It's nice that even the business magazine Forbes has noticed the Elsevier ban. But their business model will only go up in smoke if we develop a new model. It's easy to distribute information; the hard part is evaluating it. Bean-counters at universities and funding agencies need these evaluations to decide who to hire and promote, which departments to give more money to, and so on.

I like Andrew Stacey's idea of putting papers on free archives like the arXiv and then having independent "review boards" evaluate those papers. He writes:

"My proposal would be to have “boards” that produce a list of “important papers” each time period (monthly, quarterly, annually – there’d be a place for each). The characteristics that I would consider important would be:

1. The papers themselves reside on the arXiv. A board certifies a particular version, so the author can update their paper if they wish.

2. A paper can be “certified” by any number of boards. This would mean that boards can have different but overlapping scopes. For example, the Edinburgh mathematical society might wish to produce a list of significant papers with Scottish authors. Some of these will be in topology, whereupon a topological journal might also wish to include them on their list.

3. A paper can be recommended to a board in one of several ways: an author can submit their paper, the board can simply decide to list a particular paper (without the author’s permission), an “interested party” can recommend a particular paper by someone else.

4. Refereeing can be more finely grained. The “added value” from the listing can be the amount of refereeing that happened, and (as with our nJournal) the type of refereeing can be shown. In the case of a paper that the board has decided themselves to list, the letter to the author might say, “We’d like to list your paper in our yearly summary of advances in Topology. However, our referee has said that it needs the following polishing before we do that. Would you be willing to do this so that we can list it?”"

Someone needs to start one of these boards for math and/or physics. We can discuss it endlessly, but the time is ripe for action. If someone starts one, other people will start more, and natural selection will optimize the concept.
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