On his blog, Tim Gowers has announced a new journal, Discrete Analysis for which he is to be the managing editor. The content of the journal probably won’t be of much interest to most readers of Logic Matters. It will cover topics in additive combinatorics and other topics which have a suitable family relationship. But the form of the journal is fascinating, and will surely come to be emulated by other editorial groups for other areas of mathematics. It is to be an arXiv overlay journal. What this means, in Tim Gowers’s words, is that
rather than publishing, or even electronically hosting, papers, it will consist of a list of links to arXiv preprints. Other than that, the journal will be entirely conventional: authors will submit links to arXiv preprints, and then the editors of the journal will find referees, using their quick opinions and more detailed reports in the usual way in order to decide which papers will be accepted. … [So] The articles will be peer-reviewed in the traditional way. There will also be a numbering system for the articles, so that when they are cited, they look like journal articles rather than “mere” arXiv preprints. They will be exclusive to Discrete Analysis.
There’s much more in the very lucid and persuasive blog post, about both principles and practicalities. Plainly this is one way forward for journal publishing, one way to push back against the stranglehold of commercial publishers extorting funds from hard-pressed university libraries.
One issue I noted. Tim Gowers only expects Discrete Analysis to get in the order of 50 submissions per year (less to start with). So — after the kerfuffle of setting up the systems and working through teething problems — this promises to be a relatively small commitment for the editorial board to keep running. However, the arrangements won’t so easily scale up: there is nothing in the funding model, as I understand it, to pay a managing editor of a bigger project an honorarium for a more substantial time commitment. But maybe keeping things small is no bad thing. I’m all for well-focused, relatively niche, journals. A more distributed network of small-ish arXiv overlay journals could well be the way to go (so long as, like Discrete Analysis, they don’t aim to set stern boundaries, so that interesting papers that break new ground sitting between familiar clusters of topics can still find a home).
I wonder if any logicians out there are thinking of starting such a journal?