Re: A Note of Caution About "Reforming the System"

From: Greg Kuperberg <greg_at_MATH.UCDAVIS.EDU>
Date: Wed, 28 Feb 2001 08:17:13 -0800

On Tue, Feb 27, 2001 at 03:07:07PM -0500, Arthur Smith wrote:
> The peer review cycle in mathematics seems to be a bit slower than I'm
> used to. I suspect in physics the arXiv has speeded things a bit, but
> unpublished research was widely circulated before the arXiv came along,
> and the peer review cycle really isn't very long in physics - some of
> the papers in Physical Review journals get published just 3 or 4 weeks
> from the time they were submitted (3-4 months is more normal). We often
> publish papers that cite work published only 1 or 2 months previously.

As I said, it's not clear if the arXiv accelerates the citation cycle
or if subdisciplines with an accelerated citation cycle want the arXiv.
I have some feeling that the slow citation cycle in mathematics has caused
mathematicians to move to the arXiv more slowly. But once it catches
on it is highly regarded and there may be more of a feeling that it
"makes a difference".

To be sure, just like physicists, mathematicians do have preprints
floating around and they do get cited. To the extent that that
has already accelerated the citation cycle, the traditional separate
citation styles for "preprints" and "published papers" are in my opinion
unacceptable. The traditional way to cite preprints is with the useless
form "T. Jones, preprint". The arXiv fixes that of course.
It is also important for continuity to include the arXiv number for
references that are both in a journal and in the arXiv, but unfortunately
most authors in mathematics don't do it. That is one of the last reforms
to come, important though it may be.

Anyway, whether by cause or corollary, I believe that accelerated,
stable citation is the single biggest strength of the arXiv over the
  /\  Greg Kuperberg (UC Davis)
 /  \
 \  / Visit the Math ArXiv Front at
  \/  * All the math that's fit to e-print *
Received on Wed Jan 03 2001 - 19:17:43 GMT

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