New Publication at the Open Journal of Astrophysics

Just time before Christmas to announce another paper in the Open Journal of Astrophysics. This one was actually published a few days ago but because of holiday delays it took some time to get the metadata and DOI registered so I held off announcing it until that was done.

The latest publication is by my colleague* John Regan (of the Department of Theoretical Physics at Maynooth), John Wise (Georgia Tech), Tyrone Woods (NRC Canada), Turlough Downes (DCU), Brian O’Shea (Michigan State) and Michael Norman (UCSD). It is entitled The Formation of Very Massive Stars in Early Galaxies and Implications for Intermediate Mass Black Holes and appears in the Astrophysics of Galaxies section of the arXiv.

Here is a screen grab of the overlay:

You can click on the image to make it larger should you wish to do so. You can find the arXiv version of the paper here.

I think that will be that for for 2020 at the Open Journal of Astrophysics. We have published 15 papers this year, up 25% on last year. Growth is obviously modest, but there’s obviously a lot of inertia in the academic community. After the end of this year we will have two full consecutive years of publishing.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our authors, readers, referees, and editors for supporting the Open Journal of Astrophysics and wish you all the very best for 2021!

*Obviously, owing to the institutional conflict I recused myself from the editorial process on this paper.

5 Responses to “New Publication at the Open Journal of Astrophysics”

  1. Phillip Helbig Says:

    As I’ve said before, publishing my review in the OJA was a positive experience. It already has at least three citations, which is pretty good for what it is, so the exposure is there.

    I thus think that it is a real shame that arXiv-overlay journals are essentially not an option for me until arXiv cleans up its act. I’ve hinted at this problem before, but not too loudly, in the hope that some sort of intelligent solution could be found, but to no avail. Despite several well known colleagues trying to straighten things out (all tenured full professors at major research universities throughout the world), arXiv refuses to budge. I’ve also been told by some senior colleagues that I am far from the first person who has made such complaints.

    So I’ll end the year with a rant, in the hope that it can get the ball rolling so that things might get straightened out. An institution as important as arXiv should not be run the way it is.

    My latest paper in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (for non-astronomers: one of the leading journals in astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology) was not allowed into the astro-ph category.

    I’ve done some research, and it seems that arXiv is afraid of being sued by crackpots if they white-list good journals (whether explicitly or for all practical purposes), so they reclassify a few good papers to physics/gen-ph and also let a few crackpot papers into that category. That allows them to point out non-crackpot papers to the crackpots in the same category and thus avoid the accusation. I was chosen to make the sacrifice.

    Look at gen-ph: it’s a mixture of papers like mine, which obviously should be somewhere else (in the end, I deleted my paper, which is technically possible, but was later told in no uncertain terms that that is against the rules (even though I was offered the option)—so one is forced to let the paper appear in the new category and doesn’t even get an automatic email when the paper is reclassified); obviously crackpot papers; some papers which really are about general physics; and some which look OK at first glance but were never published or even submitted to a journal.

    I have since heard similar complaints from others, but people are afraid to air things like this in public for fear of getting banned by arXiv. Several people (all full professors of astrophysics and/or cosmology at major research universities) took up my cause, but to no avail. I’ve also heard from senior people that I am far from the first to make such complaints about arXiv.

    The arXiv staff were, as usual, arrogant, unhelpful, and unfriendly. Ever wonder why the email alias for the abstract distribution is “rabble”?

    An appeal is allegedly possible, but they don’t even follow their own appeal procedures. For instance, they say to contact the chair of the corresponding advisory committee, and that was confirmed, but the chair says that he can’t comment on individual submissions. But even if successful, an appeal won’t help much, because, as far as I know, the paper won’t be included in the list of recent abstracts (and even if it is, since the appeals process can take months, it would be much later). For me, and many others, that’s the main reason or even the only reason to submit to arXiv: I have the stamp of approval from the journal; I can distribute an open-access copy on my own and on an institutional webserver; ADS can provide links to those versions.

    My first refereed-journal paper this year (four altogether, with another one essentially accepted provided I make some suggested changes, which I am doing now, and a sixth almost ready to go—all single-author papers while (this is my last year) working full-time outside of academia) was in an arXiv-overlay journal, the OJA. Obviously, those are now longer an option for me. So not only is arXiv broken, it is bringing down arXiv-overlay journals with it.

    Should arXiv really be refusing me the possibility to add the abstract to the list in the astro-ph category? What do you think?

    Alas, I’m pretty sure that nothing will happen unless some really famous person (would probably have to be a Nobel Laureate) were to take up my cause, and even then arXiv would probably have to be strongly criticized in public. Or, perhaps, someone could challenge them legally. They are apparently afraid of being sued by crackpots, so they themselves admit that legal action influences their decisions. Note also that you now have to waive essentially all legal rights if you post something to arXiv. Wonder why that is.

    If anyone would like to help me in my quest to get something implemented which most people believe already exist, namely that a paper accepted by a leading journal in the field can go onto arXiv in the appropriate category (and hence many expect all such papers to be there, at least if the author wants them to be there, and in cosmology/astrophysics/astronomy, probably most papers are on arXiv), then contact me offline. Also, I would appreciate hearing from others with similar complaints against arXiv; I’ll treat the information as confidential unless explicitly told that that is not necessary.

    I’ve escalated this as far as possible within arXiv and Cornell, but it is obvious that the checks and balances are not working. By their own admission, arXiv moderation is less strict than refereeing, yet they reject papers accepted by the leading journals in the field. Go figure.

    • Phillip Helbig Says:

      You can read the paper and make up your own mind. I’m sure that everyone could easily find less substantial papers in astro-ph.

    • Phillip Helbig Says:

      Another point. It took me several months to even find out why arXiv had reclassified my paper. (Note again that there isn’t even an automatic email, much less a reason given, much less any sort of discussion.) And that happened only because Max Tegmark was kind enough to threaten to complain to the Simons Foundation and other sponsors if my paper didn’t get out of limbo within a week. That finally got some results. But Max was given different reasons from the reason given to me, which indicates that at most one of those statements can be true.

      Yes, any system has bugs, and people can make errors. No big deal. The problem is the arrogance and lack of professionality and the refusal to even discuss things with me. Apparently they will discuss things to some extent if one is higher up the food chain than I am. Is that professional? Chair of the arXiv Scientific Advisory Board? Executive Director of arXiv? Scientific Director of arXiv? Chair of the arXiv physics advisory committee? What is the point of having what appears to be a checks-and-balances system when, in practice, those checks and balances don’t work and, without even investigating in detail, in some cases probably without even reading my paper, the stance is taken that arXiv colleagues can do no wrong?

      This isn’t about just my paper. It is about the fact that most of the community doesn’t realize that having a paper accepted by a leading journal in the field is not sufficient to get it into the proper category at arXiv, even if the author submits it there. It means that arXiv-overlay journals are a non-starter, since the purpose of journals is publication, but arXiv has the say on what is published.

      Most people will ignore this problem until it happens to them, and even then most will keep quiet about it for fear of getting banned completely.

      If you rely on arXiv to notice new papers, then you are relying on anonymous moderators (or, in the meantime, machine learning and artificial intelligence) who by their own admission are not as thorough as referees to make the decision for you—not what you should read but which abstracts you see so that you can spend 5 seconds taking a glance and deciding if you want more.

  2. Steen H. Hansen Says:

    Dear Phillip. I had no idea this was even possible. Until it happend to me last week. My paper was also MNRAS (letter), so maybe arXiv is targeting MNRAS? If that is the case, then maybe MNRAS editors would have an interest in the issue? Could they be sufficiently high up the foodchain? I think I will write them an email. Cheers, Steen

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