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  1. This question is for obvious reasons addressed to the more prominent mathematicians participating in this forum, although everyone should feel free to comment or suggest ideas.

    What can we do to attract a greater number of prominent mathematicians to the cause of *actively* pressing for reforms in the publishing system? By "prominent" I mean especially members of journal editorial boards and people who are influential in shaping their own departments' policy.

    As much as I'm enthusiastic about the spirit of reform present on this forum, I can't help but notice that only a handful people actively participate and this sample is certainly not representative of the attitude of the whole mathematical community. The sad truth is that nothing serious can be done without cooperation of the mathematical "establishment" and even the best, "obviously right", technically simple, beneficial ideas will end in a failure if they remain something advocated only by a bunch of reform-minded afficionados. The outcome that I fear the most is that a lot of energy unleashed by the Elsevier boycott may get dissipated in "guerilla" efforts of fixing the system by establishing websites for commenting on papers and other "homespun" improvements which, as great as they are, may be successful *only* if they get accepted as standard by the majority of mathematical community. At this point this is largely a matter of academic politics and having good ideas is simply not enough - support of influential people is crucial here.

    Now, the fact that many renowned mathematcians like Tao, Gowers etc. have signed the open statement and pledged to the boycott certainly generates a lot of good publicity, but this is not enough - the change of mentality must occur at the "microscopic" level of particular math departments, not only at the levelof big shots discussing the ideas on blogs. I'm especially interested in what current members of editorial boards feel about the ideas for reforming the system.
    • CommentRowNumber2.
    • CommentAuthorEric
    • CommentTimeFeb 18th 2012

    Hi Michal,

    A general comment…

    I think you’ve just observed in a short time a fairly well documented phenomenon with many case studies about collaborative online efforts like this one. There always tend to be a core group of super interested super users who contribute 90% or more of the ideas and content. Then you have a larger group of fairly engaged people who may contribute now and then, but not comparable to the super users. Finally, you have a much bigger group of passive observers/lurkers. I think that is fine and that is perfectly normal. It would be great to attract prominent mathematicians, but I think the focus at this stage (from what I understand of the goal) is to develop an alternative to the status quo and demonstrate that it can function. It should be organic and develop based on the selfish needs of the super users. Selfishness is an important factor for success. You should think about a system that helps you and not what would help others. This helps keep things focused.

    • CommentRowNumber3.
    • CommentAuthorjoyal
    • CommentTimeFeb 18th 2012
    Eric. Selfishness is the main fuel of a corporation like Elsevier, or of a corporation like Lehman Brothers. It is no sure recipe for success. All human action can be measured according to self-interest, but there are other scales. Boycotting Elesevier is to serve the common good. There is generosity in the boycott movement. Let us build on that.