Cybermath column NZ Math Society Newsletter August 2017

This column is focused on a single specialized topic. For almost the last two years I have been  involved with several international collaborators (from Australia, Netherlands, UK, France and Germany) in a project to accelerate the conversion of mathematics journals to a model involving open access with no direct payments by authors (sometimes called “diamond open access”). Some of these activities have been reported on in this Newsletter in the last several columns.

We created a legally constituted non-profit foundation (Stichting) called MathOA in the Netherlands in order to oversee the “flipping” of subscription journals to open access​.  The advisory board for MathOA includes Timothy Gowers, David Mumford, and several strong mathematicians who haven’t won the Fields Medal. MathOA is modelled on LingOA, a foundation in linguistics that organized the defection of the board of Lingua from Elsevier and the re-founding of the journal under the name Glossa, published by Ubiquity Press.

LingOA and MathOA have since been joined by PsyOA (in psychology) and we intend to create a loose organization called Fair Open Access Alliance. We have formulated what we call the Fair Open Access Principles

We have also invited existing mathematics journals that (essentially) conform to these principles to join an as yet unnamed network which will become part of FOAA. So far the following have agreed to do so: Australasian Journal of Combinatorics, Discrete Analysis, Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science, Electronic Journal of Combinatorics, Epijournal de Geometrie Algebraique, INTEGERS: The Electronic Journal of Combinatorial Number Theory, Internet Mathematics, Journal de th\’{e}orie des nombres de Bordeaux, Journal of Computational Geometry, Logical Methods in Computer Science, SIGMA. FOAA is in its infancy and we are investigating ways in which we can create synergy between these independent journals, and make them even better (they are already very good or excellent in many respects).​

After the administrative details above, the \textbf{big news} to report is that the editorial board of Journal of Algebraic Combinatorics, currently published by Springer, has resigned to create a new journal (which is clearly the re-formation of the old one) under the name Algebraic Combinatorics, published in association with Centre Mersenne. This has been assisted from the start by MathOA.

Conversion of journals to open access is accepted by the large publishers only if it doesn’t negatively affect their profits. Thus if they own the journal title, what usually happens is  a refusal to negotiate seriously and an attempt to find a new editorial board to continue the old title. In my opinion, it is an attack on the mathematical community (and the wider public, and science itself) for a researcher to accept an offer to run such a zombie journal. Almost always, journals losing their entire editorial board in this way do cease publication within a few years (see my blog post)  and the new ones thrive.

Although this action by the editors is in some sense obviously ethically correct, and is made  easier by legal and practical help from MathOA, it still requires considerable courage from the editors. Leaving aside them having to forego approximately $2^11 annual stipend, they need to deal with pestering by publisher representatives (who suddenly discover how important the journal is after years of taking it for granted), media attention, learning new editorial software, and general uncertainty. So I salute Akihiro Munemasa, Hendrik van Maldeghem, Christos Athanasiadis and Hugh Thomas, who to my knowledge are the first editors-in-chief to flip their mathematics journal from a subscription model to one run according to Fair OA principles. May they be followed by many, and soon!

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