Re: Evaluation of preprint/postprint servers

From: Greg Kuperberg <greg_at_MATH.UCDAVIS.EDU>
Date: Wed, 13 Dec 2000 12:24:33 -0800

On Wed, Dec 13, 2000 at 12:33:35PM -0500, Jim Till wrote:
> So, should one criterion for the evaluation of the quality of preprint/
> postprint servers be the existence of (as a minimum) a "filtering system"
> analogous to the one described by Greg?

I would say that the quality of the papers in any particular e-print
archive speaks for itself. If it happens to have no irrelevant or
crackpot material, you can then ask why. In my opinion the smaller
servers have a natural "security through obscurity" that does not scale
up to the something the size of the arXiv. Such a server may be sustained
by a smaller circle of colleagues, maybe 100 regular contributors, and it
may be too small to have attracted much attention from outsiders. Indeed,
some people who I think of as crackpots have their own mailing lists and
their own journals. And maybe they deserve their own e-print archives.

However, when an archive gets 100 articles per day from 20,000 regular
contributors, you have to invite readers to segregrate their contributions
by topic, and you have to have moderators to sustain what is for the
most part self-classification and self-restraint. When the arXiv was
called hep-th and just served one sub-discipline, high-energy theory, it
didn't need such formal screening. I have every reason to believe that
as archives grow, adequate screening usually evolves with the system.
It typically begins when the technical maintainer tells a handful of
contributors that their submissions are off-topic (but not necesarily

If anything, it's more difficult to avoid too much screening rather
than too little. If a heavily used system has too little screening,
the readers complain a lot. But if there is too much screening, usually
only the rejected authors complain. I am not sure whether the arXiv
has the right structure of oversight here or not, but at least we try.
Each of the three major disciplines in the arXiv (physics, math, cs)
has an advisory board that sets policy on these matters:

(I see that this page still has the old name for the arXiv, "xxx".)
  /\  Greg Kuperberg (UC Davis)
 /  \
 \  / Visit the Math ArXiv Front at
  \/  * All the math that's fit to e-print *
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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