Clicked on to the code

LMS Journal of Computation & Mathematics
November 23, 2001

I stopped reading mathematics journals some years ago. For the first dozen years of my professional career, I religiously browsed the new journals each week and then one day, cold turkey, I stopped. It was inconvenient going to the library and mostly it was unnecessary. The articles I wanted came over my desk, were emailed to me or were sent for review.

MathSciNet replaced browsing. (MathSciNet is the electronic access to the huge database of reviews of mathematics papers run by the American Mathematical Society.) And MathSciNet just gets better and better: increasingly one not only accesses the reviews but also the entire paper.

Filing cabinets full of reprints have been replaced by megabytes of computer files, which I also keep on my laptop. So while I am writing this review over coffee in my local Starbucks, I have access to well over 1,000 papers that I have collected electronically. They are searchable, they are compact and, most critically, I can find them. However, when I really want to study a paper, I still print it out and scribble all over it. As do most of my colleagues, I suspect.

I am a big fan of electronic access to mathematics - obviously. If print journals did not fund the system I would happily get rid of them completely. Still, I have never submitted a new paper to an entirely electronic journal.

Why not? In part it is because electronic journals tend not to be as prestigious as print journals. Age is a pretty good indicator of prestige - and old, of course, does not exist in the online game. Another reason is that I suspect that electronic journals are not yet widely read. My current favourite place to submit reviews is AMS journals, largely because the electronic access to the print versions is so good through MathSciNet.

It is not only in tying itself to the London Mathematical Society that the Journal of Computation and Mathematics has done well. It looks good. The abstracts come up very cleanly (albeit looking best if there is no TeX in them because this is presented raw). The PostScript presentation of the papers also looks good. When there is accompanying code and the like, this is only a click away. The journal is nicely indexed.

Of course the critical issue is content, so often lacking in internet material. Here again the Journal of Computation and Mathematics can hold its head high. The content is very acceptable. The material it publishes most closely overlaps with Experimental Mathematics or with Mathematics of Computation, which is an AMS journal. These are two of my favourite journals so, in my opinion, the Journal of Computation and Mathematics is in good company.

One problem electronic journals have is that they do not have page limits, which impose some quality control. The Journal of Computation and Mathematics seems to have avoided over-publication. The annual production to date is respectably small - a definite virtue.

The Journal of Computation and Mathematics is not an interactive journal, though it has the potential to be one. This may be a wise choice. It is onerous for the authors and the journal to support real interactivity. But it did surprise me that there was no colour. Colour, so expensive in print, is free and easy in an electronic journal.

Both with respect to the niche it tries to occupy ("papers in mathematics that benefit from being electronic on grounds of their format, computational aspects of mathematics, mathematical aspects of computation") and in its presentation, I think the Journal of Computation and Mathematics is a welcome addition.

Peter Borwein is professor of mathematics, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada.

LMS Journal of Computation & Mathematics

Editor - J. H. Davenport, D. Duval, P. Neumann and L. Paulson
ISBN - ISSN 1461 1570
Publisher - London Mathematical Society
Price - Free (individuals); £63.00 a year (institutions)

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