Simons Foundation and the arXiv

Via the Quantum Pontiff, news that the Simons Foundation will be providing up to \$300,000 in financial support to the arXiv for each of the next five year. Last year, the arXiv announced a \$60K planning grant from Simons. Now the Foundation is stepping in with a much bigger contributions, for details see here.

This kind of support for open-access publication is an excellent way for Simons to use its resources. Perhaps this will be the beginning of a larger effort to buy back control of the math and physics literature from commercial publishers and set up a viable model for making this literature available to all going forward. This may be an expensive undertaking, but Simons (and other math/physics-friendly financiers) have resources on the scale necessary to do this.

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22 Responses to Simons Foundation and the arXiv

  1. MathPhys says:

    If the Simons Foundation or any other with money to spend on science can make, for example, pre-arXiv papers that appeared in Nucl Phys B available to all of us, quite a few of us would be really grateful.

  2. chris says:

    a big thank you to all the responsible people. this is a way of donating money that really helps the entire scientific community.

  3. David Nataf says:

    Of course we shouldn’t need to be helped. A lot of scientists choose to submit to corporate journals and to submit to the ArXiV.

  4. David Nataf says:

    Sorry, I meant to write “not to submit to the arXiv”.

  5. Sakura-chan says:

    It’s really frustrating when a journal paper is archived online, but the publisher does not let individuals purchase access to single papers. And then when they do allow individual purchase, it is usually around $20 to $30 for a single paper. Even the big libraries that I am affiliated with don’t have complete journal coverage, so I am left to sheepishly cold e-mailing the author to see if they have it on hand.

  6. P says:

    This is great news. The Simons foundation is doing wonderful things for mathematics and physics.

    My friends in fields outside of physics can’t believe that we have such a nice centralized preprint archive. Are there any archives in other fields similar to the scale of

  7. Shantanu says:

    Peter this is off-topic , but have you watched the panel debate on future of physics @aspen this month moderated by Lisa Randall?
    it has some interesting stuff.

  8. Peter Woit says:

    Just took a look, but there seemed to me little there about the actual topic of the future of physics beyond a lot of self-satisfied general comments. For those interested, see
    but I’d rather not start a discussion of it here.

  9. Av says:

    Not precisely on-topic for this thread, I recognize, but:

    I’d be interested in Peter’s views on these “Top 10^{500} Reasons Not to Believe in the [String] Landscape”.

  10. Peter Woit says:


    That topic belongs in the previous posting, where I yesterday added an update about it to the posting…

  11. Allan Rosenberg says:

    arXiv is great, but if the goal is to make scientific results free to everyone, we still need peer review. Shouldn’t there be a PLOS journal for physics, too?

  12. open access says:

    I regularly contact authors to ask for a pdf copy. Nothing to be sheepish about it. Note that the arXiv is more than open access. It is also non-peer review. Open access in the sense of the arXiv does not imply quality control. It is also true that authors post rejected papers on the arXiv. A friend of mine once told me about a paper he saw posted. The description seemed familiar. I looked it up and recognized it as a rejected manuscript I had refereed, but now with my referee comments mixed in. So this is all good, what the Simons foundation does, but don’t expect quality of publications to improve. Indeed, I have no doubt the ST gang (and many others) love the arXiv.

  13. Chris Austin says:

    I would also like to thank the Simons Foundation for its support of

    The arXiv quality control model seems to me to be similar to the quality control model used in manufacturing industry, where the most effective quality control is the control workers apply to their own work. For competent production workers, the knowledge that a small, random sample of their work will be checked by supervisors is sufficient to ensure that all their work meets the required standard. Conversely substandard workers receive a period of intense scrutiny and coaching, during which their work either improves to the required standard, or they lose their jobs, which would correspond to losing arXiv submission privileges.

    When submitting a paper to arXiv, I take far more care with it than I would if I were just submitting it to a journal, because I know that submitting an unacceptable paper to arXiv could result in permanent loss of submission privileges.

    Another reason that papers submitted to arXiv but not to a journal may be better written than papers also submitted to a journal, is that if authors know that a journal editor might alter what they write, they might be less motivated to take care with the presentation.

  14. open access says:

    What is “unacceptable?” Is this unacceptable?

    I know for a fact that the authors did not lose their arXiv posting priveleges. Do you know anyone who has lost their arXiv posting priveleges?

  15. Peter Woit says:

    Chris is referring to authors without regular academic positions, who can have difficulty being allowed to post articles on the arXiv. For those with regular academic positions, I think not being allowed to post on the arXiv is highly unusual. One example might be Brian Josephson. Please though, I’d rather not try and moderate a discussion here and now of arXiv censorship issues.

  16. Jeff M says:

    Not sure if arXiv is any different for physics and math, but in math I think it’s essentially unheard of for someone in an academic position to lost posting rights. Removal of papers is purely voluntary as far as I know, if someone finds a mistake in your paper you should of course remove it (and I know of times when this has happened) but I’m sure it doesn’t always happen. That said, arXiv is a wonderful, amazing resource. In any case at this point many mathematicians post their papers on their own websites as well, including already published ones. Funny story about the referee finding a rejected paper on arXiv, with referee comments – I just refereed a paper which I had already read, and discussed with a colleague, since it had been on arXiv for a while. Made the refereeing process much easier 🙂

  17. MathPhys says:

    Paul Ginsparg’s arXiv is probably the most important factor in advancing research in physics in the Third World post-1992. To my mind, Ginsparg should get a Nobel Peace prize for that. If Third World scientists aren’t busy doing physics, superstrings included, they could turn their supersmart minds to less peaceful endeavors with disasterous consequences.

  18. aliaspg says:

    “If Third World scientists aren’t busy doing physics, superstrings included, they could turn their supersmart minds to less peaceful endeavors with disasterous consequences.”

    As in “developping toxic financial products for Wall Street?”

  19. MathPhys says:

    As in “developping toxic financial products for Wall Street?”

    Yes. Literally.

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  21. aram says:

    The reason not to post bad papers to the arxiv is that good researchers have reputations that they want to protect (and also some inherent pride in doing good work). The flip side is that we might not read arxiv papers from people we haven’t heard of, but we would look at their papers in a journal because then we know that someone we (somewhat) trust has vouched for it being interesting.

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