Questions about epijournals and the spnetwork

I start the post by asking you to prove me wrong. (with their epijournal concept) and The Selected Papers Network are the only new initiatives in new ways of publication and refereeing in mathematics  (I deliberately ignore Gold OA).

It looks to me they are dead.

Compare with the appearance of new vehicles of research communication in (other) sciences, like PeerJ, which is almost green OA and which has a system of open peer-review!

Are mathematicians … too naive?

There is only one initiative in mathematics which is really interesting:  the writing of the HOTT book.

I would be glad to be wrong, that is why I ask some questions about them.

1. Episciences.    Almost a year ago, on Feb 17 2013, I wrote the post  Episciences-Math, let’s talk about this , asking for a discussion about the almost opaque creation of epijournals.

What is new in this initiative? Nothing, besides the fact that some of the articles in arXiv will be refereed, which is a great thing in itself.

Their have not started yet. In one of the comments, I am instructed to look, for discussions, at

In the post I wrote:

Finally, maybe I am paranoid, but from the start (I can document by giving links to previous comments) I saw the potential of this project as an excuse for more delay until real changes are done. I definitely don’t believe that your project is designed for that purpose, I am only afraid that your project might be used for that, for example by stifling any public discussion about new OA models in math publishing, because you know, there are these epijournals coming, let’s wait and see.

Here is what I found about this,  almost a year after: progress in 2014?

[Mark C. Wilson] I am surprised at the low speed of change in mathematical publishing since early 2012. The Episciences project is now advertised as starting in 2014, but I recall it being April 2013 originally. No explanation is given for the delay. Forum of Mathematics seems to have  a few papers now, at least. SCOAP3 seems to moving at a glacial pace.

Researchers in experimental fields have reasons to be concerned about changing peer review, but surely arXiv is good enough for most mathematicians. Yet it is very far from being universally used. Gowers’ latest idea (implemented by Scott Morrison) of cataloguing free versions of papers in “important” math journals on a wiki seems useful, and initial results do seem to show that some kind of arXiv overlay would suffice for most needs.

Staying in the traditional paradigm, in 2013 I helped completely revamp an existing electronic journal ( and it is now in pretty good shape. We could certainly scale up in number of submissions by a factor of 10 (not sure about 100) without any extra resources. I have had a few emails from Elsevier editors explaining how they get resources to help them do their job. I still remain completely unconvinced that free tools like OJS can’t duplicate this easily. Why is it so hard to get traction with editors, and get them to bargain hard with the “owners”?

[Benoit Kloeckner] Just about Episciences: it is true that the project has been delayed and that the communication about this has been scarce, to say the least. The reason for the delay has been the time needed to develop the software, which includes some unconventional feature (notably importation from arXiv and HaL of pdf and more importantly metadata). The development has really started later than expected and we chose not to rush into opening the project, in order to get a solid software. Things have really progressed now, even if it is not perceptible from the outside. The support of partners is strong, and I am confident the project will open this year, probably closer to now than December.

I thought it is already clear for everybody that “software” is a straw man, the real problem is psychological. Why nobody tries to make a variant of PeerJ for math, or other project which works already in other sciences?

2. Spnetwork.   Do you see a great activity related to the spnetwork project,  hailed by John Baez? I don’t, although I  wish to, because at the moment it was the only “game in [the mathematical] town”.

But maybe I am wrong, so I looked for usage statistics of the spnetwork.

Are there any, publicly available? I was not able to find them.

What I did was to login into the spnetwork and search for comments  with “a” inside. There are 1578, from the start of the spnetwork.  Looked for people with “a” in the name, there are 1422.  By randomly clicking on their comments in the last 20 days,  it appears that about 0 of them made any comment.


So, please prove me wrong. Or else, somebody start a PeerJ like site for math!



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