Tag Archives: epijournals

Episciences not dead after all, Epi-IAM has the right stance

Alerted by the post Episciences.org progress by Thomas Arildsen, I took a look at the EPI-IAM and I discovered something to be appreciated.

Indeed, compare the non-combat stance of Episciences.org

The project proposes an alternative to existing economic models, without competing with traditional publishers.

with the one of EPI-IAM:

The driving force for this project is the take-over of the best journals in the field by the scientific communities, organised in thematic executive committees (so-called epicommittees) gathering international experts.

This project is intended for:

  • existing journals wishing to be liberated from a commercial editorial environment or already open-access journals in search of shared support services

  • newly created journals looking for a simple and highly visible editing environment

“IAM” stands for “Informatics and Applied Mathematics”, great! perhaps the first initiative towards new styles of communication of research, among those from mathematics and hard sciences (well, arXiv excluded, of course), which has a chance to compare with the much more advanced, already functioning ones, from biology and medicine.

In a previous post I wrote that in particular the episciences project looks dead to me. I am happy to be proven wrong!

This is what we need (a dire need in math), not any of the flawed projects which involve gold OA, friends recommendations networks, opaque peer-review and dislike of comments on articles, authority medals dispensed by journals.

It is a revolution, very much alike to the one 100 years ago in art, which led to an explosion of creativity.

The ball is on our side (and recall that we are not going to get any help from the academic management and colleagues adapted to the old ways).

Congrats EPI-IAM, a development to follow!



Questions about epijournals and the spnetwork

I start the post by asking you to prove me wrong.

Episciences.org (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    publishing.mathforge.org.

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 (analytic-combinatorics.org) 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!


Episciences-Math, let’s talk about this

In other fields we have PeerJ  and Knowledgeblog.org and BMJ pico, to give only three extremely interesting examples. In mathematics we (shall) have Episciences-Math.

The presentation of the project Episciences-Math, as given here:

The editorial process envisioned for the Episciences-Maths epijournals is quite standard: authors submit their articles after making them available in arXiv or in HAL, and provide the ID of their e-print to a specified epijournal of their choice. The Editorial board of that epijournal handles the submission exactly as for a traditional scientific journal, appointing referees, and deciding to publish – or not – when the report is received. If the article is accepted after suitable corrections have been made, it is subsequently listed on the web page of the journal as a link to the actual file, the final version of which is stored solely in the open archive. At some point in the future, the Episciences platform might also allow the publication of additional contents attached to each article (review by a reporter or by the editorial boards of epijournals, additional data provided by the author: source codes, lecture notes, presentations …)

The Episciences-Maths initiative will be supervised by an “Epicommittee” composed of leading mathematicians. Its role is to stimulate the constitution of editorial boards willing to create new epijournals, especially thematic epijournals in areas not yet covered, to manage possible takeovers of existing journals, and finally to treat any ethical and professional issues. Members of the Epicommittee may or may not themselves take responsibility of an epijournal.

This is the project announced in the “Good guys” post by Gowers.  Many mathematicians are looking forward to see the details.

Several posts on this blog  witness the desire to see that  epijournals become reality. Don’t get me wrong, therefore, if I make some comments about some aspects which worry me a little:

  • The public presence of this project is very low. Am I wrong about this? Please send me links to relevant places where this project is explained and …
  • … discussed! Is there any public discussion about it, besides the fact that almost everybody who cares to comment wishes the best to the project? Yes, the creators of the project may say “it’s out project, be patient”, but that would be plain wrong. That is because it does not matter whose project is, provided that it is a successful one, or, in order for the project to have success, they need us, those who are waiting to see what is this really about.
  • The third point is that, just by looking at the presentation, I don’t get what is new in this project, excepting the fact that the final versions of the articles will be hosted by HAL or arXiv. Annals of Mathematics did this, why do the Episciences think they will succeed?
  • I get that they hope to create the SEED of a journal, but platforms for journals exist already. The problem of scientific publication is not technical, it is psychological. I don’t get how they want to address this.
  • What about all the features which many people expect? Comments, peer-review, multiple journals “publishing” the same article (i.e. independent, multiple, peer-reviews by different journals for the same article, according to different communities interests, like Andrew Stacey suggests on G+), who will review the articles, what incentives will have mathematicians to publish in an epijournal, knowing that hiring committees and moronic bureaucratic organisms are still pushing authors to publish in traditional ways?

I invite anybody to discuss, here or anywhere. This satisfied silence, after the bad cop – good cop pair of posts by Gowers, looks to me as if our mathematics community is a bit sedated. Or maybe many mathematicians just think our field does not need to change publication practices, even if every other scientific field does it (I am mean, but really, that’s the truth.)

Wiki journals over arxiv

Just dreaming. The technical part first. Then comes the social part, which is trickier.

  • The author A of an arxiv article submits the latex version to an editor E of the wiki-journal.
  • The editor transforms the latex file into the wiki format of the journal. There seem to be tools for this, a quick google search gives this latex2wiki.
  • The editor E creates a wiki page for the article. We can use MediaWiki, we can go to the WikiWikiWeb, details to be discussed. At this moment the wiki page can be deleted only if both A and E agree.
  • This wiki page is modified by anyone in the PEER COMMUNITY of the wiki-journal. A link to the original version arxiv article is given, this can be modified only by the author A.

Now, the social part:  only  suggestions.

  • Any author A becomes member of a PEER COMMUNITY, there is some mathoverflow type reputation and badges system.
  • PEER COMMUNITIES and wiki-journals are different parts of the system, one PEER COMMUNITY may act on several wiki-journals, one wiki-journal may contact several PEER COMMUNITIES, but only one per article.
  • anybody can be member of several PEER COMMUNITIES
  • to make a very rough comparison, wiki journals are like companies and PEER COMMUNITIES are like syndicates

The most important point: we can start it now, the soft (open source) exists, anybody can try to do it. There is no need to wait for anybody’s approval, no need to wait several months to  see what exactly are   epijournals  (however see epimath), anybody can just try and contribute, instead of us (mathematicians) being one of the least reactive communities when it comes to the future of publication.

What do you think?


UPDATE: Something close to this idea already exists, see knowledgeblog.org.

UPDATE 2: This kind of proposal has already been made, see these two articles:

… however, both papers look like minor adaptations of the new system of the world, made in order to fit into the old one. This may be good for starters, or it may be not good enough. We still long for a really great idea, for the moment.



Straw-man argument against comments in epijournals

This is a comment which awaits moderation (for some time) at Gowers “Good guys” post, therefore I post it here. Here is it, with some links  added:

After reading the rather heated exchanges around the subject of comments in epijournals, I am surprised by the fact that the best argument against comments that people here were able to find is by conflating comments in epijournals with comments in blogs.

I cannot imagine who would like to have comments in epijournals (or any other OA model) of the same quality as those on the average blog.

Therefore my impression is that much of the discussion here is just an example of a straw-man fallacy.

It is enough to look around and see that there are models who could inspire us.

I have proposed in several comments and posts like this one or the other to consider comments in OA journals on the par with the talk pages of Wikipedia, and peer-reviews as wiki pages.

Others have proposed the mathoverflow or reddit as models. Any of those proposals are stellar compared to comments in blogs.

Besides, I doubt very much that there is a majority against comments and I believe that Mike Taylor is only more vocal than others and for this he deserves some congratulations (and some respect, as a fellow scientist).


On peer-review and the big value it may have for epijournals, or even as a publishing business model, see also the posts:

Peer-reviews don’t protect against plagiarism and articles retraction. Why?

After reading one more post from the excellent blog Retraction Watch, this question dawned on me: if the classical peer-review is such a good thing, then why is it rather inefficient when it comes to detecting flaws or plagiarism cases which later are exposed by the net?

Because I have seen implicit and explicit blaming of:

  • authors, seeking to publish as many papers as possible (because only the number of them counts, not their contents)
  • journals, seeking to fill their pages with any costs, also failing to protect the authors which gave them the copyrights.

There is a missing link in this chain: what about the peer-reviews? I bet that many articles submitted for publication are not accepted as a consequence of peer-review reports which detect flaws or plagiarism attempts. However, so many other papers are published after they pass the peer-review filter, only to be found later as being flawed or plagiarizing.

I think this is the strongest argument against old-ways, let’s talk in private  practice.  It shows that even  if the great majority of researchers is honest and dedicated to commit to best practices in the field, the very few who try to trick, to “boost” their CVs, escape undetected during the classical peer-review process  because of the tradition to talk in private about research, to follow the authority paths, and so on. This practice was not bad at all, before the net era, it was simply a part if the immunitary system of the research community. On the other side, there is no reason to believe that flawed or plagiarized articles are more frequent now than before. The difference which makes such articles easier to detect is the net, which allows public expressions of doubt and fast communication of evidence (“don’t believe me, here is the link to the evidence, make you own opinion”).

Don’t you think that peer-review could get better, not worse, by becoming a public activity which results from the contribution of (few or many) peers?


On peer-review and the big value it may have for epijournals, or even as a publishing business model, see also the posts: