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Timothy Gowers

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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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Hat tip to +Benoît R. Kloeckner. It would be interesting to know more about this: it looks to me as though Sociologie du travail owned its title, which, if true, would have made its departure from Elsevier quite a bit easier. Giving the publishers ownership of our content rather than simply using their services is, along with our messed-up evaluation systems, at the root of pretty well all the other problems.
The journal Sociologie du travail has terminated the contract it has had with Elsevier since 1999 and is moving to a fully digital form of Open Access on

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More on the LSU/Elsevier law suit

In the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to interact with two lawyers from outside of academia who have each studied the situation we all find ourselves in when we try to do business with Elsevier. From very different perspectives and based on different legal situations, both lawyers arrived at the same conclusion — you cannot do business with this company. Both recommended that American universities need to find ways to extricate themselves from relationships with Elsevier; that we develop strategies to do so as quickly as possible, and that our freedom from Elsevier should be a long-term commitment.

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Drip, drip, drip ...

May 4th 2017. Following negotiations with Taylor & Francis Group, Université de Montréal Libraries have been forced to unbundle the “Big Deal” periodicals package with the publisher, as its usefulness is not worth the approximately US $500,000 per year demanded to access it. Our consultation of the UdeM community has shown only a fifth of the package (480 titles out of the 2,391 titles in the bundle deal) is required for UdeM’s research and teaching needs. Among those, only 160 will be retained, because of their very high cost (CA $236 000).

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If you're in Cambridge and at a loose end on Saturday, how about this concert, which, as well as Sibelius's 1st symphony, includes a rather interesting premiere, about which I will have more to say after the concert? (Full disclosure -- I am the father of the conductor, and it is the last concert he will conduct before graduating.)

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If you haven't got time to read the details, here's a key extract.

In essence, in an effort to exercise sound financial stewardship of public resources, LSU has been punished through Elsevier’s refusal to honor its contract. Elsevier’s actions in this case, from its blocking the IP ranges for the veterinary school to its failure to accept service at its New York office of the lawsuit to its outrageous demands that LSU Libraries pay an additional $200,000, demonstrate the publisher’s bad faith.

As a result of this dispute, Elsevier apparently wants LSU to add $170,000 of journals that the university does not need or want, a complete waste of scarce state dollars. Elsevier is holding hostage access to the veterinary school community in an effort to extort more money from a state institution. Keep in mind that LSU is already paying $1.5 million (and rising) to Elsevier.

All LSU is trying to do in the present case is ensure that it is not unnecessarily duplicating subscriptions for its campus and using state resources in a responsible manner. It is disappointing that Elsevier would respond to its own breach of contract by demanding more money from a public institution.

As summarized in LSU’s complaint:

Elsevier is well aware that LSU, like other universities, is heavily reliant upon the various types of research and educational content for which Elsevier enjoys monopolistic market powers and Elsevier is unfairly abusing its leverage to coerce LSU into paying additional and unnecessary subscription fees for research and educational content that LSU has already contracted for.

Here, just for reference, is Elsevier's mission statement.

Elsevier provides information and analytics that help institutions and professionals progress science, advance healthcare and improve performance.

We help researchers make new discoveries, collaborate with their colleagues, and give them the knowledge they need to find funding. We help governments and universities evaluate and improve their research strategies. We help doctors save lives, providing insight for physicians to find the right clinical answers, and we support nurses and other healthcare professionals throughout their careers. Our goal is to expand the boundaries of knowledge for the benefit of humanity.

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An interesting article from Scholarly Kitchen (of all places) about Big Deal cancellations. The short version: a number of universities in North America have cancelled Big Deals with major publishers, and have discovered that the world has not come to an end as a result. Are we getting anywhere near the tipping point?

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Here's a strange story from Greg Egan: he submitted a paper to The Astrophysical Journal explaining why another paper that they had published was wrong. He got back a report saying that he was right that that paper was wrong. There was one small criticism in the report. So Greg simply removed the offending sentence, which wasn't important to his argument, and resubmitted. Since then, despite several enquiries, he has been met with total silence, and this has gone on for a year. I'm sharing his post in the hope that if enough people spread the word, the ApJ will come to realize its reputation will suffer if it doesn't do something about this situation. Making a bad decision is one thing, but stonewalling is completely out of order.
Academic publishing for dummies

I don’t have much experience of academic publishing. I co-authored two papers with +Dan Christensen and +John Baez that appeared in Classical and Quantum Gravity, but my collaborators handled the submission process then, and it seemed to go fairly smoothly.

Recently, though, I wrote and submitted my first solo paper, and I’m finding the process rather strange and dispiriting.

Back in May 2015, The Astrophysical Journal published a paper which made some claims that would have been both extraordinary and exciting if they were true. I’m not going to recap all the problems with the paper here; anyone interested can read about them on this web page:

After reading this paper carefully and corresponding with the author, I was fairly sure that the novel claims it made were incorrect, and that this could be shown with some quite elementary arguments. (The paper itself also contained several algebraic errors, which I raised with the author by email; he denied they existed, then corrected some of them in an erratum, but in the process introduced some fresh mistakes.)

So, in October 2015 I wrote a very short paper rebutting the claims of the original ApJ paper, placed it on the arXiv, and submitted it to ApJ.

The editor seemed receptive, replying:

When we have a submission which is entirely a criticism of a previous paper we are usually reluctant to publish. However, in this case we may have been responsible for introducing a mistake into the literature and I'm inclined to make an exception.

So far, so good! And in due course, in March 2016, I received the following referee’s report:

The paper in question, essentially a rebuttal of an earlier paper on a topic in the restricted three body problem, has been reviewed. From what I can gather I believe that the criticism is true and the analysis is correct - M is not conserved in the rotating problem. This in turn seems to throw a significant portion of the Oks paper into sincere doubt. In fact, after reviewing that paper I see that the Oks paper is, indeed, mistaken when it comes to analyzing these orbits in the rotating problem. That is a viable and well supported conclusion from this paper.

The final statement that the author makes in the final paragraph of the paper, however, is not true and should be revised or removed. For a particle started on an Oks' orbit about the gravitational balance point the motion will not remain fixed in space but will also experience torques that rotate the orbit in inertial space. Indeed, the orbital dynamics of a particle started in such a configuration will probably be quite chaotic and not even complete one or two orbits.

So, the referee believed that the original paper was wrong and that my arguments against it were sound. His or her only complaint was that I’d over-reached in the last paragraph of the paper, where it sounded as if I was making a claim for the long-term behaviour of the kind of orbit under discussion. That wasn’t my intended meaning, so I was happy to remove the sentence in question.

I resubmitted the paper, and waited.

After a month, I’d heard nothing, so I wondered if I’d somehow pushed a wrong button on the journal’s web submission form. I wrote to the editor, to check that nothing had fallen through the cracks. I received no reply.

After six months, it really did seem strange that the paper had neither been accepted nor any further problems raised with me. I wrote to the editor again. I received no reply.

After seven months, I wondered if instead of emailing the editor in the normal way, I ought to be using the “Send Manuscript Correspondence” link on the journal’s web site page for the submission. So I tried again, using that form. I received no reply.

On 6 April 2017, I wrote once more to the editor:

It has now been more than a year since I submitted a revised version of this manuscript, which I believe addressed the referee’s sole objection to the original version.

I must confess that I am completely mystified as to why the paper has not either been accepted, or rejected, or some feedback provided as to what further improvements are required.

I understand that you must be extremely busy and that this paper deals with a relatively minor matter, but if you could spare a moment to let me know what the prospects are for this paper ever being published in your journal, and what, if anything, is required from me to enable this to happen, I would be very grateful.

And so far, I have still received no reply. The page for the submission on the journal’s web site still shows its status as “Under Review.”

So, to anyone reading this with experience of the world of academic publishing: Is this normal? Should I just wait patiently for a decision? Or should I stop kidding myself that this journal is ever going to publish the paper, and consider submitting it elsewhere?

It doesn’t look as if anyone (beyond a few popular science journalists) has taken the original paper seriously: as of April 2017, the only citation it has on the NASA ADS database is my own arXiv paper rebutting it, though the author himself cites it in a follow-up paper (in a journal of atomic and molecular physics) that claims to extend the results to the relativistic domain. So it’s not as if any large community of astrophysicists has been led astray.

Still, you’d think ApJ would want to correct the record, and up to a point they seemed to be showing every indication that they were prepared to do so.

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