Ingrid Daubechies asks on Math 2.0:
Suppose most mathematical research papers were freely accessible online.
Suppose a well-organized platform existed where responsible users could write comments on any paper […]
Would this be, or evolve into, a useful tool for mathematical research? What features would be necessary, useful, or to-be-avoided-at-all-costs?
This is not a rhetorical question: a committee of the National Research Council is looking into what could be built on top of a World Digital Math Library, to make it even more useful to the mathematical community than having all the materials available. This study is being funded by the Sloan Foundation.
There’s good stuff in the comments, especially here and here. I’ve said before that having comments on papers is not my highest priority, and I can think of other improvements on a comparable scale (significant, but without overhauling the whole system) that would add more value. So, in case anyone is interested and for future reference, here’s my take on a few specific issues that seem to come up again and again. In this post, I’ll stick to relatively small stuff, generally of the kind that could be set up initially by, say, NRC without much help from the community, as per the question I started with. There are of course bigger fish to fry, from the creation of new journals to rethinking funding mechanisms for science. But that’s for another time.
Earlier this week, I closed the comments on this blog. I was reading this post, by another blogger who shut down the comments at his place, and realized that I had wanted to do the same for some time. I really encourage you to read the entire post. This is not a matter of not keeping with the times (quite the opposite – I’ll get to it shortly), or of not having the right technical fixes for specific trolling problems. It’s about what conversations we want to have, when, where, and with whom – and when we’d rather walk out and do something else that’s more valuable.
In my own blogging experience, the feedback I get by email and in person has long been infinitely more valuable and insightful than most of the public comments I was getting here. There have been exceptions, and I’m grateful to those commenters, but there have also been entries where I deleted more comments than I approved. Instead of an attractive feature, it became a chore. And ultimately, this blog is not a community service that I am obliged to provide. I will not do it if I cannot enjoy it, and so changes had to be made.
The more I think about it, the more I agree with Dan Conover that open commenting for everyone might be on its way out as the default mode on the internet. Continue reading
I’m happy to announce the launch of a new journal called Analysis and PDE, based at UC Berkeley and published by Mathematical Sciences Publishers. I’m on the editorial board of the journal.
From the Analysis and PDE web page:
Analysis & PDE publishes high-quality original research in all areas of mathematical analysis and partial differential equations. The field is interpreted broadly and, and for example, includes topics such as harmonic analysis, operator algebras, index theory, and analytic aspects of mathematical physics.
The journal aims to be the leading specialized scholarly publication in mathematical analysis. The policies of Analysis & PDE are set by the editorial board – a group of working mathematicians – rather than by a profit-oriented company, so they will remain friendly to mathematicians’s interests. I n particular, they will promote broad dissemination, easy electronic access, and permissive use of content to the greatest extent compatible with survival of the journal.
Submissions are welcome!