subject to a disclaimer of responsibility for the legality of the users’ actions.

    Yet this is a Supreme Court of Canada decision, which means that it wasn’t settled by any lesser court to the satisfaction of its appellate reviewers. And it stops far short of a blanket authorization of the making of personal copies or the encouragement of such activities on the part of others.

    I live in the US, which has less liberal laws, a less liberal judiciary, and a system of public investment largely based on the fantasy that “intellectual property” is traded in capital markets rather than labor and services The trend towards judicial intolerance of contributory infringement is writ large in the Napster wars. I do not recommend to others that they photocopy copyright material without the publisher’s permissions and would not advise librarians and authors to do so either.

    Cheers,
    – Michael

  30. Chris Grant says:

    Many U.S. academic researchers have access to Lexis through their school libraries. In a few minutes you can look up numerous law review articles on Fair Use as it pertains to photocopying of an article from a journal by an academic researcher. You won’t find a single one among that takes a position anywhere near Michael Edwards’ uebercautiousness.

  31. Peter Woit says:

    Michael and others,

    Please do try to stick to the topic. Fair use is really a completely different issue, and it should be discussed not here, but on blogs run by people who know something about this.

  32. Georg says:

    No idea about the situation in the U.S., but in many countries (I know Germany, Canada and the UK, but I’m sure it can’t be too different elsewhere) there is a contract between some agency set up by publishers’ and writers’ unions on the one hand, and libraries and/or photocopier manufacturers on the other, which specifically licenses the copying of (only) individual articles or chapters from library books and journals for non-commercial purposes. The libraries and/or photocopier manufacturers pay a flat fee, and the library users are on legally safe ground, as long as they obey the restrictions of the license, which is usually posted next to each photocopier.

  33. Michael Edwards says:

    Peter, I couldn’t agree with you more.

    Former string theorist, how do you keep yourself occupied mathematically now? Can you tell us about some contemporary mathematical physics that you consider promising?

  34. woit says:

    Uh, Michael, you seem to be missing my point about not using this forum to start up discussions unrelated to the postings…

  35. Michael Edwards says:

    Sorry, Peter. Wasn’t clear to me that alternatives to string theory weren’t on topic. I’ll shut up now.

  36. John Baez says:

    Jean-Paul writes:


    I am not so sure about bright prospects of online publishing. There must be good reasons why paper survived several millennia.

    Yes: there weren’t computers, and scribes kept recopying papyri as the old ones decayed. The oldest known bit of Euclid’s Elements is a page from an ancient garbage dump in the Egyptian town of Oxyrhynchus. The oldest surviving complete copy dates back to only 888 AD. So, the business of needing to work to keep data available is not new; it’s just speeding up.

  37. Juan R. says:

    1) The situation is science appears to me poor than in math.

    2) Offer and demand, laws of market! Nobody really obligates to editors of the journals to subscribe publication of the journal with a commercial publisher, or not? If tomorrow we become editor of a journal we am not obligated to choose Elsevier as publisher. Would we? Still more surprising would be after publishing our journal via Elsevier we blame it by its prices.

    3) About free.

    Some journals are claimed free over (expensive economic publishers) but those free journals are being really supported via donations, societies fees, author or institutional charges, and others. SPARC requires fees to membership…

    E.g. Baez says:

    “Unsurprisingly, the response from publishers was chilly. As a result, the Public Library of Science is starting its own free journals in biology and medicine, with the help of a 9 million dollar grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.”

    The Plos journals are free to readers but are not to authors. Authors (or their institutions) are required to pay a fee for publication. For instance until $2500 for publishing on PloS biology. Some time ago, it was shown that model was not suitable for high-level journals even if many academicians claimed the contrary and signed a well-known letter. If I remember correctly some computations done suggested us that a similar model applied to Science journal would require of the order of $50,000 per article to authors. Moreover, a bit of common-sense and a bit of economic study suggested that PloS was not economically suitable. PloS people (i.e. academicians) blammed against publishers but reality was there and “academicians” were wrong in their economic analysis. PloS is economicaly unsustainable except, maybe, as experiment. The increase of PloS fees has been of a 66% in only two years.

    4) Baez suggestions.

    1. Don’t publish in overpriced journals.

    Except often publishing in overpriced journals offer advantages in terms of C.V. publicity and career promotion.

    2. Don’t do free work for overpriced journals (like refereeing and editing).

    And why do free work in other cases?

    3. Put your articles on the arXiv before publishing them.

    Except if publishing guidelines of journal you target impede this or if your field of interest is not supported by arxiv and others…

    4. Only publish in journals that let you keep your articles on the arXiv.

    I.e. in some cases you are claiming “do not publish”. Arxiv-like model does not work for chemistry for instance; look fiasco of CPS.

    5. Support free journals by publishing in them, refereeing for them, editing them… even starting your own!

    Except that free journal are an academic version of the “.com” fiasco of some time ago. Before or after economic issues arise and most of the so-called free journals will disappear in a future as most of .com did. Then the problems of non continuity of information (one of reasons for classical printed academic journals) will arise.

    6. Help make sure free journals and the arXiv stay free.

    Well, this is idilic. Arxiv-like model failed in chemistry and in other fields.

    5) MathPhys.

    I do not know how many online journals you are managed/edited, but I would aknowledge you more information on how “the administration of an online journal is minimal. A typical academic, teaching a typical calculus class for engineers, with a web page and all, has comparable admin work on his hands.” Since i know nobody being able to do that you are claiming.

    6) DMS said:

    “I must say one extremely positive contribution of string theory has been the arxiv, which has now been embraced by the rest of physics, and to a smaller extent other fields like mathematics.”

    Ehh!

    7) About Journal’s overprices

    Hum, is only Elsevier overpriced?

    If I want buy a 2006 6-pages article from a first-quality journal of chemistry managed by ACS I may pay around $33.

    If I want buy a 1988 18-pages article on PRD

    I may pay $23 to APS.

    I would pay $30 to Nature for recent a single-page Essay on strings by Witten.

    Etc.

    8) About printed vs online

    Moshe says that online journals are cheaper. Yes, but how many are? Eliminating color (is very expensive) is printing in paper so expensive? When i worked in a chemical Bulletin here in official Galicia society for chemists, i discovered that paper printing was not so expensive as i imagined and we worked a small 1000 copies bulletin (for 10000 was cheaper still the cost per page, since there is a fixed cost for printing anything from 1 to infinite copies).

    Moreover, the no so large economic advantage of online journals over printed ones will disappear with the semantic web and full online academic articles. Today “online” journals are only pdf versions of printed ones, try to offer xml mathematics, text, and graphics and database files (e.g. chemistry or cristalographic data) into your online version… and we will sew how many online journals survive in near future.

    Note: several online journals guided by academicians (e.g. some cited at this blog) are clearly of very low quality from a publisher’s (and author) view.

    9) SteveM said:

    “Elsevier are a bunch of gangsters. They also have a vast archive of important material going backs decades that is locked up and now costs a fortune to access. Total ripoff and downright criminal. This material collectively belongs to the scientific community–not them! I needed some old Physics Reports articles from the 70s and 80s and ended up going to the original authors to try and get copies. I succeeded: they were sympathetic and felt that their old articles should be easily available for free or low cost, but it was still a hassle. If Elsevier go under it will be great day.”

    Read my comments about APS (American Physical Society) in point 7) above. Are APS gansters also because overpricing very old papers (even from 40s)?

    Moreover, would we call ganster to a Nobel laureate giving talks to very very high cost? And that about professors. If H Psy = E Psy belongs to scientific community why do profesor earn money each time they explain the Schrodinger equation to their students?

    Why would a publisher offer free or low cost to old articles but professor can earn lot of money for explaining (specially in summer courses) the very old F = ma to 15-year students? Just a thought!

    10) Brett said,

    “Nobody reads the print versions of journals any more, and many libraries have dropped the print versions entirely.”

    Then I am nobody. Also whne I go to the library to search literature and I see some academicians reading print versions they may be nobody.

    Juan R.

    Center for CANONICAL |SCIENCE)

  38. anon says:

    So Book 2 of Euclid’s Elements ended up on an ancient garbage dump. Many of the theorems in it are tedious and boring …

  39. With this attitude you only impair your own ability to do research, that’s all. Access to journals is absolutely essential to scientific work.

    Not really. Trying to get a hold of such journals would be a far greater impairment to my work. I honestly cannot see what is in these journals that is so essential and cannot be found elsewhere. 95% of what is in most journals is of little use to me, and I cannot justify the expense, both in time and resources, in obtaining the remaining 5%.

    Here’s a fact most people would agree with. The majority of scientific articles are poorly written and unelucidating, regardless of their actual content. For the most part, I’m paying for something someone has thrown out the door to notch up another mark on their publication/citation quota, not for a succint, well composed and presented exposition of the author’s work. The Bogdonov’s paper was not an anomaly, it was an inevitability.

    Faced with this, if I can’t get my hands on a paper that may or may not be of any use to me, I’ll spend my time doing something more productive. Like research.

  40. Pingback: Ars Mathematica » Blog Archive » Board of Topology Resigns

  41. anonymous says:

    does anybody know if there are potential legal problems in publishing articles on NPB+arXiv or PRD+arXiv?

  42. xxx says:

    maybe Peter allows me to point out a slighly different problem: I would like to keep in my laptop a copy of books about Quantum Field Theory, etc. The problem is that one can only buy printed versions of these books.
    One can download versions of main books for free from the web (it is easy, indicating that they are quite diffused): these versions are illegal and inefficient (no hyperlinks, etc), but they are the only electronic versions available on the market.

    So I wonder why it is impossible to buy textbooks in electronic form: because publishers are stupid, or due to some better reason?

  43. John A says:

    You’d think that if an entire editorial board of topologists resigns, they send the resignation written on a Moebius strip stuffed in a Klein bottle….or something

  44. Chris Oakley says:

    You’d think that if an entire editorial board of topologists resigns, they send the resignation written on a Moebius strip stuffed in a Klein bottle….or something

    How do you know that this “entire editorial board” is not just one person following a closed timelike line?

  45. John A says:

    You got me Chris – unless of course there are an infinite set of Universes….

  46. h says:

    “I read much praise for the arXiv, but I note also that PW has had a long-running battle with it.”

    This is probably just in physics. Mathematics is much less political. I’m a young mathematician, and my viewpoint is that there’s no life outside the arxiv. We have a pretty good library here, but I go there only like twice a year; the digital revolution is already here and there’s much more to come… Also, there are already many retrodigitalization projects, and most of them are free (numdam.org is an excellent example). Google is scanning ALL the books ever written, etc…

    “There must be good reasons why paper survived several millenia”

    Yeah, as John Baez said it, there was no internet for several millenia :) The only reason for the existence of printed journals today is inertia (and the greediness of the publishing companies). Quality control is an issue – I agree with ‘Former string theorist’ that the value added in the editorial process is significant -, so journals are important, but the media is not.

    “That’s illegal. It might sound harmless, but it is illegal in the same way that downloading an mp3 is illegal. Why should I have to break the law to get my hands on a paper?”

    You must live in a different world :) Photocopying a paper IS harmless (and probably legal too, considering that there’s a flat copyright fee included in the price of the copy machines, in the price of the ink, and maybe even in the price of the paper; same for the harddisks, blank cds, etc). Also, stupid law is not here to comply with… I’m breaking the law several times in basically every minute of my life. I have like 100 scanned math books on my harddisk, and it would cost my ANNUAL income to buy them (yeah there’s life outside the US) so I wouldn’t buy them anyway; thus I’m not causing any harm to anybody (and yes, I have some original math books too, and I bought them when I was much more poorer)

  47. Pingback: It’s Equal but It’s Different » Blog Archive » As coisinhas interessantes da semana que passou…

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