Cybermath column NZ Math Society Newsletter Apr 2018

We focus (yet again) on a few developments in scholarly publishing, with a strong mathematical flavour. One is the establishment in late January 2018 (by me, with help from Jonathan Klawitter and Dmitri Zaitsev) of the Free Journal Network. We are all familiar with “diamond” open access journals, with no author fees, typically run by volunteer academic labour. Examples include Electronic J. Combinatorics, Australasian J. Combinatorics, New York J. Math., NZ J. Math.. Such journals are often of a very good standard as far as editorial processes go, but sometimes lack a few desirable features (e.g. DOIs, mobile-readable websites), can be seen as wasteful of researcher time, and are run on very low budgets (typically zero, with subsidy from a university providing the website). The FJN has been established to help promote such journals, attract small amounts of funding to fund luxuries such as those described above ($\varepsilon > > 0$ in this case), and allow sharing of best practices. We intend it to act as a whitelist for people searching for well run, ethically acceptable journals with reasonably high standards. So far there are 22 member journals of which 14 are in mathematics. Many of the latter were mentioned in the August 2017 column. One of these is Algebraic Combinatorics, the thriving new incarnation of J. Algebraic Combinatorics (see more on this below).
Of course, there are hundreds of mathematics journals that fall under the “diamond” label (many but certainly not all can be found in the Directory of Open Access Journals). However FJN has some formal requirements, namely that members satisfy the Fair Open Access Principles. These recently formulated principles are intended to formalise the intuitive idea of journals that run like those mentioned above, with no financial barriers to authors or readers, and community control of the journal. Some diamond journals (for example Annales de l’Institut Fourier and Acta Mathematica) have copyright transfer agreements that are inconsistent with FOAP, but are otherwise fine. Many diamond journals are very small, regional or otherwise not high priority for FJN to invest effort into. The ultimate aim of FJN is to build a portfolio of open access journals that is strong enough that libraries will pay to support them by redirecting subscription funding, so we can compete head-on with Elsevier, Springer, et al.
Readers having suggestions for journals to consider for membership should contact info@freejournals.org.
Another  recent project is the establishment (with Dmitri Zaitsev) of an online forum Publishing Reform (there is also a private strategy forum). The idea is to centralize discussions and collaborate on useful documents and concrete actions to improve journal publishing. Mathematicians are again well represented here, including G\”{u}nter Ziegler,  negotiator with Elsevier for DEAL in Germany; Martin Gr\”{o}tschel, President of Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities; Timothy Gowers, Fields Medallist and Elsevier boycott initiator.
I recommend that readers check out the discussion site above and contribute as they see fit. More details about the ecosystem of community-controlled journals can be found in an article I recently wrote, to appear in August 2018 Notices of the American Mathematical Society.
Speaking of Elsevier, negotiations in Germany are dragging on, with no end in sight. The slightly bizarre spectacle of institutions agreeing to cancel access to journals and refusing to pay, but Elsevier providing access for free (presumably for fear of researchers working out just how easily they can cope without a subscription)  shows just how dysfunctional the journal publishing market is. I have heard rumours that the Australia/NZ negotiations with Elsevier have also stalled, over the issue of nondisclosure agreements.
In Europe in particular there is substantial government support for the idea of open access, but almost without exception the wrong choices are being made over and over, and legacy publishers (presumably because they can pay lobbyists) are being given unfair advantages.The latest missteps are a Call for Tenders for the European Open Research   Publishing Platform, which excludes organisations not already having a turnover of at least 1 million euros, and the EU Open Science Monitor giving Elsevier a contract to monitor the progress of open science.
Finally, the flipped journal Algebraic Combinatorics, published by Centre Mersenne, is thriving, having published 12 papers since January and having had 140 submissions at time of writing (anecdotal evidence from one editor-in-chief is that the quality has risen since the breakaway from Springer). An analysis of the board of the zombie  Journal of Algebraic Combinatorics shows exactly what is going on. Springer apparently intends to capitalise on the reputation of the journal, built up over 25 years by the editorial board that has departed, by using new editors and ignoring what they do. A systematic look at MathSciNet shows that the editor-in-chief, advisory editors and editorial board of JACo (14 people in total) altogether have fewer papers published in the field of algebraic combinatorics (AMS classification 05E primary/secondary) than does almost any one individual editor of AlCo, and about one-third as many as just one of those editors.
As Marcus Tullius Cicero apparently apparently ended his speeches in the Roman Senate by calling for he destruction of Carthage, I call here for zombie JACo to die, and the big publishers to be abandoned until they actually provide service at reasonable price, and start to care about quality. These issues are too important to ignore – do something about it (ask me how if you don’t know)!

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