Letter to VSNU and others on membership dues and open access publishing

The last weblog text on open access publishing caused me to write this letter to VSNU and other bodies in Holland. VSNU is the platform at which Dutch universities collaborate.

Letter to VSNU and others on membership dues and open access publishing.

Addendum October 17 2016: There is a spreadsheet example now with rough data for mathematics education in Holland.

  • It would cost school employers an additional EUR 50 per mathematics teacher to compensate teachers for memberschip of NVvW (the Dutch association of mathematics teachers) and turn Euclides (its journal) into an open access journal.
  • Employers have already agreed to compensation. It is just that (mainly 2nd degree) teachers do not join up.
  • For publishers, schools already have contracts for access, such that a teacher only has to activate the account. Similarly, schools might see it as a contract with NVvW, and teachers only have to activate their membership. (NVvW thinks of itself as an association only and not as a publisher too.)
  • Employers cannot say what association their teachers should join. The closed shop should not be with a particular association but with a default association. The individual teacher decides whether to join an association and which one. The decision to join is only made easier via “complementary subscription” and the “activation of membership”.

Secondly, I had to think about what Timothy Gowers wrote when announcing “Discrete Analysis” while using the Scholastica platform.

(a) He uses arXiv.org that accepts submissions from all over the world. But this would be difficult to create for each discipline. Best is that the institute where you graduate also supports your follow-up.

(b) In that line of argument: It appears that arXiv rejects some papers because they are second-guessing universities whether you are a “true” scientist or not. Papers of mine have been rejected as if I were a crackpot. See my protest about how they can handle this. But I have a degree of econometrics from Groningen (1982) and teacher of mathematics from Leiden (2008). I am quite dismayed that arXiv starts judging on quality while they don’t have the background to judge. See also Richard Gill’s experience on a similar strange rejection, the paragraph “Quantum crackpots”.

(c) Gowers wants “quality” for his journal on “Discrete Analysis”, as if this would be a criterion for open access publishing. This is really no argument but misunderstood vanity. An editor for “peer review” should check on clarity and scientific nature, and that is it. The discussion on quality might be done at a second stage, and is a different kind of discussion. Such decisions actually are new articles, in which an editor-author may argue why some paper or analysis has quality. Gowers identifies these “judgements on quality” as “editorial comments”. Those however should also be submitted to peer review, and they generate citations (namely when such an author refers to proper sources). Gowers now generates the strange phenomenon that some people might make the inference “It was rejected by Discrete Analysis and thus it doesn’t have enough quality”, while that very topic of quality should be subject to peer review at least.

Addendum 2016-10-13: Thus, there might be three types of journals while Gowers has only one. Note the word type. With three types, there can still many different titles, also on Discrete Analysis.

(c1) A journal type “Proofreadings for Discrete Analysis”, consisting of links to submissions (abstracts and full texts) and links to the referee reports.

(c2) A journal type “Recommendations for Discrete Analysis”, with again a list of links, likely introduced by the abstracts. The meaning of this journal is that editors perform as 2nd stage proofreaders, who judge on the articles and referee reports, and provide recommendation by inclusion in the list. It would be best to specify which editor does the recommendation, since we cannot presume that all have read it. Potentially, though, editors hide in the herd to secure anonimity. Editor reports are entered as 2nd stage referee reports in the repository, both for recommended and rejected articles.

(c3) A journal type “Discussion of the recommendations for Discrete Analysis”, in which editors of (c2) given an overview clarification of their recommendations and rejections. Basically these texts have first been published in (c1), and the selection for (c3) is done by another group of editors than for (c2). Editor reports of (c3) are again included in the repository, with links to the underlying original papers.

(d) We should not confuse open-access with open-minded. I wonder whether Gowers is aware that mathematicians have a mortal fear for crackpots. Will his journal be open-minded or will it be another exercise by mathematicians to abuse others as crackpots ? An example of abuse is given in the former weblog text w.r.t. a paper on a new algebraic approach to the derivative.

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