A new open-access venture from Cambridge University Press

The formal launch has just taken place at the European Congress of Mathematicians in Krakow of the Forum of Mathematics, which to a first approximation is a new open-access electronic journal. However, the singular “journal” is misleading, because in some ways it is more like a whole set of journals. But there will be considerable interdependence between the elements of the set, so “journals” is misleading too. We need an intermediate number between singular and plural. Also, although the journal(s) is/are primarily electronic, there will be a print-on-demand option if anyone wants it.

What is the Forum of Mathematics?

Terminological questions aside, how will this new journal-like object work? I think the easiest way of explaining it is to describe the process for submitting an article, which is similar to the process for submitting an article to a conventional maths journal, but with one or two unusual aspects.

First of all, as with any journal you’ll need to decide whether your article is likely to be of the required standard. Except that here there are two standards to worry about, which brings me to the main unusual feature: the Forum of Mathematics, as the journal(s) is called, has two “levels”, called Pi and Sigma. A paper suitable for Sigma should be of the kind of standard you would expect in a leading journal in the area of that paper. For example, if your paper is in combinatorics, then it will be suitable for Forum of Mathematics: Sigma if it is of roughly the standard expected by Combinatorica or JCT A/B. As for Pi, that is for papers that are sufficiently interesting or important that their appeal goes beyond their immediate area of mathematics. Thus, Pi papers will be at the level of leading general mathematics journals and will be an open-access alternative to them. Discussion is still going on about what precisely this means, but it looks as though the aim will probably be for Pi to be a serious competitor for Annals, Inventiones, the Journal of the AMS and the like. Of course, we can only really know what the level and characters of the two journals will be when they have been going for a while. The CUP website says this:

Pi is the open access alternative to the leading generalist mathematics journals. Papers published will be of a high quality and of real interest to a broad cross-section of all mathematicians.

It will also be possible for papers submitted to Pi to be reconsidered for Sigma, if the author is willing for this to happen. However, to encourage authors to think hard before submitting to Pi, rather than merely trying their luck with it, there will be a requirement that papers submitted to Pi are accompanied by a justification of a side or two, which should explain why the paper is of more than merely specialist interest. I hope that these justifications will be very useful documents for the editors, and perhaps even for readers of the papers at a later stage, but that kind of detail has not yet been decided.

The editorial board of the Forum of Mathematics will be divided into “clusters” of people, with each cluster representing a different area of mathematics. When you submit a paper, you will decide which is the appropriate cluster to submit it to, and the editors in that cluster will handle the paper. However, not all papers can be easily classified, and that is where the not-quite-singular-but-not-quite-plural aspect of the Forum of Mathematics becomes apparent. It’s not just papers that are hard to classify, but also editors, and some editors will belong to more than one cluster. Also, there will be plenty of communication between editors of different clusters in an effort to achieve a reasonably uniform standard across the whole of the Forum of Mathematics.

Otherwise, the journal will be pretty conventional. Once you’ve submitted a paper, it will be processed in basically the same way as papers are processed for any other journal. A small but important difference is that the Forum will not have “issues”. As with many other electronic journals, once a paper is accepted, it goes straight up on the website. It will have a number for reference purposes, and if it is a Sigma paper then it will in some sense “belong” to the relevant cluster, but it won’t belong to an issue (though there will be “volumes” for those who want print copies). One of the advantages of this is that the Forum of Mathematics will be able to aim for an absolute standard rather than taking space into account when deciding whether or not to accept papers.

Speaking as one of the editors, I’d like to say that this is something I feel very strongly about. It is very unclear at this stage how popular the Forum of Mathematics will be. I would hate to be under pressure to lower standards in order to attract more papers, or to turn away good papers because there wasn’t room for them. An electronic journal makes it easy to avoid that kind of pressure, and for the Forum of Mathematics it will be avoided.

How will the journal be paid for?

So far, what I’ve been discussing is only rather minor modifications of the normal practice of journals. But I said at the beginning of this post that the Forum of Mathematics will be open access. What does that mean, and how will the finances work? Before I answer this, let me briefly introduce some terminology.

It is unfortunate that the phrase “open access” has come to mean different things to different people. The result is that if you say that you are in favour of open access, you have to clarify what you mean, since there may be business models that you are not in favour of but that are nevertheless called open access by their proponents. However, there are two types of open access, known as gold and green, that have well-established meanings. Gold open access is where a paper is published in a journal and made freely available online, and the publisher is paid by the author. So a more descriptive name would be author-pays open access. Green open access is where papers are published in the usual way, but also made available on repositories such as the arXiv, so that even if the formatted journal versions are behind a paywall, freely downloadable versions of the papers will still appear when you Google them.

The advocates of green open access argue that if everyone makes a habit of posting their papers on places like the arXiv, then in time the problems we have with expensive journals will melt away: there will simply no longer be any point in subscribing to them at ridiculous prices. Opponents of green open access, and especially of mandates from funding bodies that people should make their papers available online, use exactly the same argument but with one extra line: if everybody did it, then there would be no point in subscribing to a journal, and therefore the journals as we know them would no longer be financially viable.

I will resist the temptation to discuss these arguments in more detail, because gold open access is more relevant to the Forum of Mathematics (though papers submitted to the Forum of Mathematics can also be posted on the arXiv, so it is completely sympathetic to green open access). Here there is bad news and good news. The bad news is that it will cost money to have a paper published in the Forum of Mathematics. In other words, it is following a gold open-access model. The good news is hidden in the word “will”. For the first three years of the journal, Cambridge University Press will waive the publication charges. So for three years the journal will be what Marie Farge (who has worked very hard for a more rational publication system) likes to call diamond open access, a quasi-miraculous model where neither author nor reader pays anything.

A second piece of good news will seem like good news only if you know what typical author publication charges, or APCs as they are commonly called, are. (Actually, APC officially stands for “article processing charge”.) Here are a couple of examples. One of the most famous open-access journals is the Public Library of Science, or PLoS. PLoS has several high-quality journals and a big all-encompassing journal called PLoS-ONE that has a high acceptance rate and is basically somewhere where you put a paper if all you want to signal is “this was a publishable paper”. The APCs are between $2000 and $3000 for the high-quality journals and are $1350 for PLoS-ONE. The details are on this page from their webiste. Another example is the London Mathematical Society’s open-access option. If you want your LMS-journal paper to be freely available after it is published, then you can have that for a fee of $3050 (or £1925) from outside the UK or £2310 from within the UK. The UK figure includes VAT of 20%.

The proposed charge for the Forum of Mathematics after the initial three years is £500 or $750. These figures do not include VAT, and are in absolute terms quite a lot of money, but they are nevertheless much cheaper than what appears to be the industry standard at the moment. They will also be waived for people from developing countries (CUP has a list of the countries for which fees will be waived) and for people who can demonstrate a genuine inability to pay. In addition, CUP promises to be transparent about its costs, so one will be able to understand the justification for the fees. I do not know the exact form that this transparency will take: what I would like to see is a web page somewhere that discusses in detail the cost of processing a typical paper, but maybe they won’t go that far.

A further point is that CUP would like to keep the fees as low as possible, even after the three years are over, and will seek funding to do so. The dream scenario would be a rich donor agreeing to underwrite APCs for several years after the initial three-year period. But there are also smaller things that can be done. For example, some people are at institutions that routinely agree to cover author charges. Such people will be encouraged to pay the author charges if they get a paper into the Forum of Mathematics, since it will not be a problem for them to pay, and the money received will be used to mitigate in one way or another the introduction of APCs in three years’ time. I am being slightly vague here because there are different forms that this mitigation might take: for example, there might be a choice between waiving APCs completely for a further period and half waiving them for longer.

Some pros and cons of gold open access.

I have talked to a number of mathematicians about author publication charges, and it is clear that the idea is regarded with deep suspicion by many people. It is also clear that many of the arguments that people have against it are good ones. Before I go into some of those arguments, I would urge you to bear in mind that there are also some very strong arguments against the current subscription system. It seems to me that every system of publication has its drawbacks, so pointing out those drawbacks is not enough: one must argue that they outweigh the drawbacks of the existing system.

The main drawback of gold open access is that it makes life more difficult for people from less wealthy institutions. More generally, it introduces financial considerations into certain decisions that one would prefer to be made entirely on academic grounds. An example of the kind of consequence this might have if gold open access became the norm is a less well-off UK university telling its academics that it would pay for just the papers needed for the next Research Excellence Framework. In fact, I have even heard a rumour of this kind, and apparently the decision about which papers would be supported was to be taken by the university administration and not by the academics. I very much hope that won’t be typical.

One of the best ways to avoid unpleasant consequences of that kind is to make the charges small enough that they are relatively painless for universities and funding bodies to pay. Maybe the charges for the Forum of Mathematics could be lower still — I don’t know — but the fact that they are much lower than the ones that are prevalent at the moment is at the very least a significant piece of progress. (I would add here that Rob Kirby, who will be the managing editor and who has been campaigning against expensive journals for many years, regards the £500 price as an absolute bargain.)

An important point to make is that while libraries continue with their subscriptions to existing journals, APCs are simply an additional cost to universities and funding bodies. However, if we were to switch tomorrow to an author-pays model (that is, stop all subscriptions and do all publishing through gold open access), then the total cost of the publication system would be much less than it is now. Or at least so I have read many times, and I find it plausible. For instance, I have been told that University College London pays over a million pounds a year to Elsevier for its subscriptions. Even if APCs were £2000, a million pounds would be enough for 500 papers. Elsevier has 2000 or so journals, so I would guess that the total number of articles is something like 30,000. If 1% of these articles come from University College London (surely an overestimate — many of those 2000 journals are not all that high quality and there are many good universities round the world), then that’s 300 papers, so already a significant saving. Improvements to this back-of-envelope calculation are welcome. (Of course, APCs of £500 alter the calculation dramatically.) Thus, one needs to take a long-term view when thinking about APCs. I see the pain of paying APCs as to some extent a good thing: if academics themselves feel that pain (not quite directly but through their departments or other funders) then they will be less likely to accept outrageous prices than they are now, when the pain of journal prices is felt by librarians.

Since switching to an author-pays model would save universities a lot of money, one option that looks very attractive on the face of it would be for a large number of universities to club together and agree to fund APCs for journals that were sufficiently cheap and of sufficiently high quality. If that could be organized, then the consortium of universities would have much more bargaining power than libraries do at present: a journal would much rather be able to say, “Don’t worry about APCs — they are paid for by consortium X,” than have explicit APCs. (Why? Well, which kind of journal would you prefer to submit to?) So with luck there would be significant downward pressure on prices. The difficulty, of course, is of a prisoner’s-dilemma type: while it may be in the collective interest of universities to set up a fund to cover APCs, any individual university would do better by not contributing to the fund. However, if enough universities could be persuaded to start such a fund, then moral pressure could be put on other universities to join in — especially wealthy universities whose members frequently benefit from the fund. I hope that the Forum of Mathematics will quickly become such a valued part of the mathematical landscape that many of us will make efforts to bring a fund like this into existence (perhaps initially just for FoM, but ideally the fund would grow and support other open-access journals).

If you are interested in arguments for and against various kinds of open access, I would recommend the writings of Peter Suber, who also has a book coming out soon.

My plans as an editor.

Here I am speaking for myself only. The idea of taking on a significant editorial job was not one that would ordinarily have appealed to me, but when David Tranah (whose brainchild all this was) summoned me for a chat in early February, shortly after I had published my first Elsevier post, I realized that it was basically impossible for me to say no.

Having got myself into that position, I now want to think of ways of doing the work efficiently. Here are a few ideas I have had so far.

1. I will follow the practice of many editors these days and ask for quick opinions first, unless I myself already have a quick opinion. I will proceed to a more detailed reference only if the initial opinion suggests that it is worth doing so.

2. One reason I have been rather inefficient at this kind of job in the past is that I always feel guilty asking potential referees for a favour. Maybe I shouldn’t, but I do. To counteract that, I would like to compile a list of names of people who volunteer in advance to do a certain amount of work for the discrete maths cluster of the journal (which is the cluster I’ll be part of). What I’d like is for people to tell me roughly how often they are prepared to handle a paper and roughly what topics they are ready to cover. That way, if I have a paper that matches a referee who has not yet reached his/her quota, I’ll be able to ask that person without the slightest embarrassment. If you are reading this and feel like showing your support for the journal by dropping me an email and making a commitment of that kind, I will be very grateful. If you don’t, and if you are a discrete mathematician, you may find that I email you at some point. I won’t hold anyone to the commitments that they make. The main purpose of this is to make it easier to ask for help, but if you’ve said you can handle three papers a year and a long and difficult paper comes along at a bad time, I will understand.

3. I plan at some point to write some guidelines for what I personally consider makes a combinatorics paper good enough to publish in Sigma and what gives it that extra Pi-like quality. This probably won’t be easy, but I hope that authors and referees will find it useful to have some explicit criteria (which they will be free to ignore) rather than relying on some vague instinct that “this paper is good enough for the Forum of Mathematics: Sigma”.

How does all this relate to the Elsevier boycott?

Here again I am speaking for myself rather than for CUP, though I hope my opinions will be shared by many others. As it happens, the idea of the Forum of Mathematics predates the Elsevier boycott, so in a sense the answer is that it has nothing to do with the boycott at all. However, I myself see it as potentially a very important development in the campaign for a better system of academic publishing. In particular, it greatly weakens what was previously quite a strong argument for some people against participating in the Elsevier boycott: that the best specialist journal in their area is an Elsevier journal so joining the boycott would harm their career.

Well, maybe that has been true up to now, but it is about to become less true. If you have a paper that is suitable for the best specialist journal in your area and that journal happens to be very expensive, then you now have the option of submitting your paper to Forum of Mathematics: Sigma instead. Similarly, if you were thinking of submitting a top-notch paper to a top-notch but expensive journal (Inventiones comes to mind here — a Springer journal, but this discussion is not just about Elsevier), then you can get just as much of a career boost from Forum of Mathematics: Pi but also enjoy the warm glow that comes from knowing that your paper is freely available to all mathematicians.

At some point I hope to compile an informal list of expensive journals of roughly the same standard as Forum of Mathematics: Sigma, though for that I’ll need help, as I have very little idea of the standards of specialist journals outside my areas of mathematics.

It is of course unlikely that the Forum of Mathematics will change the face of mathematical publishing in three years. To be a serious direct threat to Elsevier’s mathematics journals, for example, it would need to cause a reduction of their quality by enough to make libraries consider cancelling their subscriptions, which is very difficult when mathematics journals are bundled together with journals from other subjects. However, the Forum of Mathematics can still have a big influence. For one thing, it will demonstrate that a major publishing house can produce a high-quality journal with high-quality formatting and editing with APCs of around £500. I hope that people in charge of funding bodies who are considering open-access mandates will ask some tough questions of publishers who continue to charge four times that. Secondly, if the Forum of Mathematics is successful, it has the potential to reduce the quality of a number of other journals, which will at least strengthen the hand of librarians who are bargaining with publishers like Elsevier (because cancelling their subscriptions won’t cause quite the inconvenience that it would at the moment). Thirdly, the Forum of Mathematics may encourage other publishers to set up cheaper open-access journals — one huge gap in the market would still be a place where people could submit papers that were perfectly worthy but not good enough for the Forum of Mathematics. I myself think that for such papers, there is a strong case for not putting in too much effort into formatting and typesetting, since the papers will usually not be read all that much, and since many people can produce a decent typescript themselves. So it ought to be possible to produce such a journal (or journal-type object, if it is like the Forum of Mathematics) with smaller APCs.

And even if we forget all about price, we still have the huge bonus that the papers published in the Forum of Mathematics will be freely accessible. I hope that once people start to get used to a high-end journal being freely accessible, they will feel all the more keenly the inconvenience of paywalls.

So I urge you to support the Forum of Mathematics. If you’ve got a good paper, then why not hold on to it until 1st October and submit it to us? If the Forum of Mathematics takes off, then you will be able to look back with pride and say that your paper was one of the very first — who knows, perhaps even the first — to appear in it. If your department has not yet thought about author charges, then another thing you can do is initiate a discussion about those — something I plan to do in Cambridge — since, as I said above, any author fees that are paid voluntarily during the first three years will help keep the fees lower later on and increase the chances that the venture will be a success, which in turn will raise the prospect of saving a lot of money in the longer term.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I am keen on the idea of much more radical changes to the way we evaluate and disseminate our work. However, I am also in favour of evolutionary change rather than a sudden collapse of the existing system, and that is what the Forum of Mathematics offers. It is not a solution to all our problems, but neither is anything else. What it is is another way of doing things, and the more of those we have, the greater the chance that some of them will work and become successful and help us move to a cheaper and more open system of publishing.

229 Responses to “A new open-access venture from Cambridge University Press”

  1. Richard Van Noorden Says:

    Tim – do you mean it will cost £500 to publish an article, or to submit an article? This blog is unclear. (“it will cost money to submit a paper to the Forum of Mathematics” …”For the first three years of the journal, Cambridge University Press will waive the publication charges”).

    • gowers Says:

      Sorry — I’ll clarify that. There is no charge to submit. The £500 charge will be to publish. Many thanks for pointing out my slip.

  2. N/A Says:

    I believe you have a typo in the 4th paragraph: “… are accompanied by a justification of a side or two”; “side” should assumedly be “slide” … ?

    • gowers Says:

      Actually that was intended — I meant a side or two of A4, but didn’t want to be too precise about it because different spacing would lead to different lengths of justification, and I’m not sure what the recommended length will be.

  3. sgadgil Says:

    I starting reading with excitement, but down the line had two nasty surprises.
    (1) The second surprise: Gowers says “They will also be waived for people from developing countries”. I went to the list just to check up and found that India is NOT in the list. `Developing countries’ is a term with a commonly understood meaning (roughly corresponding to the `category S’ membership of the AMS) and this description for a list excluding India and Bangladesh is just wrong.
    I should add that I am sure Prof. Gowers did not intend to mislead. However all the signs are that the CUP did intend to do so (and effectively misled Prof. Gowers).
    (2) The first surprise: The price of $750 really seems absurdly high. Comparing with other Journals (saying invoking the Open access option prices for Springer or Elsevier) is hardly a measure of fairness – these publishers are clearly rent-seekers based on their brand. A better comparison would be to view online journals as `cloud services’ and compare with, for instance, a pro subscription to Dropbox or Evernote – these are commercial services, also meant for sharing, and do offer a lot of value. By this measure the price is at least an order of magnitude too high. If there is some missing cost, the onus is surely on CUP to explain this.

    • gowers Says:

      I recently spoke to a mathematician from Gabon, who told me about some of the difficulties they have there, so I looked for Gabon on the list and failed to find it. In the FAQ it is described as the current list, so maybe there is room for manoeuvre here. My guess is that with a country like India, the thought is that there are some better off institutions that currently pay for journal subscriptions, so such institutions shouldn’t have APCs waived just because they are in India. If an explanation like that does indeed underlie CUP’s decision (which it may not — I am simply guessing) then perhaps CUP could do something more precise, such as waiving APCs for all Indian universities and institutes apart from a few that can clearly afford them.

      In general, I and others plan to work hard over the next three years to avoid the full APCs coming into force. Our chances of achieving that will be much greater if the journal can quickly establish itself as an important one that mathematicians would not like to lose. So I hope that even if you are strongly against APCs, you will at least consider supporting the journal during the period when they are waived.

    • Brighten Godfrey Says:

      $750 is two orders of magnitude above the cost of archiving a paper — based on arXiv’s cost of under $7 in 2010, and the Journal of Machine Learning Research’s estimated cost of $6.50 (sources linked at http://goo.gl/uvPD1).

      However, that does not include the cost of paper formatting and copyediting.

  4. sgadgil Says:

    A quick comment about the comparison with PLOS – the whole PLOS group has an honour system for partial or full waiver of access fees.

  5. Peter Brett Says:

    How will Pi/Sigma papers be licensed? Will it be BOAI-compliant?

    • gowers Says:

      There is a FAQ that has a section on copyright information, where this question is answered (though it is conceivable that the answer may change). The short answer is a cc-by licence.

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      And to make David’s answer explicit: yes, the CC BY licence is BOAI-compliant. (It’s the same licence that BioMed Central and PLoS use, and generally considered the open-access licence par excellence. A fine choice.)

  6. Yemon Choi Says:

    Nitpick regarding the defence of gold OA: the issue is not the wealth of the institution per se, but more like the wealth of the department. Not all institutions give their mathematics and statistics departments as much support or status as, e.g. Cambridge does. It seems to me that a moderately well-off university may well decide the money is better spent supporting publications in Important Areas such as NanoTech/CyberLinkage/Agro-Economics than, say, some “weird thing” involving algebraic cycles on complex projective varieties, Clay Millenium Prizes notwithstanding…

  7. Noah Snyder Says:

    I’m very excited about this idea, especially the “sigma” journal which will provide competition to a lot of Elsevier journals which currently don’t face much pressure.

    If I were running things I would have had Pi aim at the Advances level, because the Inventiones level could be dealt with by JAMS and Annals increasing their page counts. In general I see 5 kinds of journals: general great (e.g. Annals), general very good (e.g. Advances), specialized very good (e.g. G&T), specialized good (AGT), and specialized mediocre.

    I wish the names were a bit easier to understand/remember. I keep having to look back at the article to remember which is which.

    • gowers Says:

      On that last point, I offer a mnemonic: Pi for primo and Sigma for secondo. (I suppose they actually stand for product and sum, so maybe another mnemonic would be that the product is usually greater than the sum.)

    • Terence Tao Says:

      My interpretation of the titles is that Sigma is supposed to cover the disjoint union of the subfields of mathematics, while Pi is supposed to cover the Cartesian product.

  8. Noah Snyder Says:

    One way of having APCs for a lower tier journal be much lower is to make it an arxiv overlay. They already have storage and automatic typesetting working very well. (Though, such a journal should add $10 to their APC to donate to the arxiv.) Something modeled after PLoS ONE (with a very low bar for “interesting”) but for math and as an arxiv overlay with very low APCs seems to me like it can and should replace all journals outside the top 40.

    • gowers Says:

      I too would be very much in favour of that kind of solution. One thing I learnt from talking to someone from PLoS ONE is that having at least some perceived bar is very important: if people don’t get the feeling that their paper has passed some “test”, then they don’t like it. I think the PLoS ONE acceptance rate is something like 65%, which is lower than they originally intended.

    • Benoît Régent-Kloeckner Says:

      Such a solution is under consideration in France (without APC, but with some selection). I cannot say much more now, but some people should be contacted soon about this, including Tim Gowers.

  9. Ameera Chowdhury Says:

    How does Electronic Journal of Combinatorics manage to run without charging its authors?

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Any reason why commercial/foundation sponsorship was not considered?

    • gowers Says:

      Who says it’s not considered? It’s early days, and the three-year grace period gives us time (though not very much) to try to find a source of funding for APCs. As far as I know, no sources are ruled out at this stage.

      I don’t know much about fundraising, but I would guess that potential donors would be more likely to contribute if universities also contributed, since the latter would demonstrate that the new journal was something that actually mattered.

  11. Forum of Mathematics, Pi and Forum of Mathematics, Sigma « What’s new Says:

    […] discussion of this journal can be found at Tim Gowers’ blog.   It should be fully operational in a few months (barring last-minute hitches, we should be open […]

  12. Richard Price Says:

    It seems to me that switching to an author-pays system would represent significant cost for the university system and the taxpayer. In that world, departments would not only have to cover all the author fees for all the papers they are publishing, but they would also have to continue to subscribe to the journals to access the back catalogue of papers, which would still be subject to a reader-pays model.

    My understanding is that in certain sub-fields of physics and mathematics, almost all of the new papers are available on the arxiv. This raises the question: why do maths and physics departments continue to subscribe to maths and physics journals, if all the content is available sooner, and for free, on the arxiv? My understanding is that the answer to this question is that the arxiv has only the last few years of papers on it, and a working academic typically needs access to the last 30+ years of research.

    If this analysis is correct, then the value of the back catalogue is considerable. It may continue to have value for 30+ years after the point at which all papers start becoming open access. The value of the back catalogue would drop as time passes, but that doesn\’t necessarily mean that the subscription prices will drop, at least not for a long time. Over the last 20 years, prices of journals have risen considerably, without any increase in value provided. The prices are more a reflection of what universities are prepared to pay to get access to the content that is available, rather than anything that correlates with the value the journal is adding.

    My suspicion is that Elsevier and other publishers would be unlikely to lower their site license subscription prices, even if they started to make significant revenues from author fees. This suggests that author fees would be additional costs in the scientific publishing system for as long as universities needed to subscribe to the back catalogue.

    • Benoît Régent-Kloeckner Says:

      Most contracts with publishers include future access to the papers published when the university was a subscriber for low or no fees (e.g. with Springer, in the worst case I now a university have to pay 500€ a year to access all the materials it subscribed to in the past). So this is not as much a big deal than one can think.

    • Chrisitan Gutknecht Says:

      I’ve been told by our serials department, that there is hardly a financial benefit when you exclude just maths journals out of a “Big Deal” like the Elsevier Freedom Collection. Such “Big Deal” contracts, often include some kind of allowed maximum cancellation, if cancel more than the defined amount, the price for the whole will be increased. So you’re financially almost better off not to cancel anything.

  13. Alexander Woo Says:

    I’m wondering if it might be possible for institutions to negotiate a “subscription” with CUP, whereupon it pays a certain fixed amount close to the expected total APC for its mathematicians and in return gets an unlimited waiver of APC charges.

    The reason is that such a “subscription” would look more like a traditional subscription to a traditional journal from an accounting standpoint and hence be easier to fit into university budgets. Also, it would be tacked onto everyone’s “Indirect Costs” rather than charged to individual grants, so grant-funded researchers will continue to subsidize (as far as publication and the library is concerned) researchers at their institutions who are not grant-funded.

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      I can’t believe I’ve never heard this idea discussed before. An excellent and fascinating one, with the potential to make open access immediately comprehensible to unengaged administrators.

  14. Peter Krautzberger Says:

    Quite interesting project. It would be great to hear a little bit more about the background story, especially if there have been connection to other “disruptive” journal initiatives like PeerJ, eLife etc.

    Two question about the technology:
    * Will papers be available as HTML or just pdf?
    * Will alternative metrics beyond downloads/views be available?

  15. Ghaith Says:

    Thanks for yet another great post! Since there was a link made to Elsevier boycott, let me play the devil’s advocate for a moment: The author does research for their paper, they typeset it, and try to publicize it through talks etc, they contribute their share of refereeing, and soon they may need to arrange payment to “publish”? It seems we’re just shifting more responsibility to an already over-burdened author…

    In addition, there’s something odd about a model where the default is that the author pays to publish: It feels like one is paying to contribute to the literature somehow, which doesn’t seem quite right. Isn’t a paper worth something on its own, and therefore it’s its own payment, or maybe this is idealistic? Say one contributes an article to a magazine, are they normally asked to cover publication costs? Another thing to consider is possible unintended consequences if such a publishing model becomes the standard one.

  16. Marcelo Fernandes Says:

    Here in Brazil there is a WebQualis for journals, and the most important journals are based in Journal Impact Factor (JCR). It journals are classified in a decrescent quality A1, A2, B1,…, B5. For example, “Inventiones mathematicae” is A1. So, how to qualify Forum of Mathematics?

  17. Mike Taylor Says:

    Sounds like an excellent move, David, best wishes for its success. We are better served for open-access options over here in the biosciences (PLoS, BioMed Central, and soon PeerJ) — so it’s seemed strange to me that maths, the field that has generated a lot of the momentum in the push for OA, has had fewer and less appealing options. I hope to see this take off dramatically.

  18. anonymous Says:

    I am glad to see more diverse models entering mathematical publishing. At the same time, however, I am worried that we are taking a step sideways (or even backwards) instead of forward with this.

    I) One of the lessons from recent experience is that the mathematical community needs to retain more control over our journals. Since most publishers own the journal name/brand it is very difficult for a journal’s board to move the journal when the publisher starts imposing unreasonable restrictions (high subscription rates, etc). It seems the most important thing to do when starting a new journal would be to insist that the editorial board owns the brand. This would give the editors significantly more leverage when negotiating with publishers in the future (there are a handful of editorial boards who do retain ownership, so this is possible). Just because Cambridge University Press or any other publisher seems well-intentioned today doesn’t mean that forty or fifty years into the future they will continue to be so.

    II) The career path in academic math is getting more and more difficult. We are producing more and more PhD’s for fewer and fewer tenure track positions (at least at the research level). At the same time (or as a result) students are spending more time in graduate school and postdoc (six or seven years is not uncommon in graduate school, and 3 years of postdoc seems to be almost a minimum with many very good researchers doing six years of postdoc). During this time, students are asked to live on near sustenance level wages. More and more often (especially at lower tier schools) students are being forced to `self-support’ for summers and contribute towards their own travel expenses (which are essential for career development). These issues are somewhat orthogonal to the publishing issue. However, I am very worried that this may be the start of a world in which these students will be forced to sacrifice further by paying significant publication fees. I would be very reassured if Forum of Mathematics issued a statement that it intends never to charge students publication fees (barring access to institutional funds for that purpose).

    • gowers Says:

      These are important questions. I’ll give a couple of immediate reactions. One is that I think it is very unlikely that if we switch to a gold open access model with APCs now, then the world of academic publishing will reach a new equilibrium that is stable enough to last 40 or 50 years. So I do not share your first worry, at least as it applies to Forum of Mathematics. I would add that CUP are taking steps to guarantee access in perpetuity to all papers published in Forum of Mathematics (by posting them on external repositories that exist for that purpose), so one major problem about leaving a publisher — that the publisher could restrict access to the existing papers — will not apply in this case.

      As for your second worry, I’m pretty sure that CUP does not expect any individual to pay out of their own pocket to publish with Forum of Mathematics, whether a student or not. They haven’t said exactly what it means to demonstrate a genuine inability to pay (in which case they waive the charge), but my understanding is that a lack of access to institutional funds would count.

      It is possible to imagine quite difficult situations, such as a department that simply refuses to pay APCs even though it could clearly afford them. I do not know what CUP’s policy will be in a case like that. However, that would be a silly thing for a department to do in the UK, where getting papers published in good journals can directly benefit a department financially by far more than the cost of a few APCs.

  19. David Wood Says:

    There is nothing miraculous about the so-called diamond model. Many existing online journals follow an author-pays-nothing reader-pays-nothing model. These include: Electronic Journal of Combinatorics (operating since 1994), New York Journal of Mathematics, Documenta Mathematica, Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science, Journal of Graph Algorithms & Applications, Contributions to Discrete Mathematics, Theory of Computing, Ars Mathematica Contemporanea, INTEGERS, and Journal of Computational Geometry. Many of these journals operate with a $0 budget, with the work being done by volunteer academics, often using the free Open Journal Systems software running on university servers.

    • David Roberts Says:

      also: Theory and Application of Categories; Homology, Homotopy and Applications. Journal of Homotopy and Related Structures made you put your paper on the arXiv after they accepted it, in a form of *journal-mandated* green OA even though the journal cost money, but recently Springer have taken over the publishing, so I don’t know if they still do that.

  20. kenjokenjo Says:

    Many developing countries in South East Asia (SEA) are also not on the list of fee-waiver eligible nations. $750 dollars for example is way above (almost twice) the average monthly salary of a full-time professor in the SEA region (excluding Singapore). (The chances of a paper from SEA getting into a journal as stringent as Forum is still slim, but who knows.) I’m afraid the countries listed are really way below poverty line and with middle-income developing countries whose public universities are nevertheless struggling excluded in the waiver, the Forum will be a platform for the best mathematicians in the First World.

  21. Bobito Says:

    Consider a researcher from Spain, which is not a developing country. A $750 fee is prohibitive. The annual budget of a typical math department (with 25 professors) in Spain is on the order of 15,000-30,000 euros. Grants don’t have money built in for this sort of fee, and couldn’t handle paying it with much frequency. Where does the money come from? This issue is particularly serious for junior researchers, who won’t have access to or control over funds.

    A monthly takehome salary for a university professor in Spain is between 2000 and 3000, more like 1500 for someone in a temporary or post-doctoral position. Paying $750 out of pocket is simply impossible for most professors.

    A system in which authors pay to publish is ridiculous and unnecessary and won’t work in mathematics, where grants and departamental budgets aren’t like they are in lab sciences, and can’t support such costs.

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      Bobito, your instutition already pays for publications. It just pays at the point of consumption rather than the point of publication. In a recent article at The Scientist I estimated that a typical Elsevier publication costs the world about $10,500 — the cost of eight PLoS ONE papers or 14 FoM papers at the higher price-point of $750. It’s possible my figures out out by as much as a factor of two, but not much more than that. So either the world pays (let’s be generous) $5,250 for access to one of your papers, or we find a way to redirect those funds and pay for you to publish seven of them.

    • Yemon Choi Says:

      (This should be a reply to Mike Taylor.)

      Mike, do you not feel that you may come over as breezily dismissive when you blithely say “your institution will save money, so your costs will be absorbed by them”? I also dislike the apparent shift in moral imperatives that it is our duty to make work free to “consumers” – academia is not a “public service” in the same way education, welfare and health should IMO be.

      What makes you think Bobito’s institution will pay for him to publish, as opposed to people doing Valuable Work like palaeontology or distributed computing?

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      Do you not feel that you may come over as breezily dismissive when you blithely say “your institution will save money, so your costs will be absorbed by them”?

      You say “breezily dismissive”, I say “taking the long view”. We are not talking about small factors here. A conversion of open access will reduce the total cost of producing and consuming literature by a factor of 7-14. That is worth taking some short-term pain for.

      I also dislike the apparent shift in moral imperatives that it is our duty to make work free to “consumers” – academia is not a “public service” in the same way education, welfare and health should IMO be.

      Then we disagree on this. Given that most universities are largely publicly funded, I think academia absolutely is a public service, and that there absolutely is a moral imperative to make sure that our work is not locked up in dusty corners but made available for the world to benefit from it.

      Otherwise, why should countries keep funding universities at all?

    • Bobito Says:

      @Mike Taylor:
      My institution does not pay much for journal access. Our journal access is terrible. We depend on the ArXiv, personal web pages, and pirate Russian web sites to get books and articles.

      An entire year of the Annals of Mathematics costs my institution less than it would apparently cost to publish a single article in this new journal. Even something like Inventiones, which runs to several thousand, amounts to the order of 10 articles in this new journal – the costs aren’t comparable – if the institution has to pay for every article its professors publish – it can’t at these prices – particularly because it will still be paying for the traditional journals – which won’t disappear overnight, if at all. That Elsevier is very expensive is not an argument for authors paying publication costs, rather simply an argument against buying journals from Elsevier.

      There is a huge difference bureaucratically between a library purchasing journals and individual researchers paying for article publication. It seems not at all obvious that transferring costs to individual authors will reduce costs (actually the opposite seems quite likely). Individual payment of fees demands a different bureaucratic infrastructure, more paperwork (when there is already too much), etc. Math departments have not traditionally had to do this.

      Finally, I repeat that this sort of system is particularly dangerous for young researchers who may not have easy access to the funds necessary to pay for such charges. In lab sciences young researchers are typically working on big projects in which there is access to funds via senior researchers; in math this need not be the case at all.

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      The fee waivers would seem to be the solution for your institution. These are not theoretical: for example, two of my colleagues at the UK’s hard-up University of Portsmouth (where I did my Ph.D) published a very well received paper on the palaeobiology of azhdarchid pterosaurs in PLoS ONE a few years back. That journal’s Gold OA fee is $1350, but they waived it with no questions asked when the authors said they had no institutional funding.

  22. Steven Galbraith Says:

    Mathematicians (and I am one) need to get over their mental block about author charges. Such costs are completely standard in many areas of science (my wife is a molecular biologist and she pays them all the time). The point in the present context is not to add additional costs to institutions. The point is to (and this will take some time to occur) redistribute spending from library budgets into author charges. Frankly I think it will be MUCH easier for me to persuade my institution to pay a fee so that my papers get published than to convince them to keep paying for journals that people hardly ever read. From my experience with university library budgets versus university research investment budgets, I think this is a step in the right direction.

    A secondary hope of mine is that this model will encourage people in certain subject areas to write fewer, but longer and better, papers — but I guess this is just wishful thinking . . .

  23. Interesting new development in Math publishing « Windows On Theory Says:

    […] Gowers reports on a new set of open access math journals. There will be a Forum of Mathematics:Pi that is […]

  24. Yemon Choi Says:

    “A secondary hope of mine is that this model will encourage people in certain subject areas to write fewer, but longer and better, papers — but I guess this is just wishful thinking . . .”

    Sure, that works great, once you actually have a job… Let them (without the money to pay author charges) eat brioche, hein?

    • gowers Says:

      Just to remind you what it says in the FAQ: “After the first three years we will adopt an ongoing waiver policy for authors from eligible countries (see appendix for current list), and to others who can demonstrate a lack of access to appropriate funds.” So those who are without the money to pay author charges are not being dismissed Marie-Antoinette style.

      Of course, it will be important to see how CUP implements this particular policy. I’m sure that well before the end of the three-year period approaches they will be pressed to give details, and I hope they will give a clear response.

    • Bobito Says:

      @gowers: unfortunately Greece, Italy, Spain, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine, etc. are not considered developing countries. Nonetheless their institutions cannot afford these sorts of charges.

    • gowers Says:

      See my previous comment, and in particular the phrase that begins “and to others who can demonstrate”.

  25. Boris Says:

    Is there a plan for a part of the $750 money to be put into an endowment from which the running costs are going to be paid? If so, which proportion will go towards the endowment? Will there be a mechanism to insure that CUP is discouraged from changing its mind, and ceasing to pay for providing world-wide access to ever-growing number of papers?

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      Will there be a mechanism to insure that CUP is discouraged from changing its mind, and ceasing to pay for providing world-wide access to ever-growing number of papers?

      But that’s the glory of Open Access — it doesn’t matter if they do change their minds, the papers will be out there and freely available — in PubMed, CLOCKSS, Portico, and whatever other mirrors and repos any organisation or individual cares to set up. With OA, you don’t have to trust the publisher to keep doing the right thing.

    • Boris Says:

      This is reply to Mike Taylor. I think that the burden is on the publisher to honor their promise of perpetual access. The community has the bargaining power to demand mechanisms that would work in a long-term rather than merely in the next 30-40 years. An earmarked endowment is a standard mechanism to fund an activity in perpetuity.

      Finally, I worry that no matter how much assurance we receive that the editorial board is independent from the publisher, if the incentives exists for the publisher is to the wrong thing, it is likely that many years later when the novelty wears off, and the public eyes look elsewhere, someone will give into those incentives. For this reason, I have many reservations about this model.

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      Oh, sorry, yes — I do agree that morally the publisher has a moral burden to keep its promises. My point was that even in the worst case — CUP sold to a private holding corporation which subsequently breaks it up and sells off the infrastructure — the papers that it’s published and safe and free forever.

    • Boris Says:

      Moral burden is good and well, but I would like to see a legal burden. It is safer.

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      CC-BY is a legal burden.

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      In a good way, I mean!

    • gowers Says:

      @Boris, I think worrying about what will happen “many years later” is not warranted, because I don’t think that a gold open access model with fairly expensive APCs is stable enough to last for many years. (The rough reason is that I expect other journals to be set up with lower charges — indeed, I hope that the CUP initiative will help to provoke this.) If you view the CUP journal in its initial form as a way of easing the transition from what we have now to a better system in the future, then I think it becomes a lot less worrying. I see its main merit as showing that APCs do not have to be anything like as high as they are for most high-impact journals that charge them. If someone else can come along and demonstrate that they can be lower still (perhaps by sacrificing certain aspects of CUP’s service that institutions do not value enough to pay a few hundred dollars for), then so much the better.

    • sgadgil Says:

      Essentially journals charge for two things:
      (1) The service they provide (commerce as division of labour)
      (2) The brand they own (rent seeking)
      The best way to stop (2) is to create alternative brands – which can be done by a sufficiently big subset of the top mathematicians getting together (the Geom & Top) attempt.
      What all of us hope is for those with this magical power to create brands (very well deserved of course) create one with most of the cost being (1). What many of us feel (perhaps incorrectly) is that $750 is not justified just be the service, and if it is far out of line it may slow down the move to a more efficient system.

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      (Sorry to monopolise this thread, I will try to shut up after this comment.)

      Regarding future open access publishing options with lower APCs: some of you mathematicians may not be aware of PeerJ, a new publisher in the bio-sciences that is being set up by Pete Binfield (previously the Editor-in-Chief of PLoS ONE) and Jason Hoyt. PeerJ’s price is a rather astonishing $99. And that doesn’t just pay for a single publication, but for one a year for the rest of your life.

      When and whether PeerJ will extend to cover other sciences and maths I can’t say — much will of course depend on how successful it is in its initial area. Maybe they are being over-optimistic and won’t manage to run at a profit. But what we can say is that it’s at least in the right ball-park: Binfield knows more than probably anyone in the world about what it takes to run a successful OA journal, and he’s convinced that the numbers add up. Just as important, he’s persuaded an outside investor (the OA-savvy Tim O’Reilly) to put in $1M. So there is reason to be positive.

    • Noah Snyder Says:

      PeerJ is an interesting experiment. The requirement that all coauthors sign up (even to submit!) makes me very skeptical that it will work as intended. Furthermore, I’d rather pay a little more and have the money stay in academia. Nonetheless, the more different experiments the better, so I wish them the best.

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      Authors do not need to sign up to PeerJ in order to submit; it’s possible to submit as a non-member, and join only after the paper is accepted for publication.

  26. Ghaith Says:

    I agree, it’s beyond silly to think that an author-pays publishing model is the right way to encourage higher quality papers in Mathematics… In any case, there are quite a few potential problems with an author-pays model and so I sincerely hope it doesn’t become the standard one in Mathematics (consider the following situation, your article is accepted into a journal where you have two options: Either pay 500~3000, whatever the amount, so your article is open-access, or pay nothing but have it behind a paywall –though, importantly, a pre-print version can still be freely available on the arxiv if the author so chooses– which option will a “typical” author take, and why?)

    Nevertheless, I feel that diversity in publishing models is good in general as long as the models are not motivated by ideological reasons. Ideally, most proceeds from mathematical publishing feed back into the community.

    • gowers Says:

      What you describe is the hybrid model, and it is indeed the case that almost nobody goes for the open-access option. But it’s rather different if the entire journal is open access, since then nobody pays any subscription fees. So now your choice is to submit to an open-access journal and get your institution to pay (or if you really can’t, then pay nothing) or submit to a subscription journal and see your paper disappear behind a paywall (though, as you say, it can go on the arXiv).

      It’s important to stress that the author-pays model is really an institution pays model. I think of APC as standing for author publication charge, but I shouldn’t: it stands for article processing charge. In a way I share your dislike for APCs, but I think the right response is not to reject the whole idea, since the aggregate cost of the subscription model is far higher, but rather to think of how we can persuade our institutions to solve a collective-action problem and cover APCs. To put it another way, we should try to deal with our instinctive dislike of APCs by finding better ways to cover them than authors going and begging their cash-strapped departments for money if they get a paper accepted.

      As an example of the sort of idea I have in mind (which I did not invent — I heard it from Henry Cohn), a large group of universities could pay into a central fund that would agree to cover APCs for certain journals provided that their prices were reasonable. The amount a university contributed could perhaps be roughly proportional to the number of maths papers it was likely to publish. That way authors wouldn’t even have to think about APCs and universities would, if the subscription model came to an end, be better off.

    • Ghaith Says:

      Thanks for a thoughtful reply. Regarding the last example, I can’t help but point out that there’s something extraordinarily odd about a proposed system (university consortium) where the more you’re likely to publish then the more you pay, considering that publications are the basic commodity in the system for which mathematicians pay after all…

      Regarding the “institution-pays” model, isn’t this what we already have in a way?

      Also, I understand there exists jargon to describe various publication models, which was possibly invented by MBAs (e.g. “hybrid model”), but I was deliberately trying to describe what I mean in plain words so the post is more self-contained and perhaps easier to understand.

      I hope the mathematical community arrives at a better publication model eventually: While the current model is sufficiently functional (I think…), I’ve had a strong feeling, going back to my graduate study days, that there’s much room for improvement (though here I’m mostly thinking of the quality of publications rather than their pricing…)

    • gowers Says:

      I think I agree with your first point. The reason I wrote what I wrote was that I was imagining that an institution that didn’t publish much in the group of journals that was being funded might think it was unfair if it had to contribute as much to the fund as another institution that published considerably more. But if we think of the payment not as some kind of gift to the author (or the author’s institution) but rather as something that is needed to cover the costs of publication, then it seems more reasonable, since the paper benefits readers — one hopes more than authors. If this kind of funding were to happen, then the distinction between APCs and the subscription model would become blurred: one could think of the funding as the whole world taking out a subscription.

  27. New Maths Journals | Kevin Houston Says:

    […] about academics fighting for reasonably-priced journals, then pop over to Tim Gower’s blog to see this announcement on new journals. There’s also a little bit on Terry Tao’s blog. It looks like this could be […]

  28. David Ketcheson Says:

    “…diamond open access, a quasi-miraculous model where neither author nor reader pays anything.”

    Isn’t that what green OA is? I’ve never payed to read from or submit to the arXiv.

    • gowers Says:

      The distinction is that diamond OA is a publication that is free to both the author and the reader. So it’s been refereed, copy-edited, etc.

    • Noah Snyder Says:

      The Arxiv does have real costs and should be better funded (though those costs are low, $10 per submission would cover their current costs easily). But it’s important to keep in mind that there’s a lot of things with real costs that the Arxiv does not do: edit/referee flow (software, hosting, troubleshooting), editor secretarial support, professional typesetting, professional copy-editing, publicity, etc.

      Personally, I don’t think professional typesetting and copy-editing are worth the cost, but one of the great things about the Forum is that the costs will be transparent and people will be able to see the real costs of professional typesetting and copy-editing so that we can decide whether those costs are worth it. Furthermore, the Forum, by providing an equal or better service to what other journals provide, also makes clearer what a poor value we are getting from some other journals.

    • David Ketcheson Says:

      I understand; thanks for the clarification.

  29. cb Says:

    One of the problems I see is the existence of several open access journals of questionable quality whose only scope is to make a profit out of the “publish or perish” dilemma. We will need to find a way to convince the administration that it is worth paying author fees for some journals but not for others.

  30. Gil Kalai Says:

    Dear all,
    One thing that I completely do not understand is why to shift the payment from subscribers to authors. If we want to have lower costs of journals we can simply have less expensive journals. CUP can simply charge less for its journals compared to Elsevier and Springer. It makes no sense to me to move to a model where authors pay to get their papers published. A similar view was expressed by Mihai Pătraşcu in 2008

    • gowers Says:

      I’m sure others will want to add to what I say, but here is a preliminary answer. It’s clear that at the moment there are very few incentives for a journal to reduce its prices, since demand is very inelastic (in both directions: libraries are reluctant to cancel subscriptions and reluctant to take out new ones). It is also very hard for a new and cheaper journal to get enough subscriptions to become viable. With an author-pays model and fixed costs that aren’t too high, a new journal can be much more confident of covering its costs. Furthermore, because the charges are felt more directly by academics, there is more downward pressure on prices than if it’s librarians who suffer.

      Mike Taylor has done a back-of-envelope calculation that suggests that the total cost of the author-pays way of doing things would be between 7 and 14 times less than the total cost we put up with now. Maybe he can provide a link to a blog post where these calculations are set out in detail. I think my short answer to the suggestion that journals reduce their prices by some large factor like that is, “It ain’t gonna happen.”

      Finally, and to repeat a point that has been made a few times, there is a model that in theory gives the best of both worlds, which is that institutions get together and agree to cover the article processing charges for certain journals. In the long run, that saves the institutions money and it saves authors having to worry about the article processing charges. My view is that any negative feelings about the APCs associated with the Forum of Mathematics (which to some extent I share) should be channelled into a campaign to get institutional backing of that kind.

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      “Mike Taylor has done a back-of-envelope calculation that suggests that the total cost of the author-pays way of doing things would be between 7 and 14 times less than the total cost we put up with now. Maybe he can provide a link to a blog post where these calculations are set out in detail.”

      At the moment, the least inadequate version of that calculation is the one in Academic Publishing is Broken, which derives the figure of $10,500 per Elsevier paper. But that’s very abbreviated and hand-wavy. I must blog a proper version some time soon.

  31. Mel Nathanson Says:

    I am puzzled by Tim’s phrase, “diamond open access, a quasi-miraculous model where neither author nor reader pays anything.” The online journal Integers (The Electronic Journal of Combinatorial Number Theory) is freely available online with no charge to author or reader. All of the work is done by volunteer editors ( I am one) and an extremely hard-working volunteer managing editor and associate managing editor. Nor is Integers the only mathematics research journal that is freely available online.

    Cambridge University Press proposes to charge authors $750 to publish a paper. In the United States, most research mathematicians do not have NSF grants nor any other grant that could pay the publication fees, and most American colleges and universities do not have the money to pay these charges for their faculty. I am sure that it is not Tim’s intent to publish only papers written by a few mathematicians with jobs in privileged institutions, but that will be the effect.

    Extrapolating from my experience with Integers, I think that to publish a serious online research journal whose editors and referees are volunteers requires only one full-time (but efficient) employee whose primary task will be to remind referees that their reports are overdue. It does not seem unrealistic that a distinguished and well-connected editorial board should be able to find external funding for one employee and office space. This would eliminate the need for authors to pay publication costs (and avoid the malodorous similarity to a vanity press), and would attract considerably more support to this venture.

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      “The online journal Integers (The Electronic Journal of Combinatorial Number Theory) is freely available online with no charge to author or reader. All of the work is done by volunteer editors ( I am one) and an extremely hard-working volunteer managing editor and associate managing editor.”

      Is your time and effort free?

      If not, then you are paying.

      I’m not saying that’s a bad model — all-volunteer, no-professionals is one of the better ways to do academic publishing. But let’s have our eyes open about it: it doesn’t remove costs, it reassigns them.

    • gowers Says:

      most American colleges and universities do not have the money to pay these charges for their faculty

      According to Mike Taylor, they would have the money seven times over if we switched all journals from a subscription model to an open-access model (and that calculation is based on a fee of $1350 per paper). So if he is correct, then the difficulty is a transitional one.

      Having said that, you may have noticed that the one thing I have not done in my post or in any of my subsequent comments is defend the actual figure of $750. That’s because I don’t understand how it breaks down. I am very much hoping that CUP will be prepared to give us some more details about this, but it may be better to wait until the journal has been running for a while (and before the APCs kick in). Then we will see whether the APCs are to cover things we possibly value, such as smooth administration and high-quality copy-editing and typesetting, or things we are possibly less interested in, such as overheads and fancy metadata.

      And finally, if anyone out there has a bad paper that they can’t get published in the normal way, then consider sending it to Forum of Mathematics instead, since we want your money.

      I hope the ridiculousness of that last sentence adequately demonstrates that in your final sentence your nose has led you astray (at least as far as FoM is concerned).

    • Bobito Says:

      @Mike Taylor: One could understand that part of the job of being a professor is doing things like refereeing, editing, and writing reviews – that one is already paid to do these things, because they are a (secondary) part of one’s professional responsibilities.

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      I agree that reviewing and editing is a natural part of what it is to be an academic, and that those things are part of what we do in service of our community.

      But I don’t see that it’s any part of our job to donate such services to journals that benefit shareholders rather than the academic community. That’s why I now decline review requests from non-open journals (and make a particular effort to accept all such requests that from from open-access journals).

  32. Anonymous Says:

    The shift to an author-pay model comes with an implicit demand for a significant change in the funding of basic research in math, at least the way it is funded by the NSF in the United States. Libraries and their subscriptions are one of the things currently covered by overhead charges on individual grants. This money does not go to departments, but rather to central administrators who dole it out for expenses like libraries, computers, etc. This will not change and math department budgets are not set up to cover such charges, leaving the grants to be covered by individual grants. This only reduces money for other non-salary items currently covered by grants, such as travel and visitors.

  33. Gil Kalai Says:

    Several remarks:

    First it seems a possible goal to have prices of journals reduced (but not by factors of 7 or 14).

    Second, it is certainly possible to reduce prices for new journals by negotiating with one or more publishers.

    Third, regarding the allegded saving by 7-14 factors: The Elsevier figure per paper is not relevant here, but rather the Cambridge University Press figure per paper, e.g., in a Journal like Combinatorics, Probability and Computing (what is the number?), and the figures for journals like Annals and Acta (what is the number?),

    Fourth, in the various delicate issues regarding journals including pricing, the main concern is the second and third tier journals, not the very top ones. (Like in a pyramid scheme, you may get very nice terms for the top journals on the expence of others.)

    Fifth, the model of authors paying for publishing their papers is bad for the mathamatical community. It can be adopted by other publishers (even on top of subscription prices, and even for submissions; this is the case in economics.) It will be a big hussle for everybody, a serious obstacle for some specific groups, and it may drive prices also up.

    Finally, just the idea that we have to pay to get our papers getting publihed sounds bad.

    • gowers Says:

      Replies to your some of your remarks involve repeating things that have been said above, but here goes.

      1. I’d be delighted to see subscription prices of journals reduced, but I don’t see any obvious way of achieving that. (One idea is to start new subscription journals with lower prices, but they have a very hard job competing.)

      2. In the case of FoM the idea originated with CUP. But one can imagine a different scenario where a group of mathematicians decides to found a new journal. In that case, I completely agree that it would make sense to negotiate hard with publishers to make it as cheap as possible (whatever the business model of the journal).

      3. An online-only subscription to Combinatorics, Probability and Computing costs £365 per year. (I got that information from here.) A typical issue has 5 or 6 papers and it’s published bi-monthly, so let’s say the number of papers per year is 35. If they charged £500 per article, that would bring in £17,500. That divided by £365 is a bit less than 50. I’d be surprised if the number of subscriptions isn’t at least double that, and possibly quite a bit more. Then you have the additional benefit of open access to take into account.

      4. I think I agree with your fourth point. I would like to see second and third tier journals run much more cheaply, the savings coming from spending less money on copy-editing and typesetting. That’s because I don’t think the added value to the mathematical community of carefully copy-editing and typesetting a paper that will probably have only a handful of readers is worth the money it seems to cost. (I’m not even convinced it’s worth it for top-tier papers — that’s something we need to think about.)

      5. There are possible bad consequences if an author-pays model becomes standard. But there are also very good consequences. My view is that the right approach is to work hard to avoid the bad consequences rather than reject the entire idea.

      6. Anything sounds bad if you choose your words appropriately. It sounds bad that libraries have to pay a dollar a page for a paper that someone wrote for nothing, someone else refereed for nothing, and someone else selected for nothing. It sounds bad that it costs $30 to look at that paper online, even if it turns out not to be relevant. You say it sounds bad that we have to pay to get our papers published. Well, that’s certainly true if we have to pay out of our own pocket. It’s also bad if the process of asking for money is difficult and puts power in the hands of administrators over academics. But if “we” means something more general than the authors, then we already pay, and paying less sounds good to me. To turn that from a flippant remark into a more serious one, let me repeat word for word part of an earlier comment. There is a model that in theory gives the best of both worlds, which is that institutions get together and agree to cover the article processing charges for certain journals. In the long run, that saves the institutions money and it saves authors having to worry about the article processing charges. My view is that any negative feelings about the APCs associated with the Forum of Mathematics (which to some extent I share) should be channelled into a campaign to get institutional backing of that kind.

  34. Gil Kalai Says:

    Dear Tim, even if the idea originated with CUP, you (and the editorial board) can negotiate the best terms; and even consider other publishers. There are many editorial boards of existing journals trying to renegotiate the terms with Elseviers (and perhaps Springer). Certainly this is possible for a new journal.

    If CUP goes with the figures of 500 pounds per paper (say for 80% of papers, assuming the policy of not charging people who cant pay) then with similar number of papers per year as CPC they can charge less than 100 pounds per year and still make the same money. You can insist on all papers being arxived so the golden open acess advantage will be small. (And demand freely open back-issues) This will make the new journal very competative and will make it more likely that it will reach the level you would like it. It looks that the best way to reduce prices is to offer more high quality non expensive journals. Here you have an opportunity to do just that.

    I still think that charging authors is very bad. In the case of the new journal there is a clear and simple alternative which seems equivalent or even better as far as CUP revenues – subscription charges of 3-4 pounds per paper, which will go down with high numbers of subscriptions (above 200; a very reasonable goal).

    • Noah Snyder Says:

      Hi Gil, My understanding is that if you publicly require that all papers be on the Arxiv, then libraries will refuse to subscribe. This is what happened with Annals, right? Starting a new journal will only make this problem worse, as it’s harder to convince libraries to start new subscriptions than it is to get them not to cancel old ones. I’m not saying that “author pays” is necessarily the right model, but I think the alternative that you’re suggesting was tried and failed.

    • Gil Kalai Says:

      Noah, What happened with the Annals? Math departments have considerable influence on math libraries policies so adding a top notch very unexpensive journal should be possible.

      If worse come to worse, rather than paying 1000 pounds for publishing your own paper use your funds to subscribe to a single 100 pounds/year journal for your library. I am not aware that the alternative I propose was tried and failed and, in any case, it will be much better to try it again and make it work compared to the risky “author pays” option.

    • Noah Snyder Says:

      I haven’t been able to find an authoritative description of what happened anywhere, but Scott Morrison wrote a blog post on the situation.

      The quick summary is that in 2001 Annals announced that all articles in Annals would also appear on the ArXiv. Sometime since then they changed their mind. Similarly, G&T was originally intended to have all papers on the ArXiv, but have since moved to a 5-year moving window (that is, all papers will be posted to the ArXiv 5 years later). Apparently the reason was that libraries rapidly cancelled their subscriptions (even to Annals!).

      The most explicit statement I can find is that in the 5 years after Annals made their papers freely available via project Euclid their subscriptions dropped by a third. See this talk by David Gabai (hat tip to Mike Usher for linking to the talk).

    • david Says:

      i believe it is the case that at certain universities there are explicit university-wide rules preventing their libraries from paying for a journal that is freely available; i think this is why G&T and the other MSP journals had to stop being made freely available online. I believe I learned this from Rob Kirby, but I wouldn’t swear on it.

    • Mark Wainwright Says:

      The fact is that the pay-to-access model simply doesn’t reflect actual costs, as it did in the days when it was established. Then the high cost of typesetting (originally by hand), materials, printing, and distribution dominated the production process and the only sensible way to fund this was to have a large enough subscriber base and charge to read the journal.

      Now that those once-dominant costs no longer exist, the main costs relate to one-time processing of the article, as the title APC suggests. Minimising costs to academia with a subscriber-pays model is now hard, because whenever your journal becomes more or less popular you must make unpredictable and unpopular changes to the price (or become less optimal or less viable). A one-time per-article fee is much more stable.

      Since it is in any case the institutions who will be paying, it makes sense for them to pay in a way that makes their costs for journals predictable and possible to plan for. Additionally the papers become freely available to all, not only those at subscribing institutions. This is of great value to the scientific community at large, but also of value to the institutions paying, who can expect more citations if their papers get more exposure. And with all that, the total cost to the institutions is cheaper! Considering all this I think the pay-to-publish model deserves not to be dismissed so easily.

      In the long term the same considerations may have more far-reaching consequences. When typesetting and distribution were the dominant costs, it was a no-brainer to provide the one-time quality assurance services such as peer review, proof-reading, copy-editing and professional typesetting. The cost of these as a proportion was vanishingly small and they greatly enhanced the value of the journal (and the amount that could be charged for it), and a journal that didn’t provide them would never be viable. Things are different now – in a sense arXiv is such a journal – because these costs are now a significant proportion of the total cost of publishing. We can expect to see a much wider range of publishing models when the old certainties about such matters lose their grip.

  35. gowers Says:

    This was meant to be a reply to Gil’s previous comment but I accidentally forgot to hit the reply button.

    It has been very interesting to see people’s reactions to APCs, which are very similar to my original reactions. I don’t mean that I’ve now completely changed my mind — just that I see arguments on the other side too. I shall direct David Tranah’s attention to this discussion (if he hasn’t read it already), since one thing that is clear is that it would be a huge help to have a detailed breakdown of the projected costs so that we can make a more informed judgment about whether they are justified and whether we are paying for things that we actually want.

    If CUP goes with the figures of 500 pounds per paper (say for 80% of papers, assuming the policy of not charging people who cant pay) then with similar number of papers per year as CPC they can charge less than 100 pounds per year and still make the same money.

    I’ve struggled to understand what you mean here and failed.

    What you are essentially suggesting in your last paragraph is to reduce subscription prices to the point where the revenue to CUP is what it would be with the proposed author charges. But that isn’t an equally good outcome for the mathematical community, because then only the subscribing institutions get to read the papers. I want to live in a world where anyone can just Google a paper, click on the link, and be immediately reading it.

    • Noah Snyder Says:

      To expand on Tim’s last point, even if your institution has paid for a subscription, it’s still often very annoying to get access to those papers if you’re not physically on campus. For example, Columbia does not have a proxy setup, and instead you have to find the correct “e-resource” individually. This means that no links on the internet to papers actually work and it’s a great hassle to search for papers.

    • Anonymous Says:

      I think that the idea of negotiating low subscription fees which generate the same revenue as the proposed APC’s would be far better than introducing an APC model. This is especially true of the journal gives free access to back issues beyond a short window (say, 2-3 years), and explicitly allows posting the pre-formatted final version on ArXiv (which most people would probably do).

      I’m not familiar with the details of what happened with the Annals, but even Elsevier allows posting final versions on ArXiv (perhaps the difference is between requiring and just allowing – I think that the Annals went ahead and re-posted the papers itself).
      It is true that the downside is that there will be a minority of papers which weren’t posted on ArXiv which would be behind a limited-time pay wall. However I think that this concern is are easily outweighed by the disadvantages of introducing a highly problematic new model, which shifts the publication costs from university libraries to math departments and individual researchers.

    • Benoît Régent-Kloeckner Says:

      @Anonymous: not changing the subscription model seems not the best solution at all to me. The first problem is that thinking we have access to the papers anyway is probably a mistake: in Green OA, we have access to some papers, but if really all of them end up being put in the arXiv, it is very likely that unsubscriptions will prevent the journal to run at some point. The current situation is probably transitional, and trying to design a new system is in my opinion necessary.

      The second problem is more intrinsically linked with the subscription model itself. When we write a paper, we assume that other people will acknowledge it as ours, and that the result is part of the literature. No one should prove the same result and claim it as its own. But by publishing behind a paywall, we prevent the information that this theorem is ours to spread to everyone in the community, and we hide the proof to those not willing or able to pay a third party to see it. As soon as not all papers are on the arXiv, this is a problem (which was unavoidable when sending a paper copy of the article was the only way to distribute it, but becomes odd now that distribution has negligible marginal cost). That one of the main reason Open Access should be our goal; the problem being how to fund it.

    • Anonymous Says:

      I certainly agree that having a way to get both open access AND no APC’s is of course best. What I was pointing out that if we take the aggregate cost argument off the table by assuming that the goal would be to generate the same revenue by whatever means (subscription, APC or any other model) then the advantages of open access are outweighed by the disadvantages of the APC model, assuming the not-quite-open access is not too extreme (say authors are allowed to post their papers on ArXiv and all papers become freely available after a 2 year window).

      Given that the aggregate costs are apparently not so high ($150,000 for what is intended to be a high quality, high volume journal) the idea of having a consortium of universities or professional societies eventually picking the tab for everyone doesn’t sound so unlikely.
      But I’d be much happier if the APC model was to be taken off the table given the many risks and concerns it raises. It would be better if the starting point should be a low cost subscription model, with the goal of trying to build a consortium or other way of raising money which gives open access with no APC.

  36. Mel Nathanson Says:

    Tim wrote, “…you may have noticed that the one thing I have not done in my post … is defend the actual figure of $750.” A crude back-of-the-envelope argument will produce this figure. In an earlier post I wrote that we could publish the journal Integers with one full-time employee. Cambridge University Press will provide many more publishing amenities (professional design, copy-editing, typesetting, archiving, data collecting, etc.) and might prefer the equivalent of two full-time employees, with salaries and fringe benefits, together with office space and other overhead to CUP. This might require an annual budget of roughly $150,000. If, after three years, the two Forum journals are publishing 200 papers/year, then the break-even cost per article is $750.

    This is, in any case, a barely relevant issue. To me, the idea of charging a mathematician to publish a theorem simply smells bad. It is claimed that authors will not have to pay out of their own pockets, but most mathematicians do not have the grant funds or institutional funds to pay page charges. I don’t think mathematicians should be forced to ask Cambridge University Press for charity in the form of a page charge waiver, and to have to submit documentation to confirm their need. It is naive in the extreme to argue that in three years, or in ten, the nature of scientific publishing will have changed so radically that libraries will be awash in surplus funds from the journal subscriptions they no longer buy and that they will gladly pay for their math faculty to publish in Forum Pi or Sigma.

    I am Johnny-come-lately to this discussion, so the following questions might have already been asked and answered. In the Forum model, money still changes hands. Evidently, someone decided that the author should pay and not the reader. Why? (This is a question, not a proposal.)

    An issue of a math journal contains many articles, most of which are read by almost no one. It is even rarer that someone reads many articles in a journal issue, and almost never does a mathematician read a journal issue cover to cover. The same can be said about many math books, especially books that are compendia of articles on different topics by different authors. Why should not these volumes be published online and available free to all readers? A nice example is the Princeton Companion to Mathematics, an excellent volume that I own and occasionally read. The cost per page is low (about $.10), but the book costs $99.00 and the cost per page read is much higher. The Companion has been a best-seller for Princeton University Press; it has more than recovered its publishing costs. Can it now be put online and downloaded at no cost to the reader?

    Should Cambridge University Press be encouraged to stop publishing books, and ask its authors to pay the Press to make their books freely available? Should authors be given this option? This might be unreasonably expensive for singly authored volumes, but what about conference proceedings and other multiply authored volumes?

    • Benoît Régent-Kloeckner Says:

      To partially answer your question about why one would want the payment to occur from the author end rather than than the reader end:

      1. because much more people will then have access to the literature,

      2. because it produces a much more direct competition for prices, while in the subscription model the authors (who do not see the costs) make, e.g. by choosing to submit to Inventiones, the library (who pays) in a position where it cannot bargain : the same papers cannot be accessed from another, cheaper journal,

      3. because the greatest part of the cost is not with the diffusion (reader side) but with the initial editorial process (author side), so it makes sense to charge where the costs are.

      Green OA (classical publishing plus possibility to put preprints on the arXiv) might seem a better option, but I do not think it could survive a complete generalization. If everyone puts the papers on the arXiv and no one subscribes to journals anymore, then nobody is left to organize the peer-review process. So we should devise a way to organize it at a better price.

      Moreover, there are too other things (at least) to keep in mind :

      1. the arXiv has recurrent funding problems. It is not right to have it supported mostly by Cornell, and we should solve this issue,

      2. journals add some structure compared to the arXiv (what version of the article has been reviewed ? where was it published ? volumes are sent to the AMS and Springer for inclusion in MathSciNet and Zentrallblatt, etc.) and this structure is important. Maybe it can be replaced by Google scholar, but we should be sure of this before we drop journals.

      This said, it seems obvious that for most of the mathematical literature, cheap institution-run overlay journals should be a very good solution.

  37. aram Says:

    Why do we need copyediting and formatting? Or copyright transfer? (See http://jmlr.csail.mit.edu/forms/jmlr-microtome.pdf for an example.)

    Let’s say that an article costs $7 to put on arxiv.org, and $743 for copyediting and formatting. Why not just put the article on arxiv.org, sell print copies of the journal (at the same cost as Kinko’s would charge), and let authors pay for their own copyediting if they think it would improve their presentation? If a paper is badly written then referees can reject it, or demand changes.

    I like good writing, and in an ideal world, I would like to pay copyeditors. But it seems that once you have paid people in the loop, then everything gets more difficult.

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      I agree that copyediting is dispensible (for me, anyway — not for non-native English speakers) and that formatting is not wizardry. I’d be happy enough to take responsibility for doing both in my own work.

      95% of the value added by going through publication is in the peer-review. I suspect that it’s much less than 95% of the cost — in fact I’d love to see a breakdown. That is the one component that means we’re never going to actual publication at the $7-a-pop arXiv cost-point.

    • aram Says:

      Obviously peer review is important. But it’s also free.

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      The actual reviewing is “free”, yes — that is, it’s provided gratis by researchers. For most journals in my field, the direct handling of reviews is also free, as it’s done by volunteer editors. (I don’t know if this is as true in maths as it is in palaeo.) That still leaves some amount of work to be done in co-ordinating the editorial process, and that has some cost.

      To summarise: the cost of peer-review to publishers is much, much less than they would generally have you believe, but more than zero. How much more than zero? Maybe not much, if PeerJ’s financial model is any guide.

    • aram Says:

      For conferences, reviewing is totally free. Even easychair is (almost) free.

    • Bobito Says:

      @aram: I do both some copy-editing for a well known non-commercial math journal and correction of articles for authors. For most non-native English speakers revision is necessary to bring an article to professional standards. Even articles that have been previously corrected by a native speaker need it because it is rare that the corrections have been done by someone who understands the math adequately to get everything right. There are lots of errors in the use of articles and verb-subject agreement, that although very minor from the standpoint of language, can confuse the meaning in a substantive way. In more serious cases there are entire sentences or paragraphs that are incoherent without prior understanding of the math.

      Referees sometimes demand improvements in the English – although I’ve seen the spectacle of a non-native speaking referee introducing new errors this way – and many referees think this is not their task, rather the editor’s. Some journals demand that the authors get the article professionally revised, at their own expense, and many authors do this anyway (although as mentioned above there is often still a need for copy-editing). Some have some sort of in-house service which authors can pay for – and may be obliged to pay for (I think Elsevier does this).

      I correct articles written by non-native speakers – in my country this costs 100-200 euros per article, depending on length (I’m assuming a range of 15-30 pages). The copy editing probably comes in at more like 10-50, although in every eighth or tenth case reaching 100-200, per article.

      Many universities have their own in-house services for correcting the English of articles by their professors.

      I agree with the sentiment that as much as possible the burden of correcting English should be pushed off on the authors, but the editorial standards employed by many journals, which clearly do very little copy-editing, seem to me lamentable – a journal which happily publishes unreadable articles probably also happily publishes incorrect articles.

    • aram Says:

      @bobito: I think that this sort of copyediting plays a valuable role. But not all articles need it. Perhaps *this* could be the place for an APC. If an article is deemed to need copyediting, and the authors don’t want to do it themselves, then it could be suggested that they hire a professional copyeditor.

  38. Michał Kotowski Says:

    In the discussions about publishing models, mentioning copyediting and typesetting costs is, for me, the most puzzling aspect of the whole issue. From my own experience I can say that journal copyediting actually *decreases* the paper’s value, rather than increase it, as the journal formats are usually ugly and arXiv versions are much more readable and aesthetic (not to mention that each journal has its own house style, while arXiv papers are generally rather homogeneous in this respect, which is a good thing, as it helps to concentrate on the content, not on the form). This is of course a matter of taste, but it seems odd that anyone would justify high fees by invoking something of negligible (at best) utility.

    • Richard Séguin Says:

      I don’t understand how form distracts from content, and I don’t agree that arXiv papers are particularly “aesthetic” in general, and in fact, some are quite awful. I recently upgraded from the standard CM and various poorly designed free fonts in TeXLive to the excellent commercial text font Minion Pro (using the MInionPro package) and the MnSymbol package, obtaining much more pleasing and readable text, and, as a bonus I find myself detecting things like typos much more easily and being more critical of my own writing in general — always a good thing. I assume that MathTime Professional gives similarly pleasing results with a somewhat different aesthetic.

      I recently re-subscribed to a classical guitar journal that I hadn’t seen for over 15 years, and was pleased to discover how much more beautiful the journal looks now compared to the amateurish design that I remembered. I thought to myself, “how appropriate for this beautiful instrument.” Likewise, I think the beautiful subject of mathematics deserves beautiful presentation.

  39. Sam Says:

    I’m glad to see that Cambridge University Press does not plan to ask for copyright transfer agreements. It will be very interesting to see their alleged transparency about price, in particular I’m interested in whether or not the axiom of choice and/or Banach-Tarski paradox is required in their proof that publishing and hosting a paper should cost anywhere near $750.

  40. Orr Shalit Says:

    I think that this is a big mistake and a very bad development, for mathematicians and in general. At the beginning of this boycott I feared that this is the direction that the system might be pushed to, and it is faster and worse than I thought. It is worse than I thought because gold open access is now becoming the legitimate option overnight.

    If journals are overpriced then the solution is to stop making subscriptions. You can find out about the existence of papers in MathSciNet, and any decent mathematician will email you his paper if you ask for it (in the weird case that it is not already on the arxiv). The old papers are already in the libraries (hard copy, sorry, but that used to work).

    I understand and trust Tim Gowers good intentions, I can even believe that in the near future the management of this journal will be responsible, but if gold open access becomes legitimate it will be adopted by other, less responsible, publishers, and I fear that it will lead to a deterioration in our profession.

    “Gold open access” is in my opinion the worst model. It pushes the financial conflict from University vs. Publisher to Person vs. Publisher. This certainly will not improve mathematicians’ stand. In the current model, there is almost no barrier stopping someone (with internet connection) to read current papers. The new suggested model may help to create a barrier stopping people from publishing (even if forum of mathematics promises to waive fees, they cannot guarantee that other publishers that will follow suit will. Not all papers will be published in Pi or Sigma).

    I call out for all mathematicians to stay away from journals that charge authors for publishing papers. I am unwilling to referee for such journals, and of course I will not submit to such journals (even if in the meanwhile they charge 0$).

    • gowers Says:

      It is worse than I thought because gold open access is now becoming the legitimate option overnight.

      I have concerns about gold open access, but my main concern is different: I am worried that publishers like Elsevier will charge very high APCs and will get away with it because funding bodies will be prepared to pay them. I see the CUP initiative as potentially helping with this, since their APCs are much lower than the ones that seem to be accepted by many people as the norm.

      If journals are overpriced then the solution is to stop making subscriptions.

      That’s easier said than done if the journals are part of a huge bundle.

      You can find out about the existence of papers in MathSciNet,

      Minor point, but I have never managed to look at Mathscinet from home.

      and any decent mathematician will email you his paper if you ask for it

      That’s OK but a bit inconvenient. Also, it works better for papers you know you are interested in, but not so well if you just want to browse through a few papers on the offchance.

      (in the weird case that it is not already on the arxiv).

      It may be weird, but it’s also pretty common.

      The old papers are already in the libraries (hard copy, sorry, but that used to work).

      If you happen to be at an institution that has the relevant volume of the relevant journal in its library. But actually I think that the convenience of being able to find a paper easily online is a huge advantage of any system that delivers it.

      if gold open access becomes legitimate it will be adopted by other, less responsible, publishers, and I fear that it will lead to a deterioration in our profession.

      I myself hope that we won’t move to a system where all maths papers are published with this model — that is, APCs of the order of magnitude of $750. For many papers, virtually the only reason for publishing them — as opposed to simply putting them on the arXiv — is to send out a message saying, “This is a respectable paper.” So I would like to see a much cheaper mechanism that would perform this simple service. Of course, it has to involve peer review in a way that people trust.

      It pushes the financial conflict from University vs. Publisher to Person vs. Publisher.

      I don’t see this, because it is institutions rather than individuals that pay article processing charges. So any conflicts will be between institutions (such as universities or grant-awarding bodies) and publishers.

      In the current model, there is almost no barrier stopping someone (with internet connection) to read current papers.

      There is the barrier that quite a number of papers cannot be found on the arXiv or on the author’s home page. If the situation improves to the point where virtually all papers can be found easily online, what do you expect will happen then? Surely libraries will realize that they can cancel their subscriptions with no adverse consequences and many journals will no longer be able to survive through subscriptions. So some other financial model will be forced on us at that point.

    • Henry Cohn Says:

      I agree that there are serious issues with irresponsible publishers. That’s one reason we need to get ahead of this now, to set ethical and practical standards and to demonstrate that this can be done right.

      I also don’t see this as a shift from “University vs. Publisher to Person vs. Publisher”. The payments are still going to come from universities or funding agencies, not actually from individuals.

      Ultimately, I hope the mathematical community will be able to set up a sponsoring consortium along the lines of SCOAP3 in particle physics (see http://scoap3.org). Universities and funding agencies will contribute money to the consortium, and it will sponsor open access journals directly, with the consortium exercising oversight regarding cost and quality. This basically functions like a subscription model, but it’s harder to negotiate (since there’s no longer the threat of withholding access to those who don’t join). However, if the particle physicists can do it, then we should be able to as well.

      I think we’re at a tipping point, and universities will adapt surprisingly rapidly to make APCs work. However, a sponsoring consortium seems like the best of all worlds, and it’s what I think we should be fighting for. It will return the funding issue to the libraries, where it belongs, and it will control costs and punish bad behavior.

    • Orr Shalit Says:

      Thank you both for your replies.
      Regarding the Person vs. Publisher issue: My main concern was not about people actually paying out of their pockets (although this will happen, and will distort the scenery) but that there will be another wall of bureaucracy, another pie to fight over, another disadvantage for people with soft character, etc.

      I am happy that you don’t see this as the ultimate model. I do believe that you will do what you can to try to set good ethical standards, but my opinion is that, in 2012, a journal that charges authors is ethically flawed and cannot be “done right”.

      I think it was a mistake to rush into this project, it is entirely not clear that this is going in the same direction that you intend.

  41. Mel Nathanson Says:

    From wikipedia: “Postmodernism postulates that many, if not all, apparent realities are only social constructs and are therefore subject to change. It claims that there is no absolute truth and that the way people perceive the world is subjective and emphasizes the role of language, power relations, and motivations in the formation of ideas and beliefs.”

    In that spirit, here is an alternate reading of the current publishing controversy. It is based on the Latin proverb: Cui bono?

    Following the proferred link to the Cambridge University Press (CUP) website, one reads, “Forum of Mathematics, … an exciting new development in journal publishing. Together they offer fully open access publication combined with peer-review standards set by an international editorial board of the highest calibre, and all backed by Cambridge University Press and our commitment to quality.” Excellent advertising blurb. Here is a smart advertising strategy: At a time when Elsevier (a business rival of CUP) is under attack (and the attack happens to have originated in Cambridge), why not try to generate positive public relations by starting an open access journal. For the a few years it will lose money, but it will be an excellent vehicle to create good will in the math community, and maybe no one will notice that CUP (like Elsevier) also charges very high prices for some of its journals (Journal of Fluid Dynamics charges libraries $4432 for an online subscription). After three years CUP will force authors (the “marks”) to pay to publish their articles, and they will thank CUP for the privilege. From then on, CUP will accumulate good will at no cost to its bottom line. To end with an American proverb, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

    I don’t propose this as what’s “really” happening. It is simply a different reading of history.

  42. Ghaith Says:

    It’s great to see that there’s a serious discussion about this issue since it pretty much defines the career of a research mathematician (Personally, my only other requirements are a laptop and access to a computer cluster — hopefully, I won’t start getting charged for computer-time in a few years too!)

    I’ve been trying to see the arguments for an author-pays journal by reading past studies, but I still don’t see it in Mathematics. To put into context the proposed “publishing” cost of $750 –or whatever the precise figure is– it might be helpful to compare it to, say, the monthly salary of a math post-doc, or the cost of attending a conference, or a computer memory upgrade, or even the monthly rent for an apartment! I don’t mean to get silly with my comparisons, but really, I don’t see the value added to warrant $750 to “publish” given that the essential elements (typesetting, peer-review, editors) are done by the author or by volunteer work, which many people have already pointed out.

    I actually thought that one’s volunteer work as a referee, combined with their supply of free content, are already a substantial contribution to the publication process, and if anything I think most math authors won’t mind if someone paid them rather than them paying hundreds of dollars and being told it’s a bargain.

    I realize that some people say: But you’re already paying for publications via your institution! I don’t buy this though since I think the situation is more complicated than that, and anyway I think the figures thrown around are not accurate (e.g. it seems to me the over-head cost of a journal is being charged several times to various parties, and the figures assume the journal should break even from the start, which ignores that the value of the journal’s brand generally increases with time). Other people mentioned if the author paid then it would improve the quality of publications, but this is obviously wishful-thinking and flawed (wait, how about a submission fee? that’ll really improve the quality!)

    I do remember thinking of a system where I’d simply click a link and get to the article. But this was a few years back, when to access an article off-campus I had to use some type of a custom link, which was very inconvenient because sometimes I needed to skim many articles. In my current institution, the access is very convenient both on and off-campus, and so far I haven’t run into an article that I wanted to access but couldn’t.

    I greatly value my current ability to submit my article anywhere with no hassle, much more so than an open-access model that promises to save some money (with no guarantee that such saved money won’t somehow be eaten up by other internal sources within the university.)

    All in all, I’ll probably submit my articles to journals where I don’t need to convince someone to pay $750 on my behalf, or convince the journal to waive my fee. I think a better way to improve the publication process is to simply negotiate harder with the current publishers. Off the top of my head, maybe if one doesn’t have a subscription, then the journal can still allow access to articles behind a paywall but with much lower quality images and print, or some other sort of disadvantage; most of the time this is all what’s needed to skim an article, and the journal will probably benefit since it’s a sort of a preview to their content. But I don’t know, I’m sure there are many other ideas.

  43. cb Says:

    This is a reply (unrelated to the discussion) to Tim Gowers at 8:57 pm

    The following website might help you access MathSciNet form off campus


  44. Mel Nathanson Says:

    If Cambridge University Press (CUP) wants to establish a “gold open access” journal (Forum) with the assistance of Tim Gowers, Terry Tao, and others, then it will, and the world of mathematics will not collapse. However, because of the proclivity of proponents of Forum to self-describe their activity as highly moral and ethical, it is worth identifying other ethical issues related to Forum.

    The major issue, of course, is the impropriety of asking mathematicians to raise money for CUP in order that their papers be published. This has already been sufficiently debated on both the Gowers and Tao websites. I note that the criticism on the Tao site has been sharper than on the Gowers site, presumably because the former has more American than British readers, and we Americans are less polite and more direct than the British.

    A different ethical issue is “truth in advertising.” There is NO problem about open access in mathematics. An author who wants his or her paper freely available can simply upload it to arXiv. There is no need to pay Cambridge. Open access already exists. Proponents of Forum do include a lot of snob appeal in their description of the new journal, but that is symptomatic of an unrelated problem in mathematics.

    There is the ethical issue of the involvement of Cambridge University Press. On its website it wrote, “[CUP] is the not-for-profit publishing arm of the University of Cambridge, and any surplus generated from our publishing operations is reinvested back into the Press and the University. We have established the Forum of Mathematics in order to offer the community an open-access journal outlet which stands as a genuine and sustainable alternative to the journals currently owned by the leading commercial publishers.” The simplest reading of this text is that CUP is trying to create a dichotomy between itself and the “commercial” publishers that will lead to the failure of math journals owned by the commercial publishers and more profits for CUP. Both university presses and privately owned presses are businesses. They want and are expected to make a profit, the larger the better. They publish to make money, and their editors and managers are evaluated and remunerated on the basis of how much money the company makes. The difference is that privately owned publishers distribute their profits to their owners, and CUP passes it profits to the University of Cambridge. Of course, Cambridge is one of the richest institutions in the world, and its annual budget for claret would suffice to feed the starving children of the Congo for a long time. That diversion of funds is not likely to happen. Nonetheless, like most academics, I would rather pay the wine bill of Cambridge dons than Rupert Murdoch, but the difference between CUP and a “commercial” press is small.

    Finally, it must be recorded that there is an ethical question about a Cambridge don organizing an academic campaign to divert to CUP the income of a business rival of CUP. Because it is so easy to create an online journal, there is absolutely no necessity for the involvement of Cambridge University Press in this project. And the new online journal could be free to authors and readers.

  45. Anonymous Says:

    I can understand why some people are not entirely happy with the structure of the Forum of Mathematics. Indeed, it is probably not the “ideal” model for a journal. However, this doesn’t mean it is not a (significant) step in the right direction.

    I think most would agree that the two key problems with the current system are that 1) the costs are too high and 2) the lack of open-access. FoM addresses both these problems (though the costs may still be too high for some).

    I am a combinatorialist. If I write what I consider is a very strong paper I, like most people, will want to submit to the very best journals in my field. Currently, that is JCTA, JCTB and Combinatorica: two Elsevier journals and a Springer journal. Whilst there is only a choice of these journals I am going to continue to submit to these journals. I also think that most combinatorialists will do the same (only a small proportion of the community are boycotting Elsevier at the moment). It is only natural that people want their best papers in the best possible journals. Now FoM, gives me and others another option. Since FoM Sigma has been explicitly pitched as a rival for these journals it should be possible to maintain a high standard. (If I were to referee a paper for Sigma I would just ask myself would I accept this to JCTB.)

    Of course, one could try and set up a completely free journal to rival these journals. Indeed, I would encourage those who are so against FoM to do so. However, there are reasons why we currently have the expensive journal system that we do. Most writing on here are keen for drastic change. But many mathematicians are quite conservative. They will submit to JCTA etc because it is a “safe” choice that gives a “certificate” of quality. This is part of the reason why it is so hard to create a new successful journal. (Apart from the Electronic journal of combinatorics, I can’t think of a journal in discrete mathematics that has been formed in the last 25 years that has been better than mediocre.)

    The fact that FoM is a CUP journal may not do anything for anyone on here, but for some this will give the Forum extra credence. Also, having big names such as Tao and Gowers will undoubtedly help. So FoM has things going for it that other new journals may not.

    I really hope that the people give FoM a chance. It may not be perfect, but that isn’t a good reason not to support it.

    • Ghaith Says:

      >I think most would agree that the two key problems with the current >system are that 1) the costs are too high and 2) the lack of open->access. FoM addresses both these problems (though the costs may >still be too high for some).

      This may be so, but it’s not true in my case actually: For me it seems the biggest needed improvements relate to “quality control” and better evaluation of “genuine content” rather than to pricing or access (in fact, I think access is becoming easier than ever, though still with noticeable problems.)

      >Of course, one could try and set up a completely free journal to rival >these journals. Indeed, I would encourage those who are so against >FoM to do so.

      I don’t think this is a productive approach, or is the intent of people on here, and I hope not too many think of terms “for or against”. Also, generally, people don’t take well to being told that if they don’t like it, then go somewhere else… By the way, this also insinuates that the journal is basically charging for the reputation of its editorial board rather than the actual cost of running it, and therefore it might bother people (understandably) that mathematical accomplishments of individual mathematicians appear to be so directly linked to business issues — it seems to me that when deciding where to submit a very good paper, one generally considers the journal’s overall reputation rather than who’s currently on its editorial board, and it’s healthy that a journal’s reputation is built over time, rather than decreed.

      I do feel there are very serious concerns here. For example, there was a link made to Elsevier boycott to suggest that author-pays is better and more fair, rather than simply a new alternative. Also, given the apparent support of author-pays by some leaders in the field, and the fact it inadvertently legitimizes low-quality for-profit journals, as has been pointed out, it’s an obvious possibility that author-pays can overwhelm new specialized mathematical publishing venues (and even some general ones) in a matter of years. This is an important issue, especially in places where the mathematical community is less developed, because for junior mathematicians hoping to establish themselves it’s publications, rather than grants record, that are the only realistic way.

      There’s something very unattractive about paying to publish in mathematics, where research effort is generally solo, or in a small group, and rarely with any commercial application (though probably that won’t be a big deal if the charge is I really hope that the people give FoM a chance. It may not be perfect, >but that isn’t a good reason not to support it.

      This will surely be the case especially since the first 3 years are guaranteed to be free. When I first saw the post on here about a new journal I was excited that tangible steps are being taken, but that only served to amplify my discontent when I read the details…

    • Ghaith Says:

      (It seems the last part of my post got tangled up somehow, and it doesn’t look like I can edit it, so here’s a rewrite)

      There’s something very unattractive about paying to publish in mathematics, where research effort is generally solo, or in a small group, and rarely with any commercial application (though probably that won’t be a big deal if the charge is I really hope that the people give FoM a chance. It may not be perfect, >but that isn’t a good reason not to support it.

      This will surely be the case especially since the first 3 years are guaranteed to be free. When I first saw the post on here about a new journal I was excited that tangible steps are being taken, but that only served to amplify my discontent when I read the details…

    • Ghaith Says:

      (Hmmmm, that didn’t work, oh well.., many apologies about the repetition in any case)

    • Anonymous Says:

      > I don’t think this is a productive approach, or is the intent of people on here, and I hope not too many think of terms “for or against”. Also, generally, people don’t take well to being told that if they don’t like it, then go somewhere else…

      I meant that I would be delighted if people that prefer another system tried to set up another journal. If we as a community are going to change the current system, we will need a number of alternative journals. So isn’t the productive approach for others to set up journals too?

      I’m afraid that it is probably the case that having big names associated with new journals helps. As you correctly say, people choose where to submit based on the (long earned) reputation of the journal. So how are we going to convince someone to submit to a new journal with no long-term reputation? I think a journal whose “mission statement” is to rival the top journals in the field and with a world-class editorial board stands the best chance of success. (Generally, I think the top mathematicians do not want to damage their reputations by being associated with weak journals.) Also, I can only see that such journals will support high standards rather than encourage weaker journals.

  46. Gabor Pete Says:

    The twin journals Electronic Journal of Probability and Electronic Communications of Probability are completely free for everyone, and have become (at least) the 3rd and 4th best probability journals in their 15 years of existence. Authors need to spend about an hour with putting their papers into the final format. I could imagine paying $50 from my grant if I could save that work, but $750?!

    And I really prefer the simple standard hyperlinked LaTeX papers on the arXiv to the format of any journal. So, in my opinion, journals should just put their stamps on the arXiv version they agree to, and that’s it; no publication and printing costs, no subscriptions, not even online storage space, except for a journal homepage with the list of editors and the list of accepted papers. Organizing a first-rate journal working like this, I think that would be useful and sexy.

    And eventually, when all journals will have switched to this format, from part of the publication and subscription costs saved, editors and referees should be paid.

    • Gabor Pete Says:

      Btw, proper scientific payment for refereeing would be more important than financial payment, of course.

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      I agree that “overlay journals” make perfect sense — allowing arXiv to do the repository part of the role, and reducing the journal’s to just reviewing and selection. In fact, this approach makes so much sense that I am bit shocked no-one seems to have done it successfully yet. Or have they? Are there any good overlay journals out there?

    • David Roberts Says:

      Journal of Homotopy and Related Structures was essentially an overlay journal when I published a paper there — indeed there was a delay in getting it published because of a miscommunication about posting the final version to the arXiv, which was a requirement by the journal. But it was (and is) also an electronic subscription journal (very low cost). It’s now published by Springer; I do not know if they still insist on posting to the arXiv.

  47. What does it cost to publish a paper with Elsevier? « Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week #AcademicSpring Says:

    […] on Tim Gowers’ blog, he’s recently announced the launch of a new open-access maths journal, Forum of Mathematics, to be published by Cambridge University Press. The new journal will have an […]

  48. Gil Kalai Says:

    Mike, your estimates on cost per paper are based on overall Journals, right? When it comes to mathematics both the prices and the number of subscriptions can be smaller. What are the numbers for mathematics journals?

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      Hi, Gil. Yes, my estimates are based on Elsevier’s overall publishing activities. (By the way, a new and better version is now available.)

      I don’t have discipline-specific numbers and I don’t have the data to calculate them from — in fact my guess would be that the data doesn’t exist at all, or if it does it’s private to Elsevier.

      Sorry I can’t be more helpful.

  49. Gil Kalai Says:

    Thanks, Mike. It may well be the case that the relevance of these numbers to mathematics is small. For example, the prices and the subscription for a journal in Cardiology is entirely different compared to mathematics.

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      Could be. If you can think of a way to estimate this, I’d be more than happy to see numbers. For example, might there be a way to determine from universities what they spend on maths subscriptions? Or would those numbers be secret? Or would the maths journals be too tangled up in Big Deals to evaluate objectively?

      Could we maybe make progress by looking at Elsevier’s list prices (if any) for the maths journals, and taking an informed guess about how much of a discount you get as part of a Big Deal?

    • Gil Kalai Says:

      Anyway, the 7-14 number which was repeated here quite frequently is not relevant. We can try looking at the figures for Cambridge University Press itself and see what is the overall cost per paper for journals, in mathematics and in other areas. (Probably the proposed method of authors paying saves the publisher some costs related to subscriptions and marketing.)

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      I would love to see other, better numbers for other publishers than Elsevier. At the moment, my handwavy estimate is the only game in town, but a big part of the reason I ever published it was in the hope that it would inspire people to do better. Please make my estimate obsolete!

    • Anonymous Says:

      It might be worthwhile looking at the figures from universities who have refused to keep their contract secret. Alas mine is not one of them. Also those not-so-secret slides from the Elsevier-Journal of Number Theory meeting may help put a scale on the discount libraries get.

    • Benoît Régent-Kloeckner Says:

      I can give rough figures for my department. We spend about 135000€ a year on subscription, while publishing about 100 papers a year. So anything below 1350€ per paper would save us money.

      But we do have a big library, so the ratios must be very different in other, notably smaller, departments.

      Another issue is the transition: it would be difficult to have to pay subscription plus APCs at the same time.

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      I can give rough figures for my department. We spend about 135000€ a year on subscription, while publishing about 100 papers a year. So anything below 1350€ per paper would save us money.

      Thanks, Benoit, that is a useful data point. So for your department, the FoM price of £500 (=~ €631) represents a saving of more than 50%.

      But as you say, the issue is how to make the transition. One of the most disappointing aspects of the Finch Report is its conclusion that, for the UK to make the transition to Gold OA, we as a country will need to find an additional £50-60m a year. Even given that that number is a gross overestimate, it’s a concern.

    • Benoît Régent-Kloeckner Says:

      Again, I want to stress that the configuration of our department makes that would be among those that would save the most by switching to gold OA.

      Overall, I do not think this model is good for mathematics, because right know we can do research without much funding, publish it, and access it through the arXiv or by individual e-mail, so we can manage to mitigate the access issue. In a system with APCs, many mathematician would get better access to the literature, but would not be able to publish anymore (and I do not think fee waivers could completely solve this).

      Probably the best way to go is a public, institutionally organized publishing process in open access.

    • Gil Kalai Says:

      The ball park of 1:2 to 1:3 indeed sounds more reasonable as representing the saving. This reflects reducing the efforts of journals themselves in marketing, advertising etc. and it mainly reflects genuine lower prices which are possible also with the current libraries-pay method.

      If all or most publishers will move to authors-pay methods, the prices for authors may well be higher and the financial burden be similar to the situation today. The difference is going to be that this change will put this burden on individual researchers rather than on their institutions.

      Moving to a system where authors pay for publishing reminds me of a change that happened since my years as a graduate student. Now graduate students are funded by the researchers while 30 years ago they got full support from the university and the supervisors had “only” to supervise them.

      In most of these issues the main difference (probably for the worse) is for second- or third- line institutions, second- or third-line journals and struggling researchers.

    • mwil211 Says:

      @Benoit: you say “we can do research without much funding, publish it, and access it through the arXiv ” – in other words, green OA is possible so why bother with gold? Two points:

      1) the rate of compliance is very variable. A quick check of arXiv.org gives the following numbers of papers: Gowers 11, TerryTao 228, while MathSciNet gives Gowers 52, TerryTao 246. Somether signatories of the Statement of Purpose have almost zero on arXiv. Looking at individual websites is tedious and who knows which version of the paper we are reading. How about some support for the arXiv from the leaders of the boycott?

      2) We still need a quality stamp and possibly improvements in the quality improvement process using peer review. Who should pay for that? Tim has several interesting proposals and I would like to see them tried out. But it needs serious work from the big names too. I am happy to contribute considerable time, but no one knows who I am, to a first approximation.

  50. Gil Kalai Says:

    Here are some more thoughts on the new Forum for mathematics:

    1) Creating new substantial mathematical journals is always a reason for celebration, and certainly I would like to wish the journal,
    editors, and publisher CUP, the best of luck and much success. Of course, it is not easy to meet the desired academic goals of excellence and to compete with established journals (which are also dear to our hearts) but more academic journals and more competition is, of course, welcome.

    2) It is true that we witness a few successful journals that are essentially free. Exploring such possibilities is welcome. But we should not try to shift the nonacademic burden of running journals from professional publishers to scientists. This will not serve the interest of science or that of scientists.

    Overall, professional publishers (both non-profit and for-profit publishers) are important partners in the scientific endeavor.

    3) It is a good aspect of the new endeavor that attention is made to reduce the cost of the new journal in response to the recent critique of the high cost of journals.

    The new proposed solution of authors-pay-open-access (APOA) is very problematic. I would ask the Forum’s editors and CUP to consider basing the journal on subscription price of 4-5 dollars per paper per library which can further be reduced if subscription will go up. (It is perfectly ok for CUP to eventually have profits from this and subsequent projects.)

    As an aside, I propose to avoid, at all cost, using the term “gold-open-access” (and similar propagandish terminology) in our academic discussion.

    4) The cost of knowledge is mainly the about the cost of scientific journals. (We can consider enlarging the scope and consider also the outrages cost of university education in some places.) There is an important issue regarding costs and accessibility in third world countries. There are other issues like the issue of open access,
    maintaining the delicate existence of an effective peer-review system, and more.

    Of those I also regard the open access issue, for new research
    in mathematics as of minor weight. For the Forum project allowing authors to arXive is more than enough.
    (Open access for back issues is a more serious matter.)

  51. Mark Wilson Says:

    I want to mention that many of the discussions here echo those at publishing.mathforge.org. I encourage people posting comments here to read that forum, which has a lot of insightful comments already. This may help prevent duplication, and it is better to have a dedicated forum for these issues. Of course I don’t want to imply that people shouldn’t respond to Tim’s post directly.

  52. David Roberts Says:

    Here’s a couple of questions I hope Tim will be able to answer:

    1) What is the expected volume of articles once a steady state has been reached? (obviously the transition from free to the $750 APC will have a dent) A figure like this must have been bandied around the CUP offices…

    1.1) If the rate of submission far outstrips expectations, could we hope for a price reduction for publishing?

    2) The interface Pi -> Sigma is porous, what about the other direction? If a paper submitted to Sigma is actually Pi material, can/will it be moved there?

    To put a completely cynical spin on this, Cambridge have started a Gold OA journal, author-paid from the get-go, and are in essence paying the authors who are published there in the first three years $750 per paper accepted. (That this figure is the same as the APC can be seen as a happy coincidence) They are essentially buying the part of the reputation of the journal that comes from good papers (as opposed to having an impressive editorial board). It may be that this is the only way to build a top-tier journal now, as bottom lines are willing to wait the decades it took the Annals, for instance, to become our flagship journal. Libraries anyway would have to be forced or cajoled into buying the new journal, and that is looking increasingly unlikely.

    • gowers Says:

      1. I think it’s around 200 per year, but that is very flexible and will depend on how many submitted papers reach the standards we are looking for. In principle, that’s the only thing it will depend on.

      1.1. I don’t know the answer, but my understanding is that the $750 figure (plus inflation) is an upper bound, so maybe if there are significant economies of scale, CUP will consider reducing the fee.

      2. I think in theory no, since a paper submitted to Sigma will not have been accompanied by the statement justifying its suitability for Pi. But I would hope for some common sense here. Certainly, if someone submitted a paper to Sigma via me proving that R(k,k) is at most 2^k, then I would tell them it should be submitted to Pi. More realistically, if a referee’s report came back saying “I can’t think why the author didn’t submit this to Pi,” and I agreed, then I would consult the other editors and press for the paper to be published in Pi. But as I say, I think this isn’t official policy.

      I think the “cynical spin” isn’t all that illuminating. I don’t think an author submitting to Sigma or Pi in the first three years will think they’ve just been given a payment of $750, especially since they won’t be paying out of their own pockets when the APCs come in. And the motivation for the initial waiver period is simply that mathematicians are not used to APCs and do not have any mechanisms set up for paying them. So to charge them from the beginning would be to guarantee a failed journal.

    • David Roberts Says:

      Yes, it was a bit more cynical than I had planned. From CUP’s point of view, since they are subsidising/waiving the charges for the initial period, they are paying for papers by not passing on the costs, but as you say, that doesn’t translate to authors being paid.

  53. Anonymous Says:

    Honestly, I am a bit dismayed by many of the comments here and the cavalier dismissal of the importance of open access.

    Many outsiders have interest in the research in various fields of mathematics but for whatever reason don’t have easy access to journals to keep up to date with current trends.

    There are legitimate pricing concerns for those that can’t afford it and CUP seems to be willing to offer waivers in these cases. But lower subscription fees are not a solution for the many who don’t and won’t have access to these journals.

    • Ghaith Says:

      Everyone would like total open-access (really, who wouldn’t?), but I don’t think one ought to conflate open-access with author-pays, which is the concern here (it didn’t help that this was apparently linked to and presented in the context of Elsevier boycott…)

      Surely, making articles available to as many readers as possible is important, so is the unconstrained ability of math authors to submit their articles anywhere they feel suitable, and so is some type of separation between journal budgeting and individual authors (who possibly have changing affiliations). With enough negotiation, coordination, and thought, it seems like all these things, and more, can be incrementally achieved. It doesn’t seem the new journal will help in that regard since, as mentioned in a previous post, access is least convenient for old articles and not new ones that are mostly arXived, so maybe that’s where negotiations with publishers can start.

      It might be a matter of balance: Given the degree of access available right now, is the extra access gained by requiring math authors to pay another $1 worth the additional constraints it places on them? But perhaps more important is the fixed administrative cost to the author/department that results from requiring them to pay, per article, any amount at all, since the aggregate effort for that seems large.

      There’s something fundamentally unattractive about author-pays for good math journals: e.g. the more one publishes, the more one pays (at least, nominally), but intuitively it seems like it should be the opposite (I guess one can view it as some sort of a tax on the job advancement that results from publishing, but at $750 that’s doubtful..)

      Mathematical publishing differs from most other sciences since it’s often solo or in small groups without grant support, rarely with commercial use, and the sets of serious authors and readers coincide to a large degree. In any case, most concerns on here probably would’t have surfaced if the journal were unknown, very specialized, or simply not good, but this is promised to become a top journal.

    • gowers Says:

      @Ghaith, the discussion here makes me realize that there was an aspect of my post that I didn’t emphasize nearly enough — which I now regret. I think the people like you who instinctively dislike the idea of the author-pays model are objecting not to article processing charges but to a certain way that such charges might be met: roughly speaking, the author gets a paper accepted and then has to go scrabbling about for funds, except for a few privileged authors with access to grant money or funds from a rich department. Well, I can assure you that the editors of FoM would be extremely unhappy with a situation like that. (I don’t know whether I speak for every single editor, but I certainly speak for myself and several others.)

      There are two possible responses to that. One is to say that the disadvantages of APCs outweigh the advantages and leave it at that. (Let me briefly repeat what those advantages are: a much smaller aggregate cost than we have at the moment with subscriptions, and open access to all readers. I agree that the latter is a small advantage if all papers are on the arXiv, but if that’s the case then there isn’t the slightest chance of a new journal getting enough subscriptions to finance itself that way.)

      A far more constructive approach, it seems to me, is to recognise both the advantages and the disadvantages, and work very hard over the next three years to find a model that preserves the advantages and gets rid of the disadvantages. And such models exist. The most promising one is to have a consortium of universities and funding bodies that creates a fund that meets APCs for journals that it judges to be of an appropriate standard and to have reasonable charges. Why should any university agree to contribute to such a fund? Because in the long run it stands to save a lot of money if that method of financing academic publications becomes the norm.

      I cannot think of any objection to a system in which authors get papers accepted, the charges are paid automatically by some central fund, and the total cost to universities is significantly less. The worst that can be said of the idea is that it is utterly unrealistic. But it exists in high-energy physics, and it would be (unless I am overlooking something) such a win-win situation that I think it is worth striving for in mathematics. And that is why I would like FoM to be successful over the next three years — so that potential funders will see that it (as well, I hope, as other journals) is worth funding.

    • aram Says:

      Tim, what confuses me, and perhaps others, is why the journal needs any money at all. When I am on a conference PC, we coordinate referees, discuss and select papers, all without anyone paying anything, and without academics taking on roles that could be done by administrators or copyeditors.

      Is this all for copy-editing? Is that so crucial to mathematical communication?

      Is this about artificial scarcity? Do we need the prestige of an established publisher in order to believe in each other’s papers?

      You mention that you “cannot think of any objection” to the system you have in mind. What about the fact that journals will continue to earn rents from the positions we have granted them within our social networks? (And the consortium will face similar difficulties in negotiating that our libraries currently do. For one thing, those who manage public money simply don’t care as much.) And that these profits will encourage them to attempt to slow down our transition to truly better systems, like post-publication peer review.

    • Orr Shalit Says:

      @Gowers: Thank you for your last comment.

    • gowers Says:

      @Aram, my grasp of journal economics isn’t as good as it should be, but let me try to summarize some answers people have given to this question recently (about why journals need any money at all). It’s certainly true that it is possible to do things very cheaply. But that involves quite a bit of work by volunteers. At the moment there is a large volume of administrative work (if you look at the entire journal system) that is done by salaried employees, with their overheads etc. Who is going to do that work? Will it be done by mathematicians? If so, then it is slightly misleading to say that it is free, since a mathematician’s time is valuable. Is most of the work simply unnecessary? Maybe yes in the long term, but I think it will be very difficult to make a quick transition to a post-publication arXiv-overlay review system, much as I’d like to see such a thing. Such a system will have to co-exist with more conventional systems until people start to realize that they don’t need the latter.

      I disagree that consortia will be in as weak a position as libraries are currently. If a consortium thought that a journal’s APCs were too high and refused to pay them, the consequence for the journal would be dire (since people wouldn’t want to submit to a journal where it was difficult to get the APCs paid) but not particularly serious for the consortium (because there are always other journals around and all the papers up to now are freely available). If a library cancels a subscription to a huge bundle of journals, that is pretty bad for the library and makes only a very small dent in the profits of the publisher. I agree that it’s a worry that some funding bodies may be too ready to pay unreasonable APCs. That’s another reason I think FoM may do some good: it will show up the much higher APCs charged by many other publishers and, I hope, make the funders less willing to accept the status quo.

    • Ghaith Says:

      @gowers 10:16, thanks for the clarifications. I still don’t see the advantages of the new system (at least not without making quite a few assumptions), but I do hope things evolve as FoM intends.

    • Anonymous Says:

      @Gowers: “Is most of the work simply unnecessary? Maybe yes in the long term, but I think it will be very difficult to make a quick transition to a post-publication arXiv-overlay review system, much as I’d like to see such a thing.”

      Why? If the current editors of FoM set up a arxiv-overlay system with minimal overhead but with the same format/standards of FoM I believe it would be wildly embraced by the community. I think much of the discontent with the current setup of FoM is that many of us thought that a free (or very cheap) arXiv-overlay journal (economized by simply eliminating the `publishing’ services provided by the publisher) was the obvious end of the Elsevier boycott/`academic spring’ and we have been disappointed to see our leaders embrace such middling reform.

    • Michał Kotowski Says:

      ” I think much of the discontent with the current setup of FoM is that many of us thought that a free (or very cheap) arXiv-overlay journal (economized by simply eliminating the `publishing’ services provided by the publisher) was the obvious end of the Elsevier boycott/`academic spring’ and we have been disappointed to see our leaders embrace such middling reform.”

      Couldn’t agree more. I think that the main reason many people here are somewhat critical of the new journal is not that its idea is bad, but that the ‘academic spring’ has built up a lot of expectations and one cannot simply try to reform the system pretending that Elsevier boycott never happened and every step toward cheaper journals, no matter how small, will be greeted as an improvement.

    • mwil211 Says:

      I agree – we have been hearing for months about new developments, and this is an interesting step, but hardly earth-shattering. I accept that experiments are needed, but a much more radical one in terms of price was what I was expecting. Many signatories of the boycott will pay a higher career price than the “leaders”, who are essentially immune from harm. But they (we) can’t really start our own journal easily, because of lack of name recognition. I hope FoM goes well but I don’t really understand why some famous editors plus a few grad students can’t produce an essentially free “journal” (= service giving a stamp of quality, and ignoring copy-editing).

  54. Mark C. Wilson Says:

    My guess is that @aram’s reply to “Who is going to do that work?” is “computers”. Good software does cost something to develop, but once it is there, it allows scaling up to large journals. Those of us with experience with CS conferences probably have more confidence that such software can be developed rather easily.

    I recently declined a referee invitation from an Elsevier journal and was then informed by the associate editor that Elsevier has so many wonderful tools that make his life better: referee database, software for automating referee reminders, etc. I was and remain unconvinced that any of this should be difficult to improve on with open source software. The costs such as volunteer referee time are not part of the discussion – I still don’t see what nontrivial work needs to be done by secretarial people that couldn’t be automated.

    Perhaps we just need a bit more work on improving something like this: http://pkp.sfu.ca/?q=ojs

  55. fren Says:

    The name Forum of Mathematics is unfortunate as there is an existing journal Forum Mathematicum. Also the names Pi and Sigma I find particularly lame.

  56. Anonymous Says:

    From the FAQ: “Therefore, for the first three years Cambridge University Press will underwrite the APC for all authors, though we will encourage payment from those authors who do have appropriate funding through their institution or a funding body. After the first three years we will adopt an ongoing waiver policy for authors from eligible countries (see appendix for current list), and to others who can demonstrate a lack of access to appropriate funds. ”

    Does the fee waiver go into effect for papers submitted after the 3 year window or accepted after the 3 year window? In the second case the fee will essentially go effect much earlier, with a reasonable possibility that some paper submitted within the next year will end up requiring the fee.

  57. Gil Kalai Says:

    To understand why journals need money we can estimate that running a journal which handles hundreds of papers a year requires roughly one position of a skilled worker (Mainly for aministrative work). In free journals the work is done by scientists. This saves the need for recruiting/office/computer etc. but wastes the expensive working time of scientists. One such position for a journal get you quickly to many hundreds of dollars per accepted paper.

    (In CS conferences the administratibe burdon, which is quite heavy, is on members of the committee and mainly the chairperson. Usually the proceedings are NOT open access and the cost (with the registration fee) is a few hundreds dollars for every participant of the conference.)

    • Anonymous Says:

      Gil– What administrative work? What many of us would like to see is purely a review system that links to the arXiv. The journal would be a list of accepted papers, with arXiv links. There would be no attempt to assimilate, copy-edit or typeset the papers. Since there would be no physical (or even electronic) journal or subscriptions no support on the reader side would be needed. There would still need to be flow management (making sure papers move through the pipeline) but this can be done completely (and more efficiently) by software. For instance, companies like scholasticahq.com offer such a flow management system (as well as the related technical support and even online publishing if you wanted to go that route) for $10 a submission.

      So what administrative work remains? Perhaps someone can think up some small task that could be handled by an assistant that isn’t eliminated in the above set up. However, also note that there is significant time overhead with supervising and interfacing with an assistant and all one needs to do is reduce the amount of administrative work to less than that before everyone is better off by eliminating the position.

    • Gil Kalai Says:

      My experience is that for a journal with 100-150 papers a year (like sigma/pi) you need at the very least half-time position (and perhaps even full-time position) of a skilled managing-editor preferably with a degree in mathematics.

      Saving on that will simply shift the burden to the editor-in-chief and other editors. Even with the help of a skilled manajing-editor there is plenty of work left for the editors. (Of course, there is overhead involved.)

      This is in addition to editing and typesetting. (And I see no reason to give up these functions of scientific publishers.)

    • Anonymous Says:

      @Gil, “you need at the very least half-time position”

      Can you give examples of the specific administrative tasks you have in mind?

      “This is in addition to editing and typesetting. (And I see no reason to give up these functions of scientific publishers.)”

      Say we spend $500 typesetting and copy-editing an article, and that we do this for 10,000 articles a year (as a reference point, in 2000 mathscinet reviewed 55,000 items.). This would mean we are spending $5 million a year on copy-editing and typesetting. If you estimate the cost of a permanent position in math at $200k/year then we are essentially giving up 25 (non-teaching) permanent research positions to pay for copy-editing and typesetting. In the current bleak job market opening up 25 new positions would be an earth-shattering event.

      And what is the cost of all of this? Having to read past a few typos every now and then (all of which would be non-mathematical, since the copy editors don’t typically have mathematical expertise). Note that the $500 number for typesetting and copy-editing is a conservative estimate for ONLY those services, and this wouldn’t even require giving up the other assistance from publishers. If we did cut out the publishers altogether then we may be looking at close to 100 or more permanent research positions.

    • Gil Kalai Says:

      Well, I have some experience from the time when I was the editor-in-chief of the Isreal Journal of Math. The managing editor handled among other things all the daily correspondence and coordinations with editors, authors and referees. To a large extent he had (and still has) the most important role in running the journal.

      My experience as an editor in “advances of mathematics” is similar. Much of the work is carried out by the editorial assistant and he is doing a great job (Perhaps he should get more credit along with the scientific editors). In principle, you can imagine a situation that the main editors, Hopkins, Mworka, and Tian will take over also the tasks of the editorial assistant and thus allow some saving toward a fraction of an academic research position. But the reality is that I am not sure that the editors can do such a good job on their own, and this will put an unnecessary burden on their shoulders.

  58. Mark C. Wilson Says:

    Gil – could you be a bit more specific? What is done by secretarial-level employees that could not be done by software? Have you looked at OJS, for example? The fact that under the current system, some nonzero, even good work is done by some people who are then paid, does not mean it is the best way to do it.

  59. Gil Kalai Says:

    Mark, As an editor-in chief of a Journal that handles 600 papers a year you have to make yourself or based on editors something like 50-80 calls every week. A managing editor with good knowledge of mathematics and the mathematical community (A math Ph D in the case of IJM) who is also a good administrator allows you to concentrate on the few crucial calls, gives good advice on the difficult ones, and prepare everything for you to handle so that you can do the job in one afternoon every week. In addition the managing editor takes care of further aspects of running the Journal that you dont want to hear about. He also needs to correspond with authors and referees and to solve various problems.

    • Michał Kotowski Says:

      A question to Gil Kalai: you seem to insist that actually hiring somebody to manage the editorial process is indispensable and already contributes substantially to the cost of running a journal. What about The Electronic Journal of Combinatorics then, which is completely free to both authors and subscribers?

    • Gil Kalai Says:

      Hi Michal, I dont know how the job is done in EJC (Maybe somebody else can comment on that). From what I understand from Mel’s comment for a similar electronic journal of combinatorial number theory it takes there an “extremely hard-working volunteer managing editor.”

    • aram Says:

      I find this strange because of my experience on many conference PCs. I have never been a PC chair, but as a PC member, it surely seems that a lot of editorial decision-making happens, and that none of the work could reasonably be done by people outside the academic community. In other words, I don’t see any potential improvement that could come from paid non-academic staff. In what way is a journal like EJC different?

  60. Kevin O'Bryant Says:

    With the several posters above, I too am disappointed in this proposal. This attacks the most immediate problem (cost), but doesn’t even definitively solve that. These journals aren’t live yet, so maybe the situation can be improved. Here are some complaints that aren’t addressed.

    1. From arXiv posting (I wish all of your papers were on the arXiv; you know who you are!) to publication can be very long. On several occasions I’ve gotten a referee report that said “not right for this journal, but definitely publishable in Journal XXX”. Unfortunately, that can come after several months, and the subsequent submission to Journal XXX is not guaranteed to be successful, either. So, how about a commitment from the editors to share referee reports with other journals if the referee and author agree?

    2. How about a commitment from FoM to guarantee a report in 90 days or less? If I’m paying for it (or my department is), I’m going to expect more service.

    3. How about naming the journals Alpha and Beta instead of Sigma and Pi, or is it Pi and Sigma? That accommodates also having Gamma and Delta, journals containing good papers and “interesting” papers. Also, an article published at one level could be elevated after it reaches a certain citation strength, whatever that means.

    4. I’d like to have concrete criteria for when the fee will be waived. Not just a list of countries, but which criteria and thresholds lead to being on the list. By what analysis will individuals have this waived? I think this sort of thing is necessary for building trust worldwide. I don’t mean to imply that I don’t trust the editors, but some people don’t and I don’t trust the publishers. Of course I want the editors to have the power to make these decisions in unusual cases.

    5. This will lead to a hiring bias against combinatorics, whose practitioners are widely believed to publish a much larger number of papers, even though those papers are typically shorter. Somebody somewhere will say, “we just can’t afford to hire anyone who’s going to publish 5 times a year, and we certainly can’t afford to build a research focus on combinatorics!”

    6. The argument has been advanced several times that universities will foot the bill because it will be cheaper once everyone moves over to this model. But for the foreseeable future, this isn’t a replacement cost but a new cost. I will still need back issues, and current issues, of JCTA. I think my University & department would be able to find the money, but I’m not sure; I strongly suspect that *most* small colleges would not. That’s not scientific; I’d love to see some data. By the way, looking at the amount of govt spending on particle physics vs mathematics, I really don’t think the observation that they have a paying consortium is relevant to us.

    • David Roberts Says:

      “…still need back issues”

      This is the crucial point. For ScienceDirect (i.e. Elsevier journals) one needs a current subscription to keep up access to past issues (essentially pre-1995 plus past four years). Cancelling current journals (like Technical University Munich’s maths dept) means cancelling electronic access except the 1995-(four years ago) Elsevier is handing out for free (this is policy only, and can be changed).

      Are other big publishers the same?

      Springer have some information here: http://www.springer.com/librarians?SGWID=0-117-6-794063-0 (took a while to find this). You have the option of buying the entire pre-1997 journal catalogue, otherwise current subscription is necessary.

      Wiley have an option to purchase perpetual access back to 1997 (http://olabout.wiley.com/WileyCDA/Section/id-406100.html) and at least give you perpetual access to all years in which you subscribed. But they have less than 30 journals which could be labelled mathematics, and I was being generous. WIley say about 70, most of which are more science than mathematics e.g. crystallography, and, bizarrely, “Journal of Organizational Excellence”. Other than that: statistics, applied maths (really applied) and numerical methods. About four pure maths journals, if anyone is counting.

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      3. How about naming the journals Alpha and Beta instead of Sigma and Pi, or is it Pi and Sigma?

      Yes! I can never remember which of Pi and Sigma is which.

      Also, an article published at one level could be elevated after it reaches a certain citation strength, whatever that means.

      I think this is an excellent idea — very disruptive, which of course is part of the goal here. It will throw spanners in the works of those who wish to evaluate researchers by the stupid metric of what journal their papers were published in.

      5. This will lead to a hiring bias against combinatorics, whose practitioners are widely believed to publish a much larger number of papers, even though those papers are typically shorter. Somebody somewhere will say, “we just can’t afford to hire anyone who’s going to publish 5 times a year, and we certainly can’t afford to build a research focus on combinatorics!”

      I know nothing of differences between different maths fields, but …

      If a typical group-theorist publishes three times a year and a typical combinatorits(?) publishes five times, the difference is £1000. Will that really make a difference to the department? Surely the ability to get more papers out is usually considered a positive? From the department’s perspective, don’t papers more than pay for themselves in terms of prestige?

      And a final question in response to this point: if part of the result of FoM is to encourage combinatorists to publisher fewer, more substantial papers, would that a disaster?

    • Benoît Régent-Kloeckner Says:

      @David Roberts: our deal with Springer (all of French institution) includes access to all material that was subscribed, free for two years, for 500€ a year (per university) of access fees to the web platform after that. I do not know precisely about Elsevier, but I think that they had to agree that a French institution build a platform to give access to previously subscribed material to universities wanting to opt out from the national deal.

      You concerns are real, but may be answered through negotiation even with the bad guys.

      @Mike Taylor: 1000£ a year would make a huge difference. This is more than the medium amount my lab is able to pay each researcher for travel expenses (the most important personal expenses we have), and we are quite lucky: I think 500€ per year and researcher is not uncommon. Our total budget (without the extra grants, but not everybody has one) is around 2000€ par year and per person (less if you count PhD students, more otherwise). We can work with little money, and are used to.

    • Bobito Says:

      @Kevin: While my reaction to publication charges is very negative, you’ve made an interesting argument (with a different goal) which could be used to view them favorably. They tend to create a disincentive to publishing as many articles as possible, publishing several very similar articles, and publishing lousy articles – that is publishing in order to generate citations and publication count – and this might be very good thing.

    • Mark C. Wilson Says:

      @Kevin: you raise a good point regarding expectations now that the author is paying – we will be expecting a higher level of service. The current system is very variable and referee reports are almost always late and often incomplete, in my experience. Perhaps referees can be paid with the money saved by not copyediting. In any case, I would very much like to see FoM set a high standard for transparency and consistency of the refereeing process. For example, clear checklists for referees to consult, whose format is publicly available.

  61. sgadgil Says:

    I guess everyone knows the dangers of an APC model for non-premier journals, but as this just came in my mailbox (such mails come often) I am posting it.

    Dear Dr. Professor and Scientist,
    1. Antarctica Journal of Mathematics
    2. Archimedes Journal of Mathematics
    3. Bessel Journal of Mathematics
    4. Cayley Journal of Mathematics
    5. Diophantus Journal of Mathematics
    6. Zadeh Journal of Mathematics
    We are charging only $3[=in all currencies] per page, which is very cheap when compared to some money oriented journals.
    Further we request you to withdraw your paper from other journals keeping in view of high page charges.
    You can submit your research papers to our online journals. We also consider paper from Statistics and Computer Science.
    Submission e-mails:
    1. Antarctica Journal of Mathematics
    [Submission e-mail: mkrsveerakumar@yahoo.com
    2. Archimedes Journal of Mathematics
    [Submission e-mail: archimedesindian@yahoo.com
    3. Bessel Journal of Mathematics
    [Submission e-mail: besselindian@yahoo.com
    4.Cayley Journal of Mathematics
    [Submission e-mail: cayleyindian@yahoo.com
    5.Diophantus Journal of Mathematics
    [Submission e-mail: diophantusindian@yahoo.com
    5.Zadeh Journal of Mathematics
    [Submission e-mail: zadehindian@yahoo.com
    Journals Website: http://www.domainsmoon.com
    Sincerely Yours,
    Code: 3*#( [13.7.2012]
    Maths Journals[$3 Per PageCharge@]

  62. Mark C. Wilson Says:

    I sense a schism in the mathematics research community: see Gordon Royle’s declaration, for example: http://symomega.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/academic-spam/

  63. Peter Cameron Says:

    Apologies if someone has already said this; I admit I haven’t read all the comments.

    One of my worries with gold OA is that universities, to keep their costs down, will restrict the money available to staff, postdocs and students who do not have a grant covering the page charges. Perhaps, as was said above, this will encourage us to write fewer and better papers; more likely it will create a two-tier academic system, which some universities are moving towards anyway (“teaching and scholarship contracts” where you get a heavy teaching load dumped on you).

    But the statement from CUP that someone who can’t afford to pay will not be charged raises another interesting possibility. A university or department can bring in a policy “we do not pay page charges”. (I belive my own department did bring in such a policy many years ago, and it has probably never been formally rescinded.) Then authors whose paper can just quote this policy to CUP; their paper is published and their university saves a few thousand quid.

  64. David Roberts Says:

    This might be of interest to some here: https://www.martineve.com/2012/07/10/starting-an-open-access-journal-a-step-by-step-guide-part-1/ Part one describing startup for a new open access journal. The up front and recurring open costs are detailed. There is also an estimate on time for copyediting, but this is in the humanities. I don’t know if this would be an upper or lower bound for mathematics, and the author has closed comments so I can’t ask about the assumptions behind this.

  65. David Roberts Says:

    Regarding the volume of editorial duties, we all would like to think that what we submit are exemplary articles which take little time on behalf of the editors. And that, in an ideal world, all articles are similar to this ideal. But there is a distribution of quality. What I would like to see is a rough breakdown of articles into ‘quality’ bands (excellent, average and low) on a purely editorial/typesetting scale, detailing proportions that fall in these bands, and how long on average each type takes to get to finished product. This is clearly journal-prestige dependent.

  66. Some Updates | Combinatorics and more Says:

    […] open access” new Forum: See the post and extensive discussion over Gowers’s blog (and also on Tao’s […]


    […] open access” new Forum: See the post and extensive discussion over Gowers’s blog (and also on Tao’s […]

  68. joshua vogelstein Says:

    A few people have mentioned the “Journal of Machine Learning Research”, which charges $10 per submission, nothing for publication or access (http://jmlr.csail.mit.edu/). This is now probably the best journal for machine learning. Admittedly, their costs are low because their services are low. With that in mind, no matter what the Forum charges, details of what the costs go to will be very informative. My guess, is that many things that they charge for will be useful, though some services the community may decide are not so useful. Some of these costs might be externalities. For example, I’d rather check my English myself. Yet, most people who require English correction are likely from less well-off departments/institutions/countries. So, perhaps I “should” pay to offset the costs of my less privileged colleagues? In the very kind 3 year grace period therefore, I’m looking forward to the community learning more about the costs of each service, and be able to make a more informed decision about the appropriate costs.

    On a related note, JMLR has a very high bar for acceptance, and a particular feel to its articles. So, perhaps the Forum will consider some Sigma fields that include such topics.

  69. joshua vogelstein Says:

    ps – where is the list that we can sign up to volunteer to act as referees?

  70. Rico Says:

    I will never submit a paper to a journal that ask money to the author. Unethical! As far a I am concern, you can close your journal even before it gets started.

  71. john McVirgo Says:

    Will there be a discussion forum similar to Mathoverflow where people can freely discuss and vote on the quality of the proposed papers?

    It would take some of the burden off the professional reviewers, ensuring their time is better spent and possibly paid for more efficiently.

  72. Gil Kalai Says:

    It looks that the British government might follow this open access idea http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/jul/15/free-access-british-scientific-research . (I read on Scott Aaronson’s blog a few months ago about a similar initiative in the US but it did not occure to me that this is based on authors-pay system.)

    Some quoted from the Guardian’s article are “If the taxpayer has paid for this research to happen, that work shouldn’t be put behind a paywall before a British citizen can read it,”

    “Under the new scheme, authors will pay “article processing charges” (APCs) to have their papers peer reviewed, edited and made freely available online. The typical APC is around £2,000 per article.”

    “The Higher Education Funding Council for England emphasises the need for research articles to be freely available when they are submitted for the Research Excellence Framework, which is used to determine how much research funding universities receive.”

    “The Finch report strongly recommended so-called “gold” open access, which ensures the financial security of the journal publishers by essentially swapping their revenue from library budgets to science budgets.”

    The Boycott of Elsevier is cited as playing an important role in this move.

    To me, at least in mathematics with the arxive, the open access ideal seems like nonsensical to start with, and the net effect of author-pay “gold-open access” will be for quite a while, less science and less open access.

  73. Subbiah Arunachalam Says:

    Dear Prof. Gowers:

    The world needs your intervention again. The Dame Janet Finch – David Willetts combination tells us that they are for open access, but in truth both of them are only supporting the commercial publishing firms. They have completely ignored the Green route to open access. You may kindly start another signature campaign to correct their mistaken policy and help make science a truly open endeavour. Regards.

    Subbiah Arunachalam
    Centre for Internet and Society
    Bangalore 560 071, India

  74. Marc Says:

    You first boycott Elsevier because of unethical behaviour and then you are part of this journal, a money machine where you and other field medallists are the stars that attract money.

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      Marc (and others). The average cost to the academic world of an article published in a paywalled journal is $5333. The suggested cost at Forum of Mathematics is $750. So for the cost of one publication in a conventional subscription journal, the community will get seven and a bit FoM publications.

    • Gabor Pete Says:

      Dear Mike, and Tim, et al,

      why does the average cost in a paywalled journal matter? Do we want to do something good, or just better than horrible? Why do Terry Tao and Tim Gowers aim at beating the horrible level? Providing open access costs 7 dollars to the community, at arXiv. So, the question is how much it costs to provide the refereeing and selection process. All of that will be done for free at FoM, I guess, and this work cannot be easily made easier by a paid personnel. Therefore, the cost of publishing a paper at a brand new great journal should be on the magnitude of 7 dollars, not 750.

  75. New OA journals from CUP – Forum of Mathematics, Pi and Forum of Mathematics, Sigma | e-Math for Africa Says:

    […] For a very interesting rationale and debate on these new journals, see Tim Gowers’s Weblog […]

  76. A new open-access venture from Cambridge University Press | Flexibility Enables Learning Says:

    […] on gowers.wordpress.com Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. Bookmark the […]

  77. Bob Ross Says:

    A Non-Profit Model is Possible

    There are many interesting points here. Perhaps a non-profit solution could contribute to the discussion.

    At greatmatheamtics.org, we are pursuing a non-profit, open access solution to mathematics research publishing. We believe a non-profit solution is the only viable, long-term one. Our gold model will work on an estimate of author costs of $450 per article. We have created a budget that allows us to sustain our model with a reasonable number of submissions for the first three years.

    We are also exploring outside funding sources, ones we believe will be supportive of a non-profit solution. With adequate funding we hope to eventually reduce or eliminate author costs. This is a realistic goal. As a start-up solution, we do not have the infrastructure and related costs of an established commercial publisher. We expect our cost per article to decline over time, not increase as a commercial model requires.

    It is possible any for-profit model of open access publishing will, after price increases over 10, 20, 30 year period, lead back to the position the community finds itself in now. For-profit models require yearly increases in profit and revenue to sustain the business.

    Our solution will not require authors to sign away their copyright. Authors will retain full ownership of their research.

    An open access, low-cost, non-profit solution to journal publishing is possible in mathematics.

    We are just getting started. We have more information posted on our website. If you would like to join us, please feel free to do so. We need all the support we can find to lay the foundation to secure funding. If we can secure this funding, we believe our model will permanently change the way mathematics research is published and distributed. Thank you for any consideration you might offer us.

  78. CUP’s “Forum of Mathematics” Open Access Journal | Aleph Zero Categorical Says:

    […] have access to these funds. There have been extensive discussions on the blogs of Terence Tao and Timothy Gowers, and these discussions have surprised me with the amount of negativity towards the new […]

  79. Bart Says:

    CUP’s recent treatment of a formerly “diamond” OA journal does not inspire confidence. See http://cikitsa.blogspot.co.nz/2012/07/medical-history-cup-breaching-authors.html

  80. How do you solve a problem like the Annals? « Igor Pak's blog Says:

    […] strange), various journal controversies, often misused barely reasonable impact factors, and new journals appearing every day, it is good to have some stability.  Mathematics clearly needs at […]

  81. Dan Scott Says:

    I have arrived belatedly at this discussion, which was posted on the German language IP-OA Forum. May I add my congratulations to CUP and Prof Gowers on this significant publishing development.

    As somebody who worked in subscription publishing for six years and left to set up two ‘gold’ OA publishing platforms this year – Social Sciences Directory (www.socialsciencesdirectory.com) and Humanities Directory (www.humanitiesdirectory.com) – I believe strongly that the current system is economically unsustainable. The arguments (clearly expressed in the posts above), show that there is still a lot of adjustment to be made, to what are big changes in the publishing model. But academia cannot feel that it is exempt from market forces. It was inevitable that alternatives to a subscription model that leeches money from taxpayers to more cost-effective and distributive methods would be embraced, and this in turn would drive the costs down. I agree that APCs in the £,000s, or even high £,00s, still represent significant barriers for many researchers, which is why we have set the fees for Social Sciences Directory and Humanities Directory at £100/$150, with waivers available. Publishing costs money (for web development and maintenance, marketing and promotion, archiving, registration with CrossRef, copyediting, page design) but we figured all of these could be covered by that fee and without being seen as excessive.

    Notwithstanding initiatives such as mine, PeerJ, Pi and Sigma, publishers and academics will not resolve the situation themselves and it will take the sort of mandate that the British government agreed to from the Finch Report in June to make change come about.

  82. New experiment in mathematics: a “forum”, not a journal. | OpenPub Says:

    […] https://gowers.wordpress.com/2012/07/02/a-new-open-access-venture-from-cambridge-university-press/ This entry was posted in Links to Outside Reading by bruce caron. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  83. Worse than Elsevier « Noncommutative Analysis Says:

    […] has been my opinion for a long time, and it didn’t change when Gowers and Tao joined the bad guys. Here’s what I think is bad about the publishing model where authors pay to have […]

  84. ugo Says:

    People could be interested to know that a “similar” initiative is taken by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). From their description of the journal one reads:

    “This open-access journal to be offered for free to readers follows the movement in scholarly publishing to make content available via the Internet at no charge. […] To shorten the publication cycle, articles will be peer reviewed for technical correctness only—not for novelty or perceived impact on the field. Authors of accepted manuscripts will pay a processing fee of US $1750 per article, which is expected to average 8 to 10 pages, but will not be required to give up copyright, as they have had to assign it to IEEE in the past.”

  85. seo consultant leicester Says:

    I believe strongly that the current system is economically unsustainable. Something needs to change

  86. One Size Fits All?: Social Science and Open Access « The Disorder Of Things Says:

    […] Michael Eisen, Peter Murray-Rust, Björn Brembs, Cameron Neylon, Kent Anderson, Stephen Curry and Tim Gowers, have backgrounds in STEM research or publishing. (Notable exceptions are the philosopher Peter […]

  87. One Size Fits All?: Social Science and Open Access | SAGE Connection Says:

    […] Eisen,Peter Murray-Rust, Björn Brembs, Cameron Neylon, Kent Anderson, Stephen Curry and Tim Gowers, have backgrounds in STEM research or publishing. (Notable exceptions are the philosopher Peter […]

  88. All That Glitters Is Not Gold, But Is It Diamond? | SCRIPTed Says:

    […] venture from Cambridge University Press” (Gowers’s Weblog 2 July 2012), available at https://gowers.wordpress.com/2012/07/02/a-new-open-access-venture-from-cambridge-university-press (accessed 1 Dec 12); T Gowers, “Elsevier: my part in its downfall” (Gowers’s Weblog 21 […]

  89. Worse than Elsevier, worse than … « Noncommutative Analysis Says:

    […] really hope that mathematicians will not flock behind the leaders of this initiative. The overall impression I get is that my hopes are hopeless. So here is one last cry: you are going in the […]

  90. Why I’ve joined the bad guys « Gowers's Weblog Says:

    […] is a misconception here, which I have unfortunately helped to perpetuate. In my previous post about Forum of Mathematics I made a bad mistake, which was to suggest that APC stood for “author publication […]

  91. Quick reaction on Gowers’ “Why I’ve joined the bad guys” « chorasimilarity Says:

    […] my previous post about Forum of Mathematics I made a bad mistake, which was to suggest that APC stood for “author publication charge” […]

  92. Math journals and the fight over open access « mixedmath Says:

    […] math journal called the Forum of Mathematics. It’s a slightly different model, which Gowers first talks about and later clarifies. If I can briefly paraphrase, the idea of the Forum of Mathematics (FoM) is not […]

  93. Dr. Gowers and Mr. Hyde | AMS Graduate Student Blog Says:

    […] to two new open-access journals Forum of Mathematics, Pi and Forum of Mathematics, Sigma. Both Timothy Gowers and Terence Tao discussed their involvement with this project in July of last […]

  94. Raindrop Says:

    Let’s crowdfund that £500 or $750.

  95. espressonator Says:

    From the FAQs of Forum Of Marhematics, we see the following: “As no subscriptions are sold to view the content, such open access journals are financially supported either by grants, or more typically through a charge levied on the submitting author’s institution or funding body.”

    How much are these page charges, which, by the way, discourage authors who do very good work that isn’t popular?

    • espressonator Says:

      Ok so here they are: “What is the publication charge for accepted papers?
      Open Access publishing has to be funded somehow, and the prevailing model is through the levying of an article processing charge (APC) on each individual author’s institution or funding body. For Pi and Sigma we are committed to maintaining the APC at a level justified by real publishing costs, and both Pi and Sigma will have an associated APC of £500/$750 per article. However, we appreciate that there is at present little financial support within the community to cover APCs for open access publishing. Therefore, for the first three years Cambridge University Press will underwrite the APC for all authors, though we will encourage payment from those authors who do have appropriate funding through their institution or a funding body. After the first three years we will adopt an ongoing waiver policy for authors from eligible countries (see appendix for current list), and to others who can demonstrate a lack of access to appropriate funds.”

      The whole model is absurd. It is the creative mathematician or scientist who ends up having to pay page charges, and in some cases the most interesting mathematics and science is the least popular, mainly because its correct. (A case in point is a paper in lattice theory that solved a major open problem, was approved by referees of the American Journsl of Mathematics, and yet was rejected by the editors.) It certainly doesn’t command the audience of yet another trivial revision of a popular calculus text. (In some cases, textbook volume sales engineering amounts to a form of sanctioned, rewarded plagiarism.) the “Open Access” model expands the absurdity by encoraging almost anyone to start a journal and sell to young people at a rather high price the right to publish their papers, so they can keep their jobs.

      I sympathize with the sentiment that some publishers have been running up the cost of publishing research articles, and libraries don’t want to subscribe to high priced journals, but making authors pay to publish is not the answer.

      I was invited to be a managing editor for an open access journal, so I began work, for no pay by the way, but then the publisher began to pressure me to find referees to read papers so fast there was no way they could reasonably check details in time for the promised issues to go to press. The authors were getting upset because they paid to have their work published. They were not concerned about the fact that I wanted to take a reasonable amount of time to find CONSCIENTIOUS referees. I wrote to the editors asking them to consider trying a different model, in which they put in some effort to find advertisers instead of charging authors to support the journal. In fact, i suggested they raise the standards and PAY the authors for writing publishable work. They wouldn’t hear of it. Apparently, enough people think mathematicians and scientists should work for free, so that no model like the one used for publishing magazines and for producing films, and for producing rock concerts is ever going to be seriously considered.

      The argument that governments are funding the research rings hollow since in many

  96. En Passant | Persiflage Says:

    […] Forum of Mathematics Pi is, supposedly, a gold open access journal which is freely available to anyone. However, the designers of the journal decided to modify the model slightly to what I might call “access only to those unencumbered by taste,” by plastering a ridiculous sickly aquamarine running head across every page, making the entire paper an eyesore that is presumably impossible to print. Perhaps the point of this journal was to make it apparent that Elsevier does actually provide added value to their journals by not scribbling crayon markings all over the final product? Fortunately, the paper in question can also be downloaded here. (Hat tip to TG.) […]

  97. Business models for Open Access journals | DomPress Says:

    […] also the new OA projects by CUP, (£500 publishing fee) and especially Tim Gowers’ blog., that describes several key points […]

  98. A comment on the sowa versus Gowers affair | Noncommutative Analysis Says:

    […] predatory publishers, when he helped to set up Gold Open Access journals (see also this). In his defense, he seems to be very thoughtful and careful about these matters, is aware of the […]

  99. Shay Aguillera Says:

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  100. Garland Still Says:

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  101. The status quo of math publishing | Igor Pak's blog Says:

    […] in the area, but others are not doing so well.  The fine print is also an issue — the much hyped Pi and Sigma charge $1000 per article for “processing”, whatever that entails.  […]

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