Tag Archives: journals

Two views on peer review

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Would the death of the journal system be good for women in math?

I am not one of the most radical signatories to the “Cost of Knowledge” statement:  there are certainly some among us who look forward to a world without commercial journals, or even a world without journals at all.  I don’t yet see a clear path to that world.

Nonetheless, I want to add one possible item to the case against journals.

There is lots of inequity in the way mathematicians are assigned status — we all have researchers we think are underappreciated (and some people are quite willing to talk about who they think is overappreciated.)

One very simple source of inequity — but I’ll bet a pretty large one — is that authors decide what journal to submit to.  Some people “aim high” — their method is to ask “what’s the best journal where this paper would fit?”  Others “aim low,” asking something more like “what’s the median journal where papers like this appear?”  You can’t get in the Annals unless you submit to the Annals, and you won’t submit to the Annals very often if you aim low.

Women in the workplace are socialized not to ask for things.  I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there are disproportionately many men in the “aim high, why shouldn’t my paper be in the Annals?” group.  (And of course, for those who get het up whenever I talk about women in math, this applies just as well to any group of mathematicians disinclined to push for their own work.)

Would things be different if papers in the Annals were selected from all papers, not just those whose authors decided to nominate themselves?  Then publication in a top journal would be a little more like being invited to speak at a prestigious conference.  Would that be an improvement?


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Math linkdump Nov 11

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Statistics, Politics, and Policy

The Berkeley Electronic Press launches a new journal:

The increasing amount and complexity of available data is constantly creating new challenges for statistical thinking in policy problems. While many academic statisticians tend to share among themselves their latest methods and models, less attention has been paid to the usefulness of those statistical methods and models to inform public policy decisions, and what statistical approaches might be most effective in designing how policies are implemented. In the policy sphere, statistical methods are sometimes taken as a given, with less attention to all the variations, assumptions, and effects of different methods in differing contexts. But it is in the policy sphere that statistical debates can have the great value and impact, and the intersection of statistics and public policy is a fertile ground for statistical research and analysis to address important policy issues that may have widespread ramifications.

As an electronic journal, Statistics, Politics, and Policy will use a mix of voices and approaches to reach a broad audience. The journal aims to open avenues of communication between statisticians and policy makers on questions that pique the interest of the public. The journal will appeal to statisticians, policy analysts, and anyone interested in the implicit yet powerful ways that statistical thinking influences decisions that affect many aspects of public life.

The debut issue features an article by Indiana mathematician Russell Lyons attacking the statistical basis of widely-publicized research results on “social contagion” effects on obesity, addiction, and other social ills.

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Fried blogs!

Add Mike Fried to the list of blogging number theorists.  In his first post, he asks whether our current math publishing system is broken.

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Reader survey: which journals are fast?

I’m often asked by students and junior colleagues where I think they should submit a paper they’ve just finished. It’s not so hard to figure out whether a given journal is a good mathematical fit for the paper. What’s harder is when the author has a job application coming up, and really wants the paper not to sit in referee hell for a year and a half.

My go-to journals for a fast response are Mathematical Research Letters and International Math Research Notices. But it would be great to have some others. So: which journals, in your experience, are reliably fast? Bonus points if they’re cheap, or even free.

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