Re: Conflating Gate-Keeping with Toll-Gating

From: Greg Kuperberg <greg_at_MATH.UCDAVIS.EDU>
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2001 17:27:43 -0800

On Wed, Jan 31, 2001 at 11:02:55AM +0000, Manfredi M.A. La Manna wrote:
> 1. what is the point of publishing in journals with high acceptance rates?
> As a 100% acceptance rate is equivalent to vanity publishing, surely any
> journal where the majority of submissions are published is not worth
> submitting to.

I am sure that the acceptance rate in mathematics is much higher
than in many disciplines, and I would guess that it is higher than in
economics. My explanation is that, because of the nature of the research,
mathematicians rarely disagree about what is right or wrong, and they
even agree more than you might expect about the quality of papers.
I am not an expert observer of other disciplines,
but I remember that a dean at Harvard University (Henry Rozovsky)
told me that mathematicians ahd a reputation among deans for consensus
in hiring decisions. We still think that we fight a lot over hiring,
but maybe not as much as some departments.

On that note, I also believe that journals in mathematics, especially
good journals, enjoy self-selection by the authors. For example many
American mathematicians think of the Annals of Mathematics as the supreme
math journal. I'm not sure how the Annals earned this status or whether
any single journal deserves it. I also suspect that some of the Annals
don't want quite that much authority. Still, even if it is partly a
self-fulfilling prophesy, the Annals is obviously an excellent journal.

> 3. the suggestion ventilated by someone on the forum that papers posted on
> the web could somehow be refereed by well-disposed readers, in economics is
> simply preposterous;

I work in a subdiscipline of mathematics with many papers in the arXiv,
which is an archive of mostly prepublished papers. In my opinion,
the arXiv works so well that any peer review of its articles, even
traditional journal publication, is ex post facto. The question is
whether traditional publication is still the best system in its new ex
post facto role. I don't think so, but I agree with you that peer review
needs more structure than just letting readers "write in the margins".
That's been tried before: it may be okay for but it will
never work for math papers.
  /\  Greg Kuperberg (UC Davis)
 /  \
 \  / Visit the Math ArXiv Front at
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Received on Wed Jan 03 2001 - 19:17:43 GMT

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