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The Publishing Process - February 15, 2012
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Since Wednesday is miscellaneous update day according to my new schedule, I thought I would provide some (simplified) background information on how the publishing process works in mathematics (in preparation for tomorrow's comic about the topic). Now of course, in the flow chart below I'm referring to big name commercial publishers (e.g., Elsevier, Springer, Wiley, etc). For more information and criticisms regarding commercial publishers and information on the current Elsevier boycott, check out the following:

Spiked Math Comic - The Publishing Process

*Note: The above is quite simplified and doesn't take into account mathematicians working outside of academia (who may also publish), as well as open access journals that don't have the same restrictions and costs (and copyrights quite often stay with the authors).

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This chart also apply for other research domains such as computer sciences. :(

The exact same flowchart is true for me working in Communication Engineering / Signal Processing.

I always find it amazing that I even have to pay the journal as an author so I can publish there (last time overlength page charges summed up to 1200 USD) and someone else who wants to read it also has to pay, even if only electronically (what's the cost?). Additionally they are selling printed copies. What a smart business idea - why didn't I come up with it? And why is this working?

This chart applies to most of scientific publishing. Only one thing you might have overlooked, but maybe this is different for mathematics. Can your paper be returned with demand of refining/adding results according to review recommendations, before it is published?

Yup! Usually the referee report has a list of changes/recommendations that the author usually makes before the paper is officially accepted (but I left this detail out for a simpler chart).

Wouldn't it be possible nowadays do publish all results on sites like www.arxiv.org? Is there any meaning in publishing in such journals other than some "traditional authenticity"?

Unfortunately, yes. Many professors still demand "traditional sources" at the K-12, bachelor's and master's levels. If that's the same as "value" I leave for you to decide lol

btw- your chart is also true for art history, literacy, and education programs. and ty fior the chart to gear up for the comic :)

Well, presumably there's some value in peer review. But there's very little value in printed journals over just having it all online. It would be nice if there was a non-profit organization that just charged enough to cover the costs associated with distributing papers for peer review and publishing online. One would think it would be in Universities' own best interest to fund such an organization instead of continuing to pay for-profit journals that don't really add any additional value.

And you would think the peer-review could be built in, similar to the karma Slashdot, or the basis of Google (page-rank is based on the idea of journal referencing), etc. Subject to 'gaming' of the system of course. But you could manually assign "professional karma" to known/real mathematicians, etc (incurring some overhead).

The crucial part of the process is in the "publishing". It is not restricted to academic publishing -- think MPAA, RIAA, SOPA...

I always thought it was the gnomes who steal my research at night that did the publishing. Step 1: research. Step 2: ??? Step 3: tenure.

Print has little to do with it; libraries pay millions for journals in electronic form which they only license, meaning if they stop paying millions, all that content they invested in is gone. Big publishers are holding academic prestige hostage. Until we tell them we don't negotiate with terrorists for profit entities that add little and make huge profits, we're stuck. We don't have to be stuck. They only have prestige because we keep giving it to them.

This is why it's a good idea to publish in Society/Charity journals if possible (eg in my own field, JASA, JRSS, Biometrics, Biometrika). My impression is that most of these nowadays work with commercial publishers who thereby generate some profits (which seems fair enough), but the societies also generate profits which they plough back into their activities, generally to the benefit of their members/authors.

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Hello my fellow math geeks. My name is Mike and I am the creator of Spiked Math Comics, a math comic dedicated to humor, educate and entertain the geek in you. Beware though, there might be some math involved :D

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