SIAM Past President Doug Arnold on mathematical literature and scholarly publishing

At the SIAM Annual Meeting held in Minneapolis in July, SIAM Past President Douglas Arnold of the University of Minnesota addressed a very timely and relevant issue: problems facing scholarly publishing today, such as author misconduct and plagiarism, intentional manipulation of citation statistics, and the high price of journal subscriptions.

“Math literature is enduring,” he said, noting that citations in mathematical journals often go back decades, and emphasizing the need for mathematicians to take a stance on this important issue. “Refereeing is super-important in math because we believe in the truth.” He explained a few cases of plagiarism that should be very worrisome to the community, reinforcing the importance of tools like CrossCheck employed by SIAM Journals. He then turned his focus on impact factors and their skewed nature due to self-citations and self-references. Illustrating how impact factors can be greatly influenced by self-citations with a series of convincing graphs, he cautioned the audience to be more guarded about the authenticity of bibliometrics.

The final part of Dr. Arnold’s talk focused on his personal views on the influence of large commercial publishers and one in particular–Elsevier–which, in his opinion is affecting the publishing world with its non-competitive prices, journal bundling, and huge profit margins, all the while relying on unpaid volunteer labor. Lastly, he mentioned the need to redefine copyright laws in general, transferring more rights to authors and less to publishers. In a very engaging lecture, Dr. Arnold inspired a lot of food for thought about the future of mathematical publishing.

Watch a video recapping Dr. Arnold’s talk:

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