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December 4, 2009

Rejecta Mathematica

Tyw7w67

Long story (from the July 29, 2009 Economist) short: four Rice University graduate students, after having a paper rejected with reviews saying good work but find somewhere else for it, decided to cut out the middleman and found their own journal, Rejecta Mathematica.

Here's the Economist story.

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Huddled maths

An academic journal provides haven for rejected work

Paul Lauterbur, the father of magnetic-resonance imaging, had his seminal paper rejected when he first submitted it to Nature. Peter Higgs, eponymous predictor of physics’s missing boson, faced similar trouble with Physics Letters. But Lauterbur went on to win a Nobel prize for his work, and Dr Higgs is an odds-on favourite to get one soon. A good, rejected paper, then, is by no means an oxymoron.

And that observation is the basis of Rejecta Mathematica, an open-source academic journal that recently went online. As its name suggests, the new journal publishes only papers that, like Lauterbur’s and Dr Higgs’s, have been previously submitted to, and rejected by, others. With Annals of Mathematics, one of the best, denying entry to more than 300 last year alone, Rejecta could be busy.

Rejecta was conceived three years ago by four graduate students at Rice University, in Houston, Texas. Two of its founders, Michael Wakin and Christopher Rozell, had just had a paper on card counting in blackjack rejected. Good work, said the reviewers, but find some other place for it. When they could not, they, along with Mark Davenport and Jason Laska, decided to cut out the middle man and found their own journal.

If Rejecta is a joke, it is a well-executed one. The serious aim is to highlight papers that, although perhaps flawed, may still be interesting. It manages that well. The inaugural issue includes topics ranging from image enhancement to condition numbers of matrices (don’t ask). All come with an “open letter” in which the paper’s author outlines in lay terms why the work was rejected (extra points awarded for bitterness), what has been done since and why it still has merit.

Rejecta’s larger purpose, then, may be a light jab at academia’s bureaucracy and the rigmarole to which it is necessary to submit in order to get published. Whether conventional journals are necessary in the internet age is a matter of active debate. Refereeing maths papers, in particular, requires serious expertise that few have. Those who do, usually receive no pay for their refereeing services. Mistakes can be made. Academia as a whole, some say, could do a better job. But peer review is still necessary. And yes, the editors claim that they too have had to reject some submissions.

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Here's Rejecta Mathematica's Facebook page.

Nothing to submit?

Me neither.

No problem: do like I do and follow them on Twitter.

December 4, 2009 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


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