Not signed in (Sign In)

Vanilla 1.1.9 is a product of Lussumo. More Information: Documentation, Community Support.


    I was rather surprised to see this question closed; it seems perfectly reasonable to me. I won't vote to reopen yet, but would happily if I could do it as the last vote.


    Isn't Voloch's comment fairly on the mark? It appears to be a subjective question.


    @Ryan, hmm, Voloch says some (irrelevant?) things about the boycott, and otherwise merely states "It is subjective and argumentative."

    I don't think 'subjective' by itself is necessarily grounds for being a bad question. Questions admitting more than one correct answer have long been considered acceptable (although preferably community wiki'd, so voting can be used to sort without side effects). I don't think that it's necessarily "argumentative", in the sense of necessarily resulting in irreconcilable disagreements. There are certainly objective measures one can use to compare journals. I'm certainly happy to concede that it would be a better question if it directly asked for particular objective comparisons between potential alternatives to the named journals.

    (I'm also happy to recuse myself from dealing with this question; I have more enthusiasm than most for the current discussion around mathematical publishing.)

    • CommentAuthorYemon Choi
    • CommentTimeFeb 10th 2012

    I think the question is fine, but I confess I don't see why it couldn't all be discussed over on Math2.0. It seems to me that if assertions are made then people will want to follow up on them, which means discussion, which means not-so-good-on-MO-platform.

    The only advantages I can see to having it on MO are (1) visibility (2) anonymity. But I would have thought that both are things that can be done on Math2.0 as well.

    • CommentAuthormarkvs
    • CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012 edited
    I explained why I voted to close: the answer to the question as stated is obviously "no". Here I just repeat what I said on MO:

    When one submits a paper to a journal, one needs to take into account several things, one of the main things being the editorial board. In that regard, there are obviously no alternatives to either J. Algebra or JPAA because there are no journals with the same editorial boards.

    Thus I don't think there is anything to discuss here unless the OP provides more information.

    I suppose I can't really imagine asking this question about any other journal -- other than in the context of this boycott. For example, if the question replaced one of these journals with The Journal of Knot Theory and its Ramifications, I'd be a little puzzled by the question, as there are no other journals very close to it in mission. A lot of journals are fairly unique in their outlooks. So to me, having a public list of "comparables" like this seems to be mainly "staking territory" in the rhetorical battle of the boycott.

    So my impression is this is mostly a political thing, rather than a mathematical thing.


    To quid: why do you give a straight answer to a question that you voted to close (it was even the final vote!)? I'm sure we have talked about this sort of thing before, although I don't remember where. But it's as if: here's my answer, and now there should be no further answers.


    @Todd: I noticed that in the comment thread to the question quid wrote something about changing his mind and voting to close as a duplicate.

    @Scott: There are now four votes to reopen, if you still want to cast a non-super-vote to reopen.

    • CommentAuthorvoloch
    • CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012
    Ryan's reasoning is basically the same as mine.
    Although I'm a bit on the fence about this, I cast the last vote to reopen.

    Added clarification: I do agree with the dissenters that this isn't really a mathematics question. However, since I felt the answers would be quite useful to the mathematics community, I decided in favour of it.
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012

    First some general remarks than responses to Todd Trimble and Mark Sapir (the later continuing on discussion on the main site), and something related to what Ryan Budney said.

    I certainly agree that the question is a bit subjective (yet it would also have been subjective a month ago, i.e. before The Boycott) as anything related to journal-quality (one of my coauthors thinks some particular journal, actually one mentioned in the question, is slightly too good for our work another one thinks it is too bad; in general they are both reasonable and their standards are comparable [and it is not that they judged our work differently their respective opinion on the journal is completely different, roughly: very good and mediocre, respectively] subjective). And the question is in some sense about journal quality as what was asked for askjed for comparable journals to some given ones. Also it could be phrased better, as it is likely to cause misunderstandings as documented by the very first comment, (mis)interpreting it as a cry for help of some rejected author, and also as it was in my opinion interpreted too much as a specific request for advice on a given paper (cf eg Mark Sapir's comment). I can understand why it was phrased that way, namely precisely to avoid that it is interpreted as 'mostly a politcal thing'; in addition one of OPs later comment
    "This confirms my motivating concern, being that there is not an ideal alternative at the moment." So if one wants to insinuate a 'political motivation' form OPs perspective related to The Boycott than it is pro-Elsevier, since the reading of the answers the OP gives is: there is no ideal alternative.

    True, I did not vote to close right away and even gave an answer. As I do not think the question is that bad though not good, and when I saw it about an hour after it was asked there was already an answer and a couple of comments without loud cries for closure except perhaps some implictly based on a misunderstanding of the question, and I think one can give sort-of reasonable answers. Then things developped in particular some comments tangential to the question appeared. So eventually I voted to close. The eventually was 5 hours after my answer; well, in some sense 5 hours is not long, but as documented by some comments I made in between I watched it closely in between to see how things develop so that subjectively for me the 'tone' of the question changed quite a bit.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012 edited


    Now still more specifically regarding Todd Trimble's inquiry: I said briefly why I closed. "To avoid discussion (perhaps?) I slightly changed my mind and voted to close as duplicate of the question I mentioned" this refers to a previous comment of mine in response (to Felipe Voloch mentioned above) "I can think of reasons why this question should not be on MO, but that there is some boycott is not among them. The questions asks for a list of general algebra journals about comparable to JA and JPA. That's it. Yet we could start fleshing out that question instead or close it too"

    That question is also subjective. And I really think one could make an argument to close it, but it was not closed so far (right, it is also old, but still). I think one really can, but does not have to, make a case that the present question is a special case of that other one (I did not remember it right away, so did not think about this before I answered). The Algebra aspect of that question was not very well developped; but I changed this partially by adding the information I gave and JPAA to that other question via a comment to an existing answer (where JA was already present). [I did not add the journals mentioned by others, since I do not know them well, and for some do not think they really qualify as generalist algebra journals; opposed to the journals in the question and those in my answer, which I am much more familiar with, having published in two, refereed for a third, ocassionally talked with people editing some of them and generally reading articles in them frequently].

    So, in brief, I did not answer and close (as one act), but answered since I found the question about alright (though not great). Yet the later developpment showed that the question is more likely to cause discussion than I anticipated and thus I later voted to close. That I said I changed 'my mind' mainly referred to a certain change of mind between my comment responding to Voloch and the final one (made in rapid succession); where the change of mind is that the motivation for the first was something like "the boycott is not relevant here, I am against closing it because of it" which I then changed to "actually I agree the question always had the potential to become subjetive and argumentative (with or without the boycott) and it apparently now became so, it seems useless that I insist on making this (fine) distinction" even more so as I remembered the other question where the information could go. In general, I think it is not that uncommon that question change from something that seems alright/could work to something that apparently (at least at this point in time) does not work.

    I hope this explains my actions. If you or somebody else should still consider this as problematic (and the question stays closed; oh it seems it got reopened, so if it should get reclosed) than I could delete my answer, and preseve the actual information only via a comment [incidentally I thought about deleting my answer, but then I think in case somebody does not know the two journals I mentioned and is not very keen on or forced to making fine distinctions regarding journals reputation they are reasonable alternatives].

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012


    Response to Mark Sapir: Regarding what you said on main that it was 'obvious' that your 'your' was meant to mean the OP, this was not obvious to me, since indeed IMO your comment makes more sense if it would have been an 'abstract' your, since in my opinion the question is a general question (though perhaps/likely motivated by an immediate personal need). Now, of course on can say each journal is unique and any question of this form does not make sense to begin with. However, I think this is a bit of an extreme position, in particular if you say this is due to the editorial board, since making it even more extreme this would imply that any change in the board 'creates' a 'new' journal. In a very fine sense it is true, and some Editors (in chief) and changes of them certainly really formed and reformed journals. Yet, still, I think that there is something like a notion of a generalist algebra journal (of a certain perceived quality). [Or to put it differently, yes the board is important, but there is also (aims and) scope of the journal. I do not want to give explict examples, but there are mathematicians working in quite distant fields being on boards in journals of the respective speciality. I assume if I would submit to Expert in Field A and B a paper in A in her/his function as editor of journal in Field B s/he would find this rather strange.] Yet, the question did not ask about some exact match or optimization, but to quote (my emphasize):

    Optimal answers will be names of journals whose likelihood of accepting any given paper, and esteem amongst people in the field, correlates highly with these two; so, they will consequently be specialized in algebra, and of approximately equal caliber. Also, it would be good if the rigor of the referee process is comparable.

    I don't know, but I think the two I gave sort-of meet this criterion (and if one did not know them before this could be useful; if OP new them they might have excluded them explictly, also I did not give some other journals since they are more specialized, Journal of Commutative Algebra for instance; or I do consider them as too far 'below' those in the question, let's not mention those). Or, if one think the correleation is still not high enough, they migt at least be among those with a relatively high one.

    Regarding what Ryan Budney said that he cannot imagine this being asked for any other journal: While I agree that most likely the immediate motivtion was this boycott, as I said one can interpret the effect and intention (assuming for the sake of argument there is any) in different ways, and I can perfectly well imagine that something like this would be asked for another field/journal. To wit, see Pete L. Clark's answer to the question I linked to above gving a ranked list of a couple of journals in number theory. It's not clear how to compare Acta Arithmetica, Journal of Number Theory, Journal de Theories de Nombres de Bordeaux, International Journal of Number Theory to take just those with scope number theory without expansion or restriction. There are some distinctions due to editorial board which subfields are more present here or there; but say a mainstream algebraic or analytic number theory paper could in principle definitely go to any of them. Why should not somebody (inexperienced) wonder which of them are considered as more or less comparable or perhaps somebody might know two and wonder if there are others, or know all and wonder if there are still more. All this are not great MO questions. But there is not necessarily something 'political' going on. Or, Gowers (yes also the immediate motivation was the boycott) on his blog compared journals in combinatorics. Combinatorica, JCT (A+B), Elect. JC, Dicrete Math; Eropean JC, Annals of Comb.,CPC,... what is what how are they seen, this is not obvious. [As always opinions differ, but perhaps some are wider spread than others, and to know what other people think on journals can be important, because actually as many people say where one publishes is often a CV-question and then what is key is what people tend to think]. Actually both Pete L. Clark's and Gowers's discussion were quite interesting for me as a lot was in line with my expectation but some aspects were different.

    ps. I missed the last couple comments while typing. Thank you Kevin Walker for mentioning my comment.

    pps. Sorry for the lengthy discussion. I did not realise I write so much, while typing but know as it is typed, I thought I'll post it.




    Thanks for your explanations, quid. I still don't think I like the idea of someone answering a question and then voting to close it (except when a question has well outworn its usefulness, like one which has been around a year and got 150 answers), certainly not after a gap of a few hours. In brief, after applying one of these actions, I think one should recuse oneself from applying the other (deletion of the answer may be appropriate). But this may be a separate discussion, and it may be moot since the question since has been reopened. In which case, sorry for the noise.

    • CommentAuthorNoah Snyder
    • CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012 edited

    Now that Math 2.0 exists, wouldn't it make sense to close these sorts of questions and send them over there? It'd increase traffic to Math 2.0 and keep MO on math questions.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012

    @Todd Trimble: I will avoid doing this in the future. In the special circulstances it felt alright, though a bit strange.

    @Noah Snyder: this seems like a good idea in general. Perhaps even the FAQs should be updated to mention it. Is Math 2.0 already ready for this or still sort-of beta? [perhaps I am taking this thread off-topic too much with this]

    @Harry Gindi: :P (Short enough now? But, then, as I confessed right away, it indeed got tl.)


    @Quid: Not short enough. Your posts take up more vertical room than the preceding ten!!!

    No hard feelings though =p.

    • CommentAuthormarkvs
    • CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012
    @quid: I cannot get to the end of your post, too many letters. But I realized that you do not really understand how the editorial board of JPAA or JA works. Since it may benefit other readers of meta, I explain it here. A paper is submitted to a concrete editor and it is totally up to the editor whether to accept the paper or to reject it. Every editor has his/her list of trusted referees. An editor can reject a paper even without sending it to a referee if he/she thinks the paper is not good enough (in my case it happens 30% of the time). Thus, yes, when an editor leaves an editorial board, the journal changes. The change can be noticed mostly by the people in the same area of math as the departed editor, but they will certainly notice the change. This is not how Annals of Math, JAMS or, say, GAFA works. But this is how most journals including the JPAA and JA work. Thus if you want to submit a paper to JA, JPAA or a similar journal, you should choose not just the journal but also the editor carefully.

    As for boycott, I would rather prefer that people boycott cars - those air polluting, fuel burning, pedestrian killing monsters. This may reduce traffic. I do not publish papers very often, but I have to drive every day.
    • CommentAuthorKConrad
    • CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012
    Having just seen the Math 2.0 website for the first time, from links on this page, I wonder: wouldn't it be better if it were on its own dedicated site rather than being part of a person's website? Imagine if Anton had created mathoverflow as

    @K: To be fair, if Andrew bought a domain name for every forum he tried to start, I can't imagine him being able to live anywhere outside the workhouse.

    I did answer this question and I think it is completely reasonable. I don’t care what the motivation of the OP was as there are obvious motivations: (1) Your paper was rejected from JA and JPAA and you still believe the paper is in that level so you look for an alternative; (2) You do not want to submit to these journals for whatever reason (boycott, you hate the editors, the editors hate you, etc.). I often wondered about this question myself so I would be happy to get an answer.

    Now, of course the answers are somewhat subjective, but this is not black and white. Talking to people about journal ranking it seems to me that there is more agreement than disagreement. The fact that there is no one answer does not make the question argumentative. People can have different views about stuff without necessarily arguing about it. It is possible to respect someone’s view without agreeing with it.

    Journal ranking is extremely important so it would be good to have some idea about what people think (especially for young mathematicians).

    Finally, I feel that there is too much tendency to close questions. We all have the right to ignore questions we do not like. So just exercise this right more often.
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeFeb 12th 2012

    @Mark Sapir: thank you for the explanation. Let me assure you I was not totally ingnorant of this fact (which you might have inferred if you had read my post), but still some details where interesting; what is surprising for me is that any editor can definitely accept, no discussion or veto powers by anybody?; but perhaps this is tangential. Of course, the individual editors are important. However, aren't on the boards of the other journals, if not the same editors (though perhaps some might even be, I did not checl), still editors with comparable (in the sense of similar) expertise/interests. Say, not sure if this is a good example as it is not 'my' subfield of algebra and I am in general not much of an algebraist, but instead of submitting to you for JPAA somebody could submit to Zelmanov for JAA. Wouldn't this be somehow a comparable option? (And similar things in other subfields.)

    ps. since this seems to be of supreeme importance in this discussion. I did not sign this boycott and have no intention of doing so. This does not mean I do not care about too high journal prices and realated matters, but just that I am not convinced a boycott (against one publisher) is a reasonable way to go.

    • CommentAuthormarkvs
    • CommentTimeFeb 12th 2012 edited
    @quid: Veto power exists but applied extremely rarely (when there is an obvious problem with the paper, like a plagiarism). As the managing editor of the International Journal of Algebra and Computation, I did a couple of times convince an editor that a paper should be rejected. But that happens very rarely. In some journals, including Groups, Geometry and Dynamics, and IJAC, all papers are visible to all editors, but this very rarely results in discussions. I am not sure Zelmanov is still on the editorial board of JA. But we have different referees, and handle different areas of math (Zelmanov is much broader as far as I know), so although for many papers the results would be similar, it is not always so.
    @markvs : I think your comment (while interesting) does not get at the heart of the matter. Of course it important to submit to an appropriate editor (and if there is no one on the board remotely appropriate, it is probably not worth bothering). However, everyone knows that there is a pecking order for journals, and this pecking order plays an important role in our lives (hiring, promotion, grants, pay raises, etc). There are many circumstances where you might have a paper which is clearly appropriate for one journal, but where you don't want to submit there. I'm not even necessarily talking about the boycott here (and I have not signed onto the boycott) -- you could have had a bad experience with the journal in the past, you could have a conflict with a member of the editorial board, etc. As a concrete example, there is one journal I won't submit to anymore because I sent them a paper, they took about 1.5 years to get a referee report, the report was strongly positive and the editor recommended acceptance, and then another member of the board vetoed the paper (by the way, this is not a top journal by anyone's reckoning).

    In this case, you look for a journal at roughly the same tier. I'm not saying that this is an appropriate question for MO (I'm undecided on that), but it is definitely a common and reasonable question for a mathematician to have.
    • CommentAuthormarkvs
    • CommentTimeFeb 12th 2012
    @Andy: Deans like the impact factor. If the question is "what are the Algebra journals whose impact factors are similar to those of JA and JPAA?", then the question does make sense and it should be closed because the answer can be found by a simple google search. If you dismiss the impact factor as a bad way to compare math journals (many people would agree with you), then the situation becomes much less clear. As quid pointed out somewhere on this thread, people cannot even say for sure which journal is better JA or JPAA. And the answer is that for some areas one journal is better and for other areas another journal is better. Everything depends on the board. JA without Zelmanov is not as good for non-commutative algebra as JA with Zelmanov. For commutative algebra, it is probably the same. As for your example, unfortunately it is a common situation now when papers are been refereed for 1.5 years and more. The editor has very limited number of options: politely ask the referee to speed up or change the referee (which slows down the process). Remember that referees (and editors!) do not get paid, and refereeing is a hard and time consuming job. I am sure you know that since you probably did a lot of refereeing yourself. I guess the second editor should have given some reasons for his/her veto. If not, you should probably avoid journals where that person is on the editorial boards. Again the "quality" of journals does not matter.
    @markvs : I'm as skeptical of impact factor as anyone. However, I do think it is reasonable for young people (who might be on the job market soon, which entails being evaluated by people who do not understand their work) to ask more experienced mathematicians to "rank" journals. I certainly did this a lot when I was just starting out. There's a lot of folk wisdom there which is hard to figure out when you don't have a wide perspective. Of course, such ranking are quite coarse and people disagree about them. But they are not entirely without content.

    That's not to say that this is a good MO question, about which I am undecided. I do think that "career advice" questions are appropriate, at least in small doses. I'm often shocked by how clueless people are, and am grateful that I had good mentoring when I was just starting out. The one standard I try to enforce is that the questions should be of reasonably wide interest and not easily answered with common sense.

    As far as my own situation, I was not trying to elicit sympathy or anything. I was just trying to illustrate why such questions can be of interest beyond the boycott. I've certainly had pretty good luck with publishing my papers, and in general have been treated very well by the broader mathematical world. And I definitely have sympathy with overworked and slow referees (I've been writing 7-10 reports per year for the last several years). My real objection was with the second editor, who remained anonymous (though I can make a good guess as to who it was) and did not give any reasons. But again, it did not really impact my life much one way or another beyond irritating me for a couple of days. I submitted the paper elsewhere and moved on.