Gowers and the boycott of Elsevier

My original advice to boycott Holland came with the exception of communication, like websites, newspapers and publishers, since a nation needs to be able to discuss what to do when it is facing a boycott.

Now mathematician Timothy Gowers complained about the high cost and oligopolistic practices of Reed Elsevier and this caused a call for a boycott by scientists to stop contributing to journals published by them: http://thecostofknowledge.com/ 

Thus, these are two entirely different things.

Interestingly, Gowers also appears to be thinking about different ways to score contributions to science other than merely counting publications weighted by journal factor. My own idea since the beginning of the internet was that it would be sufficient to use that internet. A later proposal of more than 10 years ago was to use the Elo or Rasch rating as used in chess, see for example chapter 7 in Voting Theory for Democracy. The problem of course is to establish what would constitute a “match” since scientific papers don’t have the clarity of a chess match. But if scientists put their work on their websites and link to work of others then Google by itself would give a basic ranking (that is what Google does). So I have been looking with amazement at scientific journals from the very beginning of the internet.

There is actually a good example. In this weblog professor Gowers explains the distinction between countable and uncountable sets.  It happens that I wrote the paper “Contra Cantor Pro Occam” with the new definition of “bijection by abstraction” (also labelled as “bijection in the limit”) with the consequence that the set of natural numbers and the set of real numbers are “equally large”. This reduces infinity to the two notions that Aristotle already gave – potential infinity (natural numbers) and actual infinity (the continuum) – but as mere transforms or different orderings of each other. The happy consequence is that we are saved from Cantor’s “transfinites” and the squandered research funds on these illusions. Another consequence is that we can discuss the real numbers in highschool mathematics without feeling that we are leaving out something important. The paper has been rejected by the Dutch journal “Nieuw Archief voor Wiskunde” as “interesting but not for mathematics specialists” and “too long for a journal”. They should have said: “interesting but try to make it shorter for specialists who don’t need the introductions”. Now, if professor Gowers would look into the paper and put a review on the web, then we would have “peer review on the spot” and we are off to a “new way of publishing” (namely to use the internet).

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