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Timothy Gowers

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What is the right cryptographic protocol here, and is it easy to implement?

Suppose I wanted (as may happen at some point) to write a program that guessed how a human would make a certain judgment and I wanted to test its accuracy. And suppose I wanted people to be sure that it hadn't cheated, by simply taking people's input and pretending to have guessed it in advance. What I could do is get the program to reveal its guess before the user inputs the judgment. But then I have to trust the user not to change his/her judgment in response to the computer's guess. If I don't trust humans and other people don't trust my program, what can I do? This feels as though it should be an example of a well known problem and have a well known solution.

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Oh well, it was good while it lasted. "Sustainable" means "the initial free-to-publish period has finished and now we're going to charge £900 per article". 

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What an incredible blow for mathematics. If I had a "disable +1s" option for this post I would use it.

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Here's an interesting court case that gives some insight into how Elsevier operates. The editor of an Elsevier journal had a deal, struck in 1978, where he would get royalties from sales, to the tune of 15% of net institutional subscriptions. However, the deal was such that he would get these royalties only if the number of subscriptions reached 750. When Elsevier recently told him that there were only 26 institutional subscriptions, he smelt a rat. But Elsevier refused to divulge information that would allow him to find out what was going on, making a ridiculous claim about commercial sensitivity -- hence the court case. It turns out that they had decided not to include electronic subscriptions or subscriptions that were part of bundles, so here's an example where they are using bundling to rip off both readers and editors.

A particularly choice passage:

The court does not find Elsevier's fear of a current employee potentially starting a competing business in a brand new field in his early 70s to be remotely as legitimate as, or even comparable to, the fear of disclosing supplier and customer lists to the president of a competing business currently in the same field

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Are you an early-career researcher in the UK who feels pressurized by the academic system into doing your research in a suboptimal way? If so, you might like to sign up to Bullied Into Bad Science, a new campaign that aims to improve many aspects of this system, such as our over-reliance on journals as a measure of quality. If you are a more established researcher, you can sign up to declare your support for the campaign.

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Now this is how you should negotiate with a big commercial publisher. (Jisc, I hope you are watching closely.)

Despite appearances, the link below seems to work. It is to a statement put out by German universities and one could summarize it by saying that if Elsevier are going to play hardball, so are they.

From my understanding of the text, the German universities want to move over to a model where journals and their content are owned by the academic community, and publishers are paid for the services they provide. This would create a much less distorted market, because if a publisher charged outrageous fees, the journal could simply switch to another publisher. Elsevier has shown little interest in an arrangement of this kind, but the German universities, to their huge credit, have not just capitulated. In fact, more universities are joining in.

It would be wonderful if this attitude could spread to other countries. At the moment, Elsevier will probably calculate that losing all their revenue from Germany is probably better than risking a new and obviously fairer business model becoming established. But if other countries get involved, then the calculations would change.

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Researchers in Finland, tired of Elsevier's flat refusal to consider a more reasonable deal with Finnish universities and other research institutions, have started a new Elsevier boycott. There's an interesting response to one of the questions in the FAQ, which is often asked, namely why they concentrate on Elsevier. Here's their answer.

Elsevier has consistently proven itself to be the single biggest opponent to open access publishing. For example in Finland, despite tough negotiations, FinELib has been able to strike acceptable deals with Francis & Taylor and Sage and keep negotiations going in a meaningful way with Wiley and the American Chemical Society. This has not been the case with Elsevier.

Meanwhile, the Cost of Knowledge boycott continues to edge up towards 17,000 (though this number is somewhat misleading, as several of the signatories have "lapsed" and have not stuck to their boycott pledges). Do consider joining one of these boycotts if you haven't already.

Quick question about mathematical notation

I'm writing something up at the moment and I need a good latex symbol for the relation "are equal where both are defined", to be applied to partial functions on the same set. Is there a standard symbol for this? And if not, is there at least a LaTeX symbol that would be a good one to choose?

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Another journal goes Diamond. I don't know any details about how this happened, but would be interested to find out!
The "Cahiers" go Diamond OA!

Cahiers de Topologie et Géométrie Différentielle Catégoriques is the oldest category theory journal, having been started by Charles Ehresmann as a seminar in 1957-58. It has been a subscription journal, and more recently had a policy of delayed open access: articles would be free online after a time period.

But now the following was quietly put up on the journal website, and Andrée Ehresmann tells me it is soon to be announced:

The "Cahiers" are a quarterly Journal with one Volume a year (divided in 4 issues). They publish original papers in Mathematics, the main research subject being pure category theory, together with its applications in topology, differential geometry, algebraic geometry, universal algebra, homological algebra, algebraic topology.

From January 2018, the "Cahiers" (on their 60th birthday) will become a free (and no-fee) Open Access Journal. Each yearly volume will still consist of 4 quarterly pdf files (about 80-100 pages each), in the same format as before. At the beginning of each quarter, the corresponding issue will be freely downloadable from Recent Volumes. People may freely subscribe hereafter to receive a notice when a new issue is posted.

Manuscripts submitted for publication should be sent to one of the editors as a pdf file, with a copy to Andrée Ehresmann (...). There is no fee required from Authors.

#OpenAccess #OA

cc: +Mark C. Wilson, +Benoît R. Kloeckner, +Timothy Gowers

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This year's Shaw Prize in mathematics goes to algebraic geometers János Kollár and Claire Voisin.
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