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August 12, 2007

Math Journal Wiki

Posted by John Baez

It’s great to see what while I was goofing off in Norway, Blake Stacey has been doing some real work. After some discussion on this blog, he set up a prototype of what he called the ‘MathSciJournalWiki’.

Thanks to the conversation below, it now has a catchier name: Eureka.

What is it, exactly? It’s an attempt to catalyze the move to open-access math publication by keeping an eye on math journals and their publishers. It should spotlight new developments like cloaking by academic publishers, and the mass resignations of editorial boards from evil Elsevier–Springer journals like Topology and K-Theory.

However, it’s is still in an embryonic form. That’s great! It means you, reading this, have some power to shape its future! Here are some comments and questions I have…

  1. Where should this wiki reside?

    I had offered to host this wiki on my website, but I have no great desire for that unless it actually makes sense. Since Blake is technically competent, it may make sense for it to be on his site, or at least someplace he can easily access. (Giving someone with no connection to UCR access to the UCR math department computer might be a tedious bureaucratic challenge.)

    So, some questions: how stable is this http://www.sunclipse.org site, Blake? That is, how long is it likely to be around, how long are you likely to have access to it, how long are you likely to be interested in this project — and what’ll we do after that?

    Is this where we want the wiki to stay?

    How much of a pain in the butt is it to get our own domain name?

  2. What should this wiki be called?

    The name “MathSciJournalWiki” has the advantage of being fairly clear, at least to our target audience.

    However, the “Sci” leaves open an ambiguity: how much physics and/or other sciences should be covered? So far there’s an entry for “Physics Journals”, but the only journals listed are those connected to math.

    Right now I’m feeling the impact of the wiki will be less dilute if we just focus on math… which would suggest the title ‘MathJournalWiki’.

    Of course, in the overall financial scheme of things, math journals are just a tiny portion of the problem — it’s biology and chemistry that really need wikis to help bring attention to their journal prices and policies. The revolution in science publishing will only occur when those big, money-laden fields of science wake up.

    But, I don’t think any of us here are particularly knowledgeable about the broader picture. So, maybe we should let those other fields tend to their own affairs, at least for now. Perhaps the best thing we can do is create a template that can easily be copied and expanded!.

    But, back to the name issue: ‘MathJournalWiki’ is clear and concise, but not exactly a stirring call to arms. Perhaps ‘Math Journal Watch’? Or something with even more edge to it?

  3. What can this Wiki do, that nothing else does?

    I think it can do a lot. Besides providing price information, we can say which journals let you publish directly from the arXiv. We can list the color-coded ratings developed by project RoMEO:

    • green: can archive pre-print and post-print
    • blue: can archive post-print (i.e. final draft post-refereeing)
    • yellow : can archive pre-print (ie pre-refereeing)
    • white: archiving not formally supported

    We should also make up another color, say red, for ‘none of the above’.

    Perhaps more importantly, we can have this wiki be a clearinghouse for:

    • news about math journals and their publishers, to bring attention to the battle for open access;
    • information about experiences we’ve had with journals: how long it takes for papers to be refereed, how long it takes accepted papers to appear, how good the referees are, and so on. All the things you might want to know before publishing in a journal!

    This of course raises a lot of issues — even possibly legal issues — but it’s the kind of thing that could make mathematicians come to the site. Right now, young mathematicians have no easy place to turn when learning the ins and outs of publishing.

Posted at August 12, 2007 11:00 AM UTC

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60 Comments & 1 Trackback

Re: Math Journal Wiki

Hi John

I’m a firm believer that the wiki needs to have its own domain name. People will simply remember it better.

As for long-term maintenance, it really needs teams of people. For hosting and stability, one idea could be to host it on university servers. This shouldn’t be too hard (but depends on IT policies) where multiple people have access to its administration.

On top of that, you have the site controllers/moderators that manage the users, content, etc.

Pierre

Posted by: Pierre Far on August 12, 2007 1:50 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

Pierre Far writes:

For hosting and stability, one idea could be to host it on university servers.

That sounds right — except for the legal nightmare that’ll happen once journals start threatening to sue us for saying what they do. University lawyers are pretty eager to avoid such lawsuits, in my experience.

Getting a university server to let us have our own domain name might also be difficult. I don’t know.

As for long-term maintenance, it really needs teams of people.

Okay, but we don’t have that sort of crowd at our disposal yet. If we get it off the ground, and it catches on, we can probably get teams of people to join in.

But: there won’t be a long term unless there’s a short term! Right now I think the priority is to make it an exciting and useful place for mathematicians to visit.

(I’m probably better at stirring up excitement and controversy than running some sort of stable institution. On this blog I spend a lot of energy restraining myself, trying to be as dull as possible.)

Posted by: John Baez on August 12, 2007 8:03 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

young mathematicians are here,

here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here…..

Posted by: tdstephens3 on August 12, 2007 3:03 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

Thanks for all these links, most of which I was unaware of. Are you also offering the reasonable opinion that, since there are nowadays so many online watering-holes available for young mathematicians, that the need for a math journal wiki is not really warranted?

Indeed it has been my experience that that the online mathematical community tends to be segregated into various camps, each of which has as focal point some combination of blogs and websites (there’s nothing wrong with that; after all that’s how life works).

Oftentimes conversations, for instance about math journals etc., can “do the rounds” in this manner, each group to a large extent unaware of the ground covered by the others, in a slightly tedious fashion which can be annoying to those who have hashed it out before.

I accept that the “math journal wiki” can seem like such a phenomenon… but I also think it genuinely covers some new bases which haven’t been covered before.


Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on August 12, 2007 5:54 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

What Bruce said.

Blogs are great for going off and building your own soapbox, but in order to effect any kind of change, we have to have “focal points” of some kind.

Posted by: Blake Stacey on August 12, 2007 6:21 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

and the chopped liver is here.

Posted by: John Armstrong on August 12, 2007 8:19 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

John Baez asked several questions:

I had offered to host this wiki on my website, but I have no great desire for that unless it actually makes sense. Since Blake is technically competent, it may make sense for it to be on his site, or at least someplace he can easily access. (Giving someone with no connection to UCR access to the UCR math department computer might be a tedious bureaucratic challenge.)

If UCR is anything like other schools, I’m sure that’s correct. The good news is, however, that most of the technical work would be involved with the initial start-up, with behind-the-scenes access only necessary at infrequent intervals thereafter (say, when upgrading to new versions of MediaWiki). Work on the site itself wouldn’t require a UCR math department account, only an account on the wiki; even running a bot to build wiki pages from a new dataset only requires a wiki account.

Assuming we want to stay with MediaWiki — it’s not a bad platform, IMHO, unless you have to poke “under the hood” more than once — the server will have to run PHP and MySQL, which may well already be there (although the newest versions of MediaWiki won’t work with older versions of the other software).

I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody else at UCR had some experience with this stuff. (Hey, isn’t this kind of website work what undergrads were invented for?)

So, some questions: how stable is this http://www.sunclipse.org site, Blake? That is, how long is it likely to be around, how long are you likely to have access to it, how long are you likely to be interested in this project — and what’ll we do after that?

In one sense, sunclipse.org is very stable. I’ll have access to it for the indefinite future, and I expect I’ll be concerned about math and science journals for a good long while too. However, I have had unexpected server downtime in the past few months. (It’s an old machine, in which each part has been replaced at least once — kind of a “server of Theseus” problem.) I’m hoping these problems are licked, but having the wiki (and anything else I host) vanish into HTTP neverneverland for six hours to a day would be rather unpleasant. Hosting it on an actual university server, instead of one of the myriad of machines plugged into MITnet, might be a good idea.

Is this where we want the wiki to stay?

I’m of two minds about the domain name question. On the one hand (mind?), domain names are easier to remember than long URLs, but on the other mind, .edu suffixes bring prestige and unwarranted respectability.

It’s important to note that I can point another domain name to my system, and if the site then moves to another physical server (at UCR or wherever), we can use that same name.

How much of a pain in the butt is it to get our own domain name?

It’s pretty easy. I registered sunclipse.org through joker.com, a registrar which I picked for the sophisticated reason that a friend said he liked it. From there, it was a simple matter of pointing that domain name to my server’s IP address and configuring Apache to direct queries for that domain into the proper branch of my directory tree.

However, the “Sci” leaves open an ambiguity: how much physics and/or other sciences should be covered? So far there’s an entry for “Physics Journals”, but the only journals listed are those connected to math.

At the moment, this is just an artifact of my data-mining bias. The first source of readily-usable journal data was the AMS Journal Price Survey. However, the journalprices.com dataset (that’s a 1.4 Mb Excel file) should be equally parseable; I haven’t tried it yet, partly because I’ve been busy and partly because it lists journals by their full titles, rather than the abbreviated titles used by the AMS.

See the wiki page Extracting Data on Journals for more on this issue (many thanks to Bruce Bartlett for carrying the search forward).

My personal opinion is that our wiki should cover math and physics journals, but not more than that (at first). A few days ago, a friend of mine — a materials scientist with a mechanical engineering background — saw me reading “From Finite Sets to Feynman Diagrams” (2000), and he asked, “Did you get that off the arXiv?”

(Yes, my friends can speak in hyperlinks. We’ve been practicing for years.)

“Yeah,” I said.

“Do people actually use the arXiv?” he asked.

I sputtered a little and realized how little I understood of journal-use practices outside of physics.

We will probably have only a small group of people who can work on the big tasks: incorporating big new datasets into the wiki, contacting other websites to arrange the use of their data, and so forth. Lots of people can contribute little bits here and there, but I’d be happy if we had half a dozen who can help with the heavy lifting (mumble mumble, power law, mumble mumble). Therefore, I think we need to choose our site’s “mission” so that it is broad enough to interest many people but narrow enough that we can understand the cultural factors involved.

Posted by: Blake Stacey on August 12, 2007 3:09 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

My personal opinion is that our wiki should cover math and physics journals, but not more than that (at first).

Right now, I’m veering towards the opinion that it should start with just the math journals. The list of contributors to the wiki so far seems to mostly contain mathematicians. We could try to do a decent job of that, and take it from there.

Therefore, I think we need to choose our site’s ”mission” so that it is broad enough to interest many people but narrow enough that we can understand the cultural factors involved.

Agreed.

… kind of a ‘server of Theseus’ problem.

I’m intrigued… has there ever been a ‘wiki of Theseus’ problem? Lol.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on August 12, 2007 10:36 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

Hosting is really cheap these days. A domain name is even cheaper! As for the .edu prestige, enough .edu links will bring that touch of magic, and more. High-profile math bloggers would bring in even more prestige. Also, you could go for a .org instead of a .com, which adds a subtle hint of authority (hey, if that’s how people think, so be it!)

As for promotion, there are multiple ways to tackle that. The “silos” effect you’ve described about online math communities is quite typical. I’ll be hanging around here, and Bruce and John know my email, to lend a hand.

As for focus: keep it focused on math for now. If the site becomes famous, setting up a cookie-cutter physics sister site is easy. As my PhD supervisor used to say, “baby steps” :)

Pierre

Posted by: Pierre Far on August 13, 2007 12:52 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

Blake writes:

My personal opinion is that our wiki should cover math and physics journals, but not more than that (at first).

Bruce writes:

Right now, I’m veering towards the opinion that it should start with just the math journals.

I suggest that we

  1. dive in with math,
  2. hope that some weekend Blake or somebody figures out how to efficiently incorporate a bunch of info about physics journals, and
  3. leave the scope open to all subjects covered by the arXiv.

Rationale:

A natural range of subjects for our wiki might be the subjects covered by the arXiv.

True, this includes ‘nonlinear sciences’, which seems hopelessly broad: all sciences where the data don’t lie on a straight line when you graph them! I’ve never liked this term: it reminds me too much of ‘nonelephant biology’. But in practice, the arXiv means mainly math and physics.

A lot of the most progressive activity in the world of scholarly communication is happening right on the border of math and physics. The web was first invented by physicists, and so was the arXiv. So, it would seem a bit unfortunate to leave them out of our wiki. They’ve got a lot of energy!

Posted by: John Baez on August 13, 2007 10:08 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

I suggest that we

  1. dive in with math,
  2. hope that some weekend Blake or somebody figures out how to efficiently incorporate a bunch of info about physics journals, and
  3. leave the scope open to all subjects covered by the arXiv.

The arXiv is integrally related to what we’re doing, so it presents a natural frontier beyond which we shouldn’t try to expand. Leaving out physics would eventually cripple us, since a lot of innovation in scholarly communication is happening right on the border of math and physics. But, we can dive in with what we’ve got.

Posted by: John Baez on August 13, 2007 10:19 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

Blake wrote:

The good news is, however, that most of the technical work would be involved with the initial start-up, with behind-the-scenes access only necessary at infrequent intervals thereafter (say, when upgrading to new versions of MediaWiki). Work on the site itself wouldn’t require a UCR math department account, only an account on the wiki; even running a bot to build wiki pages from a new dataset only requires a wiki account.

That’s great. And thanks for all the info!

Assuming we want to stay with MediaWiki — it’s not a bad platform, IMHO, unless you have to poke “under the hood” more than once — the server will have to run PHP and MySQL, which may well already be there (although the newest versions of MediaWiki won’t work with older versions of the other software).

I sort of doubt the UCR math department unix machines have this stuff on them. They’re being run ‘in absentia’ by certain folks in computing — the new math department guy refuses to touch these machines. So, it’s not a vibrant sort of setup.

As for me, I’m somewhat scared of learning enough to install all these acronyms. Can a unix ignoramus do this sort of stuff?

I’m especially reluctant to tackle it until I’m physically at UCR, where it’ll be a little easier to talk to the people who have root access on those machines.

I have lots of reasons for wanting wikis on my website, though — so I’m motivated to get the infrastructure in place.

So, my next question is: how easy will it be to transport content from your prototype to UCR… say, assuming we stick with MediaWiki?

You see, I’m really gung-ho about creating content for this wiki, but I wouldn’t want to have to redo it all later.

A couple other questions. What do you think about calling this thing “Eureka”?

Would it annoy you if I made some possibly substantial changes to the front page?

(Among other things, I would like to add a new category, something like “Journal Practices”, listing practices such as cloaking, journal bundling, arXiv overlays, and so on. But, I don’t actually know how add new categories.)

Also, especially if the name “Eureka” seems okay, what do you think about changing the picture on the upper left to something a bit more inspiring. (Who is that guy, anyway? Maybe he’d be inspiring if I knew who he was.)

As you can see, I’m more of a ‘content creation’ guy than a technical guy. I’m really raring to write stuff about my favorite and unfavorite journals.

For now I’ll just add an entry on the Antarctica Journal of Mathematics. I still don’t know if this journal is real or a hoax.

Posted by: John Baez on August 13, 2007 2:17 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

On second thought, it probably makes more sense for you to answer these questions of mine on the relevant talk page.

Posted by: John Baez on August 13, 2007 2:25 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

I’ve replied on the talk page.

(The guy in the corner is Democritus, the “laughing philosopher.”)

Posted by: Blake Stacey on August 13, 2007 4:38 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Eureka

I had a bit of inspiration last night while watching the movie Zorro. Until the end, when it degenerates into a nasty all-out brawl punctuated by massive explosions, this movie is pretty inspirational. You get the feeling that the downtrodden poor can indeed triumph over the corrupt scheming rich — and do it with panache and a sense of humor, while doing backflips and dodging bullets.

Yeah, it’s a bit hokey, but I decided the MathSciJournalWiki needs some of this idealistic flair to attract young mathematicians, awaken their sense of fair play, and incite them to rebel against the existing journal system, where the fat cats earn all the money while we do all the work.

For this, a name like ‘MathSciJournalWiki’ just won’t do! It’s too bland.

Neither will ‘Math Journal Watch’, which I’d modeled after ‘Human Rights Watch’. Keeping an eye on the bad guys is a worthwhile endeavor, but it’s fundamentally pessimistic — it suggests we’ll be doing this forever.

Also, including the word ‘Wiki’ should be unnecessary. We can have a descriptive subtitle saying something like ‘A wiki for open-access scholarly communication in math and physics’ — or something like that. The name of the site should inspire! It should be quick and catchy. Someday putting ‘Wiki’ in the title of a wiki will seem like putting ‘Book’ in the title of a book.

So: we need a name that’s inspiring and instantly recognizable by mathematicians and physicists (at least).

I asked my wife about this, because she’s good at coming up with titles, and after some discussion she suggested: Eureka!

Archimedes is an inspiring figure for mathematicians and physicists, and scientists generally. He helped the city of Syracuse battle an encroaching empire. The word ‘eureka’, meaning ‘I found it’, suggests victory and triumph — but of a pure and noble sort.

The one catch, of course, is that Syracuse didn’t win against the Roman Empire, and Archimedes was killed despite orders that he be spared. But even this works to our advantage, in a way. We can adorn our website with a picture of Archimedes drawing mathematical figures while a Roman soldier stands over him, breastplate adorned by the Elsevier logo.

Here’s a bit of the story, as told by Plutarch. To set the stage: the Roman consul Marcellus decided to take Syracuse by siege…

When, therefore, the Romans assaulted the walls in two places at once, fear and consternation stupefied the Syracusans, believing that nothing was able to resist that violence and those forces. But when Archimedes began to ply his engines, he at once shot against the land forces all sorts of missile weapons, and immense masses of stone that came down with incredible noise and violence; against which no man could stand; for they knocked down those upon whom they fell in heaps, breaking all their ranks and files. In the meantime huge poles thrust out from the walls over the ships sunk some by the great weights which they let down from on high upon them; others they lifted up into the air by an iron hand or beak like a crane’s beak and, when they had drawn them up by the prow, and set them on end upon the poop, they plunged them to the bottom of the sea; or else the ships, drawn by engines within, and whirled about, were dashed against steep rocks that stood jutting out under the walls, with great destruction of the soldiers that were aboard them. A ship was frequently lifted up to a great height in the air (a dreadful thing to behold), and was rolled to and fro, and kept swinging, until the mariners were all thrown out, when at length it was dashed against the rocks, or let fall. At the engine that Marcellus brought upon the bridge of ships, which was called Sambuca, from some resemblance it had to an instrument of music, while it was as yet approaching the wall, there was discharged a piece of rock of ten talents weight, then a second and a third, which, striking upon it with immense force and a noise like thunder, broke all its foundation to pieces, shook out all its fastenings, and completely dislodged it from the bridge. So Marcellus, doubtful what counsel to pursue, drew off his ships to a safer distance, and sounded a retreat to his forces on land. They then took a resolution of coming up under the walls, if it were possible, in the night; thinking that as Archimedes used ropes stretched at length in playing his engines, the soldiers would now be under the shot, and the darts would, for want of sufficient distance to throw them, fly over their heads without effect. But he, it appeared, had long before framed for such occasions engines accommodated to any distance, and shorter weapons; and had made numerous small openings in the walls, through which, with engines of a shorter range, unexpected blows were inflicted on the assailants. Thus, when they who thought to deceive the defenders came close up to the walls, instantly a shower of darts and other missile weapons was again cast upon them. And when stones came tumbling down perpendicularly upon their heads, and, as it were, the whole wall shot out arrows at them, they retired. And now, again, as they were going off, arrows and darts of a longer range inflicted a great slaughter among them, and their ships were driven one against another; while they themselves were not able to retaliate in any way. For Archimedes had provided and fixed most of his engines immediately under the wall; whence the Romans, seeing that indefinite mischief overwhelmed them from no visible means, began to think they were fighting with the gods.

Yet Marcellus escaped unhurt, and deriding his own artificers and engineers, “What,” said he, “must we give up fighting with this geometrical Briareus, who plays pitch-and-toss with our ships, and, with the multitude of darts which he showers at a single moment upon us, really outdoes the hundred-handed giants of mythology?”

And, doubtless, the rest of the Syracusans were but the body of Archimedes’ designs, one soul moving and governing all; for, laying aside all other arms, with this alone they infested the Romans and protected themselves. In fine, when such terror had seized upon the Romans that, if they did but see a little rope or a piece of wood from the wall, instantly crying out, that there it was again, Archimedes was about to let fly some engine at them, they turned their backs and fled, Marcellus desisted from conflicts and assaults, putting all his hope in a long siege.

Yet Archimedes possessed so high a spirit, so profound a soul, and such treasures of scientific knowledge, that though these inventions had now obtained him the renown of more than human sagacity, he yet would not deign to leave behind him any commentary or writing on such subjects; but, repudiating as sordid and ignoble the whole trade of engineering, and every sort of art that lends itself to mere use and profit, he placed his whole affection and ambition in those purer speculations where there can be no reference to the vulgar needs of life; studies, the superiority of which to all others is unquestioned, and in which the only doubt can be whether the beauty and grandeur of the subjects examined, of the precision and cogency of the methods and means of proof, most deserve our admiration. It is not possible to find in all geometry more difficult and intricate questions, or more simple and lucid explanations. Some ascribe this to his natural genius; while others think that incredible effort and toil produced these, to all appearances, easy and unlabored results. No amount of investigation of yours would succeed in attaining the proof, and yet, once seen, you immediately believe you would have discovered it; by so smooth and so rapid a path he leads you to the conclusion required.

Posted by: John Baez on August 13, 2007 9:49 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Eureka

This is an inspiring story John. Eureka! I vote for it.

I found the manner in which Archimedes eventually died to be very instructive:

Archimedes, who was now around 78 years of age, continued his studies after the breach by the Romans. While pondering at his home, his work was disturbed by a Roman soldier. The soldier, not knowing who he was, killed Archimedes, probably after Archimedes’ outrage of the disturbance.

A rage of passion after someone disturbed his Mathematics! Lol.

We have to be careful to strike a balance between the themes of “fighting back against the big evil publishing companies” and “providing a valuable resource for scholars”. The more we emphasize the former, the more we alienate some people and lose goodwill; the more we emphasize the latter, the more the site loses its ‘soul’. A good summary of this balance can be found in Ben Webster’s original post suggesting a MathJournalWiki. I’m guessing the way he slices the cake between these two themes, so to speak, is representative of the way most mathematicians do.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on August 13, 2007 12:06 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Eureka

I asked my wife about this, because she’s good at coming up with titles, and after some discussion she suggested: Eureka!

I can imagine the conversation. “What should the title of our wiki be?”

“Hmmm. Maybe… No, wait… hmmmm. Aha! Eureka!”

“What? What’s the title?”

“Eureka!”

“I know, you just said…”

“No, Eureka!

Et cetera.

Eureka is a great name: catchy, idealistic, historically resonant. However, a quick Googling reveals a vacuum-cleaner company and a college enrollment information site, in addition to a publication of the Cambridge University Mathematical Society. Maybe we should go for “Eureka” joined with a modifier — “EurekaNet”, “EurekaWeb”, “EurekaSphere”, “Eurekasahedron”?

Posted by: Blake Stacey on August 13, 2007 4:19 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Eureka

Just FYI, there is already http://www.eurekalert.org/ a new service run by AAAS.

Don’t know if that will cause confusion. Unlikely, but something to think about now rather than later.

Pierre

Posted by: Pierre Far on August 13, 2007 4:55 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Eureka

I’m not worried about being mistaken for a vacuum cleaner company or ‘Eurekalert’. The Cambridge Universtity math journal is more of a problem.

I don’t like watering down the excitement of ‘Eureka!’ with suffixes like -web or -hedron.

How about ‘Eureka! Science Journal Watch’ or something like that — a little qualifying phrase after the main word, which can officially be part of the name, but which folks can leave out in informal speech?

I’ve been spending all day on making the site more exciting, and I really want to settle this name issue soon. I also want a cooler-looking dude in the upper left corner.

Posted by: John Baez on August 13, 2007 7:34 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Eureka

Fine, fine, I knew nobody would like the -hedron idea. I suppose I can live with the crushing disappointment…

“Eureka! Science Journal Watch” (with perhaps different punctuation) sounds like a good idea. If nobody has any strong objections, I’ll change over the site name in the code tomorrow (might as well give a little time to collect comments). I’ll also see if I can cook up a better logo — suggestions on that score are welcome.

Posted by: Blake Stacey on August 13, 2007 9:03 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Eureka

Yay! Please change the URL to include something like ‘Eureka’. I changed the name on the main page to Eureka! Science Journal Watch.

Posted by: John Baez on August 14, 2007 10:28 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Eureka

The site now lives at the following URL:

http://www.sunclipse.org/eureka/.

Queries to the old location will redirect to the new one. Later this afternoon, I should be able to move the wiki over to its own domain name; how does “eurekajournalwatch.org” sound? (I bought it last night, but it’ll take a little while longer to get everything configured properly.)

Posted by: Blake Stacey on August 14, 2007 5:21 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Eureka

Blake wrote:

Later this afternoon, I should be able to move the wiki over to its own domain name; how does “eurekajournalwatch.org” sound?

GREAT!

(I bought it last night, but it’ll take a little while longer to get everything configured properly.)

Out of curiosity — how much did it cost?

If it’s a financial annoyance, I can help out.

Posted by: John Baez on August 14, 2007 5:48 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Eureka

OK! There were a couple hiccups during the reconfiguration, which I hope didn’t derange anybody too badly, but it looks like EurekaJournalWatch.org is now in business.

Now, we just need a better mascot.

Posted by: Blake Stacey on August 15, 2007 1:03 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Eureka

In that case, I suggest
“Don’t spoil our circles”
as the motto.

Posted by: RZ on August 14, 2007 10:17 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

I wanted to mention an option or at least something to consider as far as hosting goes. While some may view Google as too big for its own good, it might be an interesting option to consider. That is, to ask Google to run the basic technical support that Pierre Far mentioned. It also has the advantage of not really going anywhere and being separate from educational institutions. As far as legal concerns, they tend to protect their clients and not give out names.

Just a thought,
sean
In fact the only reason I read this blog regularly is because of Google.

Posted by: Sean Tilson on August 14, 2007 12:29 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

Hi Sean,

My personal opinion on this is that getting into bed with Google might produce a conflict of interests at some point. It would be better to stay independent.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on August 14, 2007 3:32 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

I am trying to tackle the issue of how data should be stored in Eureka. Are there any technical gurus in the n-cafe who can offer words of advice?

Here’s the scenario. We’re running MediaWiki. Each journal has a page, with some text, which ultimately includes the publisher, price per article, price per volume, price per etc., citation index, list of editors (managing and other), and so on.

At the moment this is just being stored as raw text… but that disadvantages us in the long run, if we want to be able to perform searches on the data, like “What are the top 5 most expensive Topology journals?”

I looked around on the net, and I propose here a solution, which I’m looking for comments on.

I suggest we use Semantic MediaWiki, which is an extension of MediaWiki. The quick-and-dirty guide to what it does can be found here.

Ultimately, this means that when one is entering the text on the journal page for the journal “K-Theory”, one will write something like:

K-Theory is a journal published by [[published by:Springer]]. It’s managing editors are [[managing editors: A.Bak]].

Well, something like that. Anyhow the advantage of this is that this loose English information can then also be automatically displayed in a uniformly structured infobox, which appears alongside. Thus the page will look something like this one, for the Tajik ethnic group.

And moreover, it enables very powerful searches and bots and things to be let loose on the data.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on August 14, 2007 3:29 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

Some updates:

Discussion of the data storage and formatting issues is now located at this wiki page. Also, I’ve got the Semantic MediaWiki extension running, albeit in an older version (because the newer versions require PHP 5, and upgrading from PHP 4 would break other things on the same server — yuck, but perhaps soluble). At the moment, I’m improving the visual output of the Semantic MediaWiki extension, and I’m investigating whether other forks from that software (like BOWiki) have features we need and can appropriate.

Posted by: Blake Stacey on August 15, 2007 1:13 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

Thanks Blake!!

Posted by: Bruce bartlett on August 15, 2007 1:03 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

Thansk a million to both Blake Stacey and Bruce Bartlett for getting this thing up and running! And thanks to Ben Webster for joining the Eureka! team.

The Semantic MediaWiki features offer a lot of promise. I’m glad Bruce pushed for them.

Here’s are the main questions on my mind now:

  • When should we seriously invite a bunch more mathematicians to join this project?
  • Should we put some ‘templates’ into articles on all the individual journals, to make it easier for people to stick to a uniform style? Sections labelled ‘Editorial board’, ‘Price’, ‘External links’ and so on…
  • Should we — can we —grab ahold of more information from journal databases like Eigenfactor, and automate the creation of many articles about many more journals before seriously inviting the world to join us?
  • Do we really want to force people to register? It may turn some people off. On the other hand, it may prevent Elsevier from editing their own entry. On the third hand, it would make great propaganda if they did this and we caught them!
Posted by: John Baez on August 16, 2007 11:27 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

Hi John, thanks for the thanks! It was your web-spamming post which started all this. Let me give my two-cents-worth of opinions on the issues you raised.

When should we seriously invite a bunch more mathematicians to join this project?

I would say after we have imported the new data, with a sound data storage model, and with the templates looking nice. This may be soon, within a week hopefully!

Should we put some templates into articles on all the individual journals, to make it easier for people to stick to a uniform style? Sections labelled Editorial board;, Price; External links; and so on.

Yes, definitely templates should go into all the articles! That’s what I’ve been spouting forth from my soap box. That section explains how I would like the data functionality to work; I call it “pragmatic option B” and Blake and I are holding our thumbs it will actually work. At the end of the day, a journal page will look like this wikipedia article on the Tajik ethnic group - notice the nice template on the right hand side.

Should we, can we grab ahold of more information from journal databases like Eigenfactor, and automate the creation of many articles about many more journals before seriously inviting the world to join us?

Yes, we can, and we should! With a lever you can move the world. It shouldn’t be a problem. Copyright issues could get intersting though. Can the price of a journal be copyrighted, or must it be in the public domain?

Do we really want to force people to register?

I personally think no, you shouldn’t be forced to register, just encouraged, just like on wikipedia. This point should be discussed.

What about editors pages? I’d hate an unhappy mathematician to scrawl “Idiot!” over an editor’s page because their paper got rejected. Perhaps we can make them protected? On the other hand, this same risk is there at wikipedia, consider your page for instance. Ever had any hate messages?

Lol about Elsevier being caught changing their page!!

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on August 16, 2007 3:42 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

Diebold was caught editing Wikipedia — so maybe Elsevier would be foolish enough to edit Eureka!

(By the way, could we get the original post up top of this thread updated to reflect the new name and location?)

I find myself in agreement with Bruce Bartlett on everything except the registration requirement issue, about which I am undecided. Originally, I set up the wiki this way as an anti-spam measure, to discourage the scum of the Internet from (for example) sticking URLs into our wiki pages in order to boost their Google rank. From my perspective, I think it makes Eureka a little “classier” than Wikipedia, but that’s just my own judgment; we’ll have to decide whether or not the possible turn-off outweighs the difficult-to-estimate benefits.

Posted by: Blake Stacey on August 16, 2007 5:08 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

Blake wrote:

By the way, could we get the original post up top of this thread updated to reflect the new name and location?)

I’m actually trying to wait a bit on giving Eureka maximal publicity. I don’t want huge swarms of people checking it out until it’s sort of ready for business. For example, it would be nice to have lots of articles on math journals with blank templates waiting for people to fill them in. I guess that’s mainly a job for you and Bruce. I’ve been trying to make the main page intriguing, with links to some articles that excite outrage. I should also draft a Statement of Principle.

So, I’ll update the links, but only post a blog entry titled Eureka! when the site seems ready for a publicity blitz. Then I’ll contact sci.math.research, sci.math, some people I know, etc.

Posted by: John Baez on August 16, 2007 5:30 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

First of all congratulations, this whole thing is great.

As for the registering/non-registering issue, there’s something about this I’ve never understood. Diebold and others were caught out with their unscrupulous Wikipedia edits because their IP addresses were logged. I thought this only happened if you didn’t register, whereas one of the supposed “benefits” of registering (on Wikipedia for example) is that your IP address won’t be logged.

In this case how does getting people to register help prevent Elsevier editing their own entry? Or does your IP address actually get logged when you register? Why didn’t the Diebold people just register under a fake name and then make the edits?

In any case it should be pretty easy to spot Elsevier changing its own entry: anyone changing the Elsevier entry to make them sound less evil is under immediate suspicion. The edit can be reversed, and if they persist in rereversing it, action can be taken. Can’t it?

Posted by: Eugenia Cheng on August 18, 2007 5:54 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

Hi Eugenia,

…how does getting people to register help prevent Elsevier editing their own entry?

Well, this one’s obvious : if the username says “Elsevier”, then bam they’re bust!

Lol, the truth is I don’t know. Insert IP mumbo-jumbo-techno-waffle here.

We can always have a poll on this issue, just for fun.

Prototype journal info templates and editor info templates are now available for discussion and modification.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on August 18, 2007 6:37 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

Eugenia writes:

Or does your IP address actually get logged when you register?

Good question!

I imagine it does, but nosing around Eureka I can’t find these IP addresses listed anywhere. For example, my IP address doesn’t seem to be listed on my user page.

Surely this issue has come up in the much larger world of Wikipedia. I should nose around there.

Sometime when you’re bored I hope you contribute an article on your most or least favorite journal. For example, we don’t have much yet on TAC.

If you prefer to do this anonymously, you can pick a username that cloaks your identity… like ‘Elsevier’.

Posted by: John Baez on August 19, 2007 11:02 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

The short version of the story is that people who log in with registered accounts have their IP addresses concealed from the general public, but not from the system administrators. This is what CheckUser is for.

Posted by: Blake Stacey on August 20, 2007 10:02 PM | Permalink | Reply to this
Read the post Math Teach Wiki
Weblog: The n-Category Café
Excerpt: Back from Tuscany, I find two e-mails requests awaiting me. First, and I'm now very late on this story, Alexandre Borovik asked me to draw attention to the plight of a Mathematical Summer School held in Turkey. Second, Tim Porter...
Tracked: August 15, 2007 10:06 PM

Eureka! — now we need a mascot

Blake wrote:

Now, we just need a better mascot.

This picture is a little bit grey and fuzzy — but it’s more upbeat than the above picture of Archimedes about to be slain by an Elsevier salesman.

Motto: Give me a place to stand, and I can move the world!

Does anyone know better public-access pictures of Archimedes, that fit the story we’re trying to tell?

This one is nice as a picture, but too contemplative. We want Archie as a man of action!

Posted by: John Baez on August 16, 2007 2:25 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Eureka! — now we need a mascot

Here are a couple more pictures, obtained by typing “Archimedes lever earth” into Google images. I’ve got no idea what the rights situation is.

Archimedes moves earth

Archimedes moves earth

Another possibility is to take the existing picture and clean it up a bit, so that the scaled-down version is more vivid. I don’t mind giving this a go.

Posted by: Tom Leinster on August 21, 2007 2:03 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Eureka! — now we need a mascot

I was going to try colorizing the image we’re using right now, but if you’d like to try, that’d be fantastic too!

Posted by: Blake Stacey on August 21, 2007 3:03 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

Math journal wiki is a great idea; as others have said, having its own domain is imperative. I can host the domain for free if you need a host. Drop me a email if you need help setting it up, I will help where I can for free of course!

Posted by: Robert on August 16, 2007 6:36 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

I just realized that the wiki is up and going. Good job! Let me know if I can help in any way.

Posted by: Robert on August 16, 2007 6:44 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

You can help in all sorts of ways! Here’s a list of things we’re trying to do, and a list of some more technical things related to data storage.

Posted by: John Baez on August 16, 2007 7:40 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

Anyone who’s interested in this project but hasn’t seen it in the last week or so should take a look! It’s really coming along. In particular, Blake and Bruce have done heroic work.

Posted by: Tom Leinster on August 21, 2007 2:09 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

General Updates

First, I’d like to give a big round of thanks to all the people who have contributed to Eureka! so far. And to everybody else: what are you waiting for? Come, express yourself! Ensemble, écrasons l’infâme!

Now, for the details about our current goings-on. To get the latest news, try this Atom feed of the recent changes made to the wiki.

1. I’m getting ready to import data from JournalPrices.com and Eigenfactor.org. A couple questions should be answered first, before we dive into this. Is the current Journal Info template good enough, and should we include citation rankings? (See discussion here.)

2. The plagiarism ring affair broke loose while we were in the midst of development. This is exactly the sort of incident Eureka! should cover, and I think we’re poised to do it very well. The timing does, however, raise a question: should we go ahead and expand our coverage to the physics journals? Technically speaking, that wouldn’t be very difficult: we’d just feed the same bot more data. I think we’re also familiar enough with the “culture” of physics journals to handle the task (see my anecdote above), and it seems like we’ve planned to cover physics some day anyway. Maybe that day has arrived faster than we anticipated?

3. This list shows the most highly linked pages within the wiki. Notably, several pages about publishers which should exist, don’t: London Mathematical Society, Oxford University Press and so forth. Putting content on these pages would be great! If you do a large-scale copy-and-paste from Wikipedia, please use the from-wp template (see our article on Google Scholar for an example). Getting these pages started is the first step; I think many people are more comfortable making small improvements on a page which exists than they are staring down a blank text box.

4. Licensing. If we’re priming our pump by adapting Wikipedia content, perhaps we should just go ahead and license Eureka! under the GFDL. We are, effectively, trying to make a site which is “free as in speech” as well as “free as in beer”, so we should choose our license accordingly.

Posted by: Blake Stacey on August 27, 2007 5:01 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: General Updates

No, I hadn’t heard of PRISM … thanks, that’s important!

The people behind Eigenfactor are very friendly. They will be upgrading some of their data regularly; from Carl Bergstrom’s email:

Look for a major update to Eigenfactor some time in the next couple of weeks, including scores for the years 1994-2005, time course information, a set of field categories that form a hard partition, publisher search, maps of science, etc.

They have suggested upgrading their protocol so that direct queries can be made in a straightforward way. We could then do such a query every couple of weeks or so, or we could download the data live on each journal’s page (though I’d be concerned with speed issues in that case).

We need to put this into our pipe and smoke it. It’s probably best to start off with a good ol’ fashioned data dump and take it from there, though we should factor this fact (that some of our sources will be periodically adjusting their data) into the design of Eureka.

As Blake pointed out, some qualms have been expressed about using citation statistics at Eureka. If you have something to say about this, don’t be shy; wise words are needed.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on August 28, 2007 1:52 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Citation Rankings on EUREKA

Blake asks:

Is the current Journal Info template good enough, and should we include citation rankings? (See discussion here.)

It’s good enough for me — I’m very happy with the wonders you’re working! As for citation rankings…

I think we should display citation rankings and all easily available information about journals.

We’re supporting open access to information, right? So, I think we should practice what we preach. I don’t think we should try to withhold certain of statistics just because don’t like them.

But, this doesn’t mean we should passively accept the importance of all statistics! For each statistic that appears in our journal info box, we already have a link to a page about that statistic. This page should say how that statistic is computed. And eventually, it should include discussion of the virtues and vices of that statistic.

That way, EUREKA can become a place where people can discuss the important issue of how people rate journals, and how people use these ratings to make decisions.

I think this is better than making people go elsewhere to find certain “politically incorrect” statistics about journals. If they go elsewhere, they’ll never interact with folks like us, who question the importance of these statistics. If they come to EUREKA, we have a chance to make them think a bit more!

Posted by: John Baez on August 29, 2007 10:50 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Citation Rankings on EUREKA

A comment from an interested bystander who’s not volunteering to do any of the work (for now):

I agree with John’s suggestion - include every piece of information about journals you can get your hands on, and write articles giving some context in which to evaluate those data. If Eureka is just a site about changing the journal system you’ll get an audience of people who are mostly already sympathetic. If, on the other hand, Eureka contains every statistic people might look for, it could become the one-stop location for information on math journals, and you get to spread your propaganda to a much bigger audience.

Posted by: Mark Meckes on August 29, 2007 5:58 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: General Updates

Comments on Blake’s questions 1-5:

  1. “Is the current Journal Info template good enough, and should we include citation rankings?”

    Personally I say yes and yes.

  2. “…should we go ahead and expand our coverage to the physics journals?”

    Personally I say yes. I think the natural scope of EUREKA is those journals that publish in areas covered by the arXiv.

  3. This list shows the most highly linked pages within the wiki. Notably, several pages about publishers which should exist, don’t: London Mathematical Society, Oxford University Press and so forth. Putting content on these pages would be great!”

    No fair — that’s not a question. But, I’ll do a little page on Wiley — the biggest, baddest publisher without a page. Maybe we can twist Tom Leinster’s arm and get him to start a little page on those British publishers.

  4. “If we’re priming our pump by adapting Wikipedia content, perhaps we should just go ahead and license Eureka! under the GFDL”.”

    Yes, that sounds good.

  5. “And in other news, has everyone here heard about PRISM?”

    I hadn’t! But I hope everyone knows about them now. Eric Dezenhall seems perfectly chosen for making this anti-open-access gang look like bumbling villians.

    “Who should we choose to make our cause look sympathetic? I know! The Pit Bull of PR… the Mafia of Industry… Eric Dezenhall! You know, the guy who pulled strings for Exxon to make the IRS audit Greenpeace. And then, we can get Nature to leak a statement by him saying our opponents have a better message than us: free information!”

Posted by: John Baez on August 29, 2007 2:47 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: General Updates

Blake wrote:

This list shows the most highly linked pages within the wiki. Notably, several pages about publishers which should exist, don’t: London Mathematical Society, Oxford University Press and so forth. Putting content on these pages would be great!

Okay — since Tom Leinster hasn’t tackled his country’s problems yet, I wrote an article today on the London Mathematical Society.

Note the section “Position on open access”. I think it’s perfectly within our (so far unwritten) charter to compare what the LMS is doing to what the American Mathematical Society is doing — and pressure them to do more!

If the LMS has a written position on open access somewhere, I can’t find it. If someone can, please add a link to EUREKA.

Posted by: John Baez on September 2, 2007 4:10 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Addendum

5. And in other news, has everyone here heard about PRISM?

Posted by: Blake Stacey on August 27, 2007 9:41 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

PRISM and Eric Dezenhall

I just wrote a quick article on PRISM. We need more information on these bastards and especially their connection with Elsevier, Wiley and other publishers.

We also need to tackle Eric Dezenhall. From Wikipedia:

He has been contracted by the Association of American Publishers to run an up to half million dollar campaign against the open access movement. In a series of emails that were leaked to the journal Nature, Dezenhall concedes that “it’s hard to fight an adversary that manages to be both elusive and in possession of a better message: Free information,” and suggests joining forces with think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and National Consumers League in an attempt to persuade key players of the potential risks of unfiltered access. “Paint a picture of what the world would look like without peer-reviewed articles,” he added.

Ironically, this sort of guy can work wonders for our cause, just by being so sleazy!

Posted by: John Baez on August 28, 2007 9:58 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: PRISM and Eric Dezenhall

That looks like a good beginning on the PRISM article.

Elsewhere in the Bad News Department, the arXiv has been withdrawing more plagiarized papers. Oy.

Posted by: Blake Stacey on August 28, 2007 10:05 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Plagiarism Ring Affair

All right, I knew something wasn’t adding up. Contrary to the impression left at first reading, Woit’s list quoted in our Plagiarism Ring article wasn’t for just the papers from the METU group, but for the METU and COMU rings, together. It’ll take a while to get this sorted out, but I think our article is correct now.

(sigh)

So, what do you call a plagiarism ring which doesn’t have any negative effects on academia?

Yes, that’s right — a plagiarism rig!

Posted by: Blake Stacey on August 29, 2007 1:18 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Plagiarism Ring Affair

Yes, that’s right – a plagiarism rig!

BOO! HISS!

Posted by: John Armstrong on August 29, 2007 2:23 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Plagiarism Ring Affair

Nature has picked up the story; I’ve added some information to the EUREKA page.

Posted by: Blake Stacey on September 7, 2007 6:47 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

I’ve been really busy lately. I flew back from England on Tuesday. Now I’m preparing for classes that start next Thursday — including a seminar on geometric representation theory to be taught with Jim Dolan! More on that elsewhere. I’m also correcting the proofs of a paper and preparing a talk on quantum mechanics. So, I’d sort of lost track of what’s been going on at Eureka. I’m really impressed with what you’ve done, Blake!

It may be time to launch the big publicity blitz. What do you think?

By the way: the paper I just mentioned will appear in Advances in Theoretical and Mathematical Physics — and as with another paper of mine that just got accepted there, I never received a referee’s report!

In both cases the same thing happened: I submitted the paper, waited well over a year, didn’t get a referee’s report. Then — BOOM! — I got the proofs of the paper to correct. No referee’s report, no formal acknowledgment that the paper had been accepted! This is pretty strange. I don’t know if they forgot to send me the referee’s report or just decided to skip that stage of the process. I’ll email them and find out.

Anyway, this is a good example of the sort of thing that people should mention on Eureka, so people can see if it’s a fluke or part of a general pattern.

Another irksome thing about ATMP is that it was freely available online when I submitted these papers over a year ago, but now it’s not. Part of a general trend toward backsliding as noble intentions fade?

Posted by: John Baez on September 21, 2007 1:59 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

The establishment of the mathematics journals Terry Tao reports on here sounds like an interesting venture. They’re run by Mathematical Sciences Publishers:

MSP is a non-profit organization, run by and for mathematicians, which is dedicated to publishing journals and books at the lowest possible cost and distributing them to the mathematical sciences community as freely as possible.

Posted by: David Corfield on November 12, 2007 1:12 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Math Journal Wiki

I started a EUREKA page on Analysis & Partial Differential Equations, so further updates can be noted there as more information becomes available. (Right now, I don’t think A&PDE even has an ISSN.)

Posted by: Blake Stacey on November 12, 2007 4:18 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

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