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The world-wide web has made journals obsolete: it's better to put papers on a freely available archive and then let boards of top scholars referee them. But how do we get to this system? In math and physics we have the arXiv, but nobody referees those papers. In biology and medicine, a board called the Faculty of 1000 chooses and evaluates the best papers, but there's no archive - they get those papers from traditional journals. Whoops - never mind! Now the Faculty of 1000 has started an archive!
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Andrej Bauer's profile photoDaniel Mietchen's profile photoEdward O'Callaghan's profile photoPhilip Thrift's profile photo
37 comments
 
+John Baez I think we should have a more profound connection between modern media and `proper` scientific publications by way of journals. That is to say, for the media to cite journals vigorously both for better quality media, better peer review and a more educated society instead of this rubbish "scientific say fat people are more likely to have small puppies acording to new studies.. next up, lawl cats!". Currently, Onion news network full encapsulate the current state of affairs in this regard. My point here is that this would certainly help with the interplay with funding, peer review and better exposure of current research in the public domain if implemented correctly. I certainly agree that digital form has made published journals obsolete, however one should not take this too far. A centralised organisational authority is still of need in a somewhat different degree/paradigm..
 
So where are the arXiv referee boards? Speaking of archival, I don't think paper copies of journals are obsolete yet. I don't believe the digitisation of all past journals is complete, let alone freely available. If a particular paper happens to fall under a paywall archive, a trek to the library is still needed. And it is surprising how many forgotten results turn out to be useful, even in this day and age.
 
I should add also that I think (paper) journals should be a thing of the past. But the transitional period we are in now is not going to end as soon as we would hope it to.
 
I am hoping that we are close to a phase transition. The system is so broken it has to change, and the available technology is screaming for improvements.
 
Why hasn't anyone suggested the following pledge: "I will only referee papers which I can download from arXiv or a similar archive which guarantees open access." It's the referees' price, its fair, and it treats all publishers equally.
 
+Andrej Bauer - that's a fine pledge, but Elsevier allows authors to put their papers on the arXiv; the people who have signed that anti-Elsevier pledge have other complaints about their behavior.
 
+Andrej Bauer +John Baez The issue goes further than that. Via +David Roberts, I have seen submissions by publishers (Elsevier, Springer, Wiley) to the White House in which they argue for the RWA as copyright holders, which they legally are. This is really about what ownership of the copyright to the papers entails and why academics should wrestle that back for the community.
 
+Rongmin Lu - I agree with you. The arXiv makes it really easy to assert your copyright over your work via a Creative Commons copyright - just click a button when you submit your paper. But I haven't actually been doing that, so I don't know what journals would do if you told them "sorry, I've already gotten a Creative Commons copyright on this piece of work".
 
Sounds quite plausible. When journals had copyright forms that one printed out and signed on paper, I would just cross out anything I didn't like, and add anything I wanted to add. It's a contract after all; the parties get to negotiate. And the journal never cared - maybe they never noticed. But now the forms are often electronic in a way that makes this harder to do.
 
+John Baez I doubt more than half the papers published by Evil Publishers appear on arXiv. I am just saying that refereeing should have its price. Requiring that the paper be accessible seems like a good price to me.
 
I don't know if this is going to be a f1000research.com thing vs. arXiv.org thing, but it still seems to me that arXiv.org could continue as it is and some group creates a arXiv-review.org (or whatever domain name the group wants to claim) that accomplishes the intended goal of reviewing the articles of arXiv.org. When an article on arXiv.org gets a "pass" from the arXiv-review.org "community", it's as good as "published".

The problem, as has been pointed out, is for some group to actually go and create a arXiv-review.org.
 
+Philip Thrift - Yes, all the reasonable people I talk to seem to agree that the arXiv should continue as it is, while reviewing and refereeing should take place at other sites that link to the arXiv. This splitting of publication into the "making information available" part and the "evaluating that information" part offers many advantages over the traditional journal model.

And yes, now somebody needs to go and create an arXiv review website. There's no need for there to be just one: in fact it will be better if there are several, which compete and try different things - and then maybe one site that makes it easy to get to all the rest. But someone has to start one, or all this will remain a fantasy.

And unfortunately, it won't be me. I'm trying to focus on global warming. I will gladly join an effort to develop a review website, but I won't lead it.
 
arXiv-review.org, I thought, would be a domain name people would remember, and the name suggests its function. And I checked: It's available. And hopefully someone will register it and do it. :)
 
+Philip Thrift I own that now. I shall setup a opensource platform on a DragonflyBSD machine I have here.. Any suggestions as to what sort of platform would serve best? Let us get moving on this..
 
+Edward O'Callaghan - There it is.
<http://www.networksolutions.com/whois-search/arXiv-review.org>:
Domain Name: ARXIV-REVIEW.ORG
Created On: 02-Feb-2012 03:35:26 UTC

One of the first things to do would be to write a clear Primer and Goals and Mission statement about what arXiv-review.org is for, how it works, and how readers (without registration) and reviewers (with registration) relate to the site, like there is a statement for arXiv.org <http://arxiv.org/help/primer> for readers and submitters.

(And a front page at <http://arXiv-review.org>, which can be done now.)

I can take a stab at this on my blog <http://occupypublishing.blogspot.com/2012/02/scientific-journals-in-e-publishing-age.html> unless someone has a mission statement ready.
 
I have found arXiv difficult to deal with at all, also slow and time consuming. I hope the new archive will be better, but practically anything has to be better than paying $30 for some short meaningless articles.
 
Don't think it has been mentioned here that such peer-review overlays for arXiv already exist, e.g. Electronic Proceedings in Theoretical Computer Science at http://eptcs.org/ .
 
Another point I am missing in the discussion is collaborative platforms for updating knowledge in a given area - ideas like an "Encyclopedia of Research" or a "GitHub for Science" have been floated from time to time, but so far lacked momentum. Perhaps it's time to have another look?
 
+Daniel Mietchen - This organization <http://eptcs.org/> appears like it provides publications exactly along the lines of arXiv Review Journal of <whatever subject area> <http://occupypublishing.blogspot.com/2012/02/guidelines-for-arxiv-review.html>. (And apparently this organization has funding and people to maintain their site. That is critical.)

In each published paper there is a link to an existing arXiv.org article: e.g. <http://eptcs.org/paper.cgi?PLACES2010.5>

So if this organization (or parallel organizations) could take on all of arXiv.org subject areas, then the process seems pretty much along the way of being resolved. (And include Journals as well as Proceedings.)

(Note in the bibtex of the above example: publisher = "Open Publishing Association". There you go!)
 
+Philip Thrift - this organization you mention, "Electronic Proceedings in Theoretical Computer Science", is not going to "take on all arXiv.org subject areas" and start publishing papers or conference proceedings in other branches of mathematics and physics. It doesn't work that way.
 
+John Baez - How does it work?

Why couldn't this be used as the model for another organization(s) to do the same thing but with Proceedings (and Journals) in other subjects? The structure would be the same as what EPTCS has done: the paper page (example above) would include the link to the article on arXiv.org. If EPTCS is for one area (Theoretical Computer Science in this case), then another organization could be for another. An EPDG for Differential Geometry for example.

What EPTCS can tell is how much resources are needed (in terms of dollars and people) to maintain the site(s).

But there is nothing stopping any group from doing what EPTCS has done in their own subject area.

(Of course it has been pointed out above that submitting articles to appear in <http://arxiv.org> can be bothersome in the first place. I'm not sure what the problems are.)
 
+Philip Thrift wrote: "How does it work?"

Academics in one area are focused on solving their own problems and largely oblivious to the bigger picture. An organization of theoretical computer scientists will certainly be unable to referee papers in other topics. But worse, they won't tend to be interested in spreading their model of doing business to other fields.

"Why couldn't this be used as the model for another organization(s) to do the same thing but with Proceedings (and Journals) in other subjects?"

It certainly can! And that's a good idea. The hard part is convincing people in those other subjects that it's a good idea - good enough to make them do the work it takes to start similar journals.

"What EPTCS can tell is how much resources are needed (in terms of dollars and people) to maintain the site(s)."

True! How about emailing them and finding out?

"Of course it has been pointed out above that submitting articles to appear in <http://arxiv.org> can be bothersome in the first place."

I don't know what you mean. It's incredibly easy to put papers on the arXiv - it takes me about 15 minutes. It's hard for crackpots, because there filters in place to weed them out, but that's a good thing in my opinion: there are lots of insane people who would love to put lots of papers on the arXiv.
 
John Baez said : "I don't know what you mean". Well, one problem seems to be with endorsement. People tend to fear to endorse an author they do not know personally. The reason are perhaps obvious. For example a suitable run-of-the mill piece of work may have been used to obtain an endorsement, and some following paper may just not suit the endorser, who is maybe without tenure or looking for grants. The multidisciplinary problem also arises. My own recent book, for example, URL below, I would not even have considered for submission to arXiv as for one reason or another most arXiv readers may not wish to read it. Other people may have had another view.
Many people are reading the book and we now have over 50 members in the Facebook discussion group. ( http://amzn.to/zHtsxy ; http://bit.ly/xR8FgF details ; http://bit.ly/A2eaOe reviewers) and the feedback is very good and very positive.
 
+Daniel Mietchen +John Baez - Those EPTCS slides outline it out well (and I will watch the video). It will be interesting to see if other fields (I just took Differential Geometry as an example -- pick any field of interest now covered by arXiv) follow this and there is an EPDG along with EPTCS, etc., "a peer-reviewed proceedings series implemented as an arXiv overlay".

EPTCS covers Proceedings in TCS, but is there an EJTCS that covers Journals in TCS that follows the same protocol? No reason why there can't be. And then EJDG (Electronic Journals in Digital Geometry, ... . As in the case of EPTCS, it makes sense for scientists in their own fields create and manage the respective sites.

(Then all +ArXiv Review could be is a site (maybe just a blog or wiki) that points to "peer-reviewed proceedings series implemented as an arXiv overlay" -- e.g. EPTCS would be its first entry -- and "peer-reviewed journals series implemented as an arXiv overlay".)
 
This raises a somewhat philosophical question: What is the difference between a virtual conference which results in proceedings, and a journal? (The conference may be virtual in the sense people don't have to physically go to some city.) Both proceedings (of a conference) and journals are publications of articles, but why is one type "valued" more than another? Maybe it isn't. (The proceedings of a conference held once a month instead of once a year would be like a journal in the sense of periodicity.)
 
+Philip Thrift - in computer science, getting papers accepted by the big conferences is a highly competitive affair that's taken very seriously, so papers in these good conference proceedings count more than journal articles when it comes to tenure and promotion. In math, they count a lot less. In short, it's all a matter of custom.
 
I agree that there is no clear boundary between journals and proceedings. Not sure exactly where the different value sets come from. In some fields, it may just be the Impact Factor again, in others perhaps the rejection rates, periodicity or some such.

On using wikis, see also http://species-id.net/wiki/Wikis_in_scholarly_publishing and http://outreach.wikimedia.org/wiki/GLAM/Newsletter/January_2012/Contents/Open_Access_report#Topic_Pages_at_PLoS_Computational_Biology .
 
Rob van Glabbeek, the Editor-in-Chief of EPTCS, just sent me the following comments:

Yes, there is nothing stopping any group from doing what EPTCS has
done in their own subject area. I'd be happy to lend some advice to
anyone setting such a thing up.

"What EPTCS can tell is how much resources are needed (in terms of
dollars and people) to maintain the site(s)."

* Editor-in-chief 1 hr/week (done freely by me)
* Webmaster 3 hr/week (done freely by me, but could be $75/hr)
* Copy-editor 1 hr/week $20/hr = 10min/paper $3.35/paper
* Correspondence 10 min/week (done freely by departmental secretary)
* DOIs $275/year = $1/paper
* Domain name $10/year
* Computer support $0 (all operations fit in less than 1%
of my personal academic use;
computers are maintained by university.)

Note: sometimes months go by without the webmaster doing anything;
the figure about represents burst of work aimed at creating or
improving a fully automatic workflow. If we stopped further improvement
now, only doing maintenance, the time of the webmaster might be only
45 minutes/week.

We publish about 300/papers a year. So this comes to $5.35/paper cash
plus up to $37.50/paper for my time as webmaster.
(Note of comparison: both closed and open access publishers claim to
spend about $1000/paper. If I tell them I can do it for less, they
tell me I'd deluding myself, by not counting my own time, and that of
volunteers. Yet, 300 papers times $1000 would be quite a bit more than
some time we forgot to count ...)

I agree it's easy to post to the arXiv. But EPTCS users submit
directly to EPTCS. Our software modifies the paper (page numbers and
footer) and automatically inserts the paper in the arXiv.

Cheers,
Rob
(Editor-in-chief of EPTCS)

P.S. EPTCS does not use a post-publication review model such as
advocated for arXiv-review.org or the new F1000 journal.
Instead, all papers are refereed by the conference whose proceedings
we publish, and upon publication we archive the final version of the
paper at arXiv.org, and prevent further modifications of the same
paper. In the opinion of the founders of EPTCS, once a paper is
officially published, it shouldn't be changed any more. When other
papers improve the work of the given paper, the reference should not
be to a moving target, or the relations between the papers stops
making sense, and no definitive statement of what is and is not said
in a paper can ever be made.
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