Open and Direct

Again, no time to post properly today but here’s another variation on the theme of Open Access. The idea described in this post sounds very familiar, actually…

Gowers's Weblog

For some months now I have known of a very promising initiative that until recently I have been asked not to publicize too widely, because the people in charge of it did not have a good estimate for when it would actually come to fruition. But now those who know about it have been given the green light. The short version of what I want to say in this post is that a platform is to be created that will make it very easy to set up arXiv overlay journals.

What is an arXiv overlay journal? It is just like an electronic journal, except that instead of a website with lots of carefully formatted articles, all you get is a list of links to preprints on the arXiv. The idea is that the parts of the publication process that academics do voluntarily — editing and refereeing — are just as…

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4 Responses to “Open and Direct”

  1. Two points:

    First, something like this needs to have a monopoly, at least in a given field. That’s one of the reasons for arXiv’s success: everything is there. If there is more than one such epijournal, people will have to follow many, which is a waste of time, or people will have their articles in all epijournals, also not a good idea. I hope your journal will take off soon and it should become thejournal for astrophysics, astronomy and cosmology. Whether you roll your own or join some consortium doesn’t matter as long as it is done correctly.

    Second, not everyone can submit to the arXiv. While established authors presumably can, this is a hurdle for first submissions. There is the arXiv endorsement system, and presumably this will cover most cases. But it will not cover all. There needs to be some sort of alternative submission mechanism for people who are not (yet) allowed to submit stuff to the arXiv. There are at least 2 ways to organize this: (1) There is an alternate submission path which directs such submissions to the editor. If it is not obviously crackpot, then the editor endorses the author for arXiv and the submission process continues as normal from there. (2) There is a completely separate (alternate) submission process for all stages up to acceptance of the paper; all papers are required to go to arXiv (at the latest) when accepted. I think (2) is better, for two reasons. First, it will avoid what could look like marginalization of first-time authors. Second, some institutes have a policy of “arXiv only after acceptance” and some authors might prefer this, for various reasons. There is a non-negligible number of papers which appear on arXiv only after they have been accepted. Even if you disagree and think even the first draft should go on arXiv, please don’t insist on this. It is better to make acceptance of the new journal as easy as possible for all.

    • At the least, you need to have enough clout with arXiv so that all papers which your journal accepts can appear on arXiv.

      At least in the past, someone who was allowed to submit to arXiv could also do so even if he wasn’t an author of the paper. (In fact, I did this myself for although this is a borderline case since I am mentioned in the author list but, due to space constraints, not by name.) Your journal could perhaps submit papers to arXiv on behalf of authors who cannot (or don’t want to?) submit them themselves. Of course, you would then have to handle the submission process.

  2. At present, once a journal has accepted my paper, there is nothing to stop me putting a different version of it on the arXiv, with the same title and abstract, and with the correct journal reference. That is, I could take out changes the referee made me put in, or put in things that were not in the refereed version.

    Maybe that sounds a bit dramatic: another, more likely scenario is that I could put the first draft on the arXiv, and simply add the journal reference number after revision and journal acceptance, without updating the actual document, either through laziness or whatever. I’ve seen several examples of this, so I know it happens.

    The point here is that the journal version of the document acts as the definitive version that has passed peer-review. It is usually taken on trust that the most recent version on the arXiv matches the definitive version as closely as possible, but this is not always the case.

    If your new journal website simply consists of links to papers on the arXiv this will need to be checked – perhaps by insisting that only document versions already hosted on the arXiv can be considered for review, and then having the link on the journal webpage point to a specific version number.

    • I agree that your last paragraph is the way to go. arXiv keeps all versions and all can be seen, though the newest is the default.

      Your first three paragraphs make valid points. Some journals make changes in the manuscript and it is up to the author to make sure that the latest arXiv version matches, since the journal doesn’t give the author a new .TEX file. (Some journals, such as MNRAS, don’t even use LaTeX internally.) Of course, if arXiv is what the (new) journal uses, we won’t have that problem, but the other problems you mention still exist.

      Of course, for obvious typos, updates of references etc it is nice to be able to update the definitive version, but this should be tracked through the new journal as well.

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