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AMS Views on Journal Publishing

Mathematical journal publishing is currently a major concern for many in the mathematical community. The following brief comments address some of these concerns from the perspective of the American Mathematical Society:


Public Access

The AMS supports the practice of permitting authors to post a prepublication manuscript of a journal article on the author’s personal web page, on the author’s institution’s noncommercial repository and on The author may post the final peer-reviewed manuscript including revisions that take into account comments and suggestions of referees.

The AMS has taken a leading role in investigating the advantages and consequences for publishers of various forms of open access, and responded in January to the Request for Information about Public Access from the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The AMS opposes the recently proposed Research Works Act (H.R.3699).

Cost of Subscriptions

The AMS journals are among the least expensive mathematics journals. This cost to the subscriber is far less than the per page costs of journals of commercial publishers.  The AMS recognizes the financial stress experienced by many subscribers to its journals; the AMS works hard to keep subscription prices low and to accommodate special needs.  At the same time, the AMS recognizes that there are expenses associated with the publication of journals, and that free journals staffed and funded by dedicated individuals might not provide necessary stability for mathematical publications.

The AMS makes its journal content available to everyone at no charge five years after the original date of publication.

Alternative models for financing journals

The AMS continues to monitor funding mechanisms other than subscription revenue which could support journal publication. The AMS strongly endorses and adheres to the principle that a paper in the mathematical sciences should have an opportunity to be evaluated and properly published without regard to the financial circumstances of its authors. The AMS has expressed its unequivocal stance that authors should not be required to pay page charges in order to publish in AMS journals. The model in which the author pays for publication can be exclusionary as well as open to abuse. The AMS is interested in a hybrid subscription-based/open-access model in which some journals would be supported in part by external (presumably governmental) funds. On the other hand, grant funding available to mathematicians is very limited; only a minority of authors of articles in AMS journals is funded by U.S. federal grants. A recent MSRI workshop discussed a variety of “business models” for journals.

Ethical behavior of editorial boards

Editorial boards of AMS journals are appointed by the President upon recommendation of the AMS Editorial Boards Committee, whose members are elected by the AMS membership.  Members of editorial boards of AMS journals are expected to follow guidelines for ethical behavior prepared by the AMS Committee on Publications. The AMS condemns the practice of some journals to publish “mathematical trash” and to manipulate citation ratings.

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Publisher bundling of subscriptions

Responsible bundling by publishers of journal subscriptions can be mutually advantageous to both libraries and publishers. Bundling can give a librarian flexibility, at reduced cost, in the selection of journals. However, the practice by some commercial publishers of offering large bundled packages consumes an increasing amount of acquisition budgets and makes it difficult for small publishers to maintain their subscriber base. The practice also makes it extremely difficult for new journals founded outside the umbrella of a large publisher to be launched. This is an unfortunate situation.  Still, many institutional librarians appear pleased with the bundling model.  Moreover, issues concerning journal subscriptions at most institutions are dominated by the medical and biological fields, with mathematicians having little leverage to influence their institution's practices.

Role of commercial publishers

The AMS views commercial publishers of mathematical journals as partners and recognizes their contributions to the mathematical community.  Commercial publishers (and the AMS) have been at the forefront of technological innovation which has permitted much broader access to published material. By 2009, more than fifty percent of mathematical journal articles were published by commercial publishers (a percentage which is increasing), and there appears to be no likely alternate mechanism to publish most of these journals.

The importance of refereed journals

The AMS remains committed to the current mathematical researching publishing model in which a journal article is checked and evaluated by one or more referees. Although the arXiv plays a very valuable role in providing early dissemination of mathematics, the current refereeing process remains vitally important in assuring the integrity of the mathematical edifice.

Eric Friedlander, President
Donald McClure, Executive Director
February 27, 2012

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