BLOG on Mathematical Journals

Mathematical journals are an important and precious resource for our community. They embody, to some extent, our joint “intellectual property”. They provide a way for mathematical researchers to distribute the results of their work. The peer reviewing process, when it works well, gives some guarantee to readers that the published papers are worthwhile and (most likely) correct.

Information technology is changing the journal publication landscape in many ways. Some changes are all for the better; for instance, the availability of electronic versions of a paper makes the content much more widely accessible. Other changes are more controversial, or even almost universally condemned. Calls have been made for professional societies to formulate official positions on some of these.

In order to assess the views of the international mathematical community on journal-related issues, IMU and ICIAM have created the BLOG on Mathematical Journals, that will be hosted by the IMU website.


An important issue that IMU and ICIAM want to address is JOURNAL RATING.

Publications in journals are a natural basis for the professional regard in which each of us is held. Different journals have different reputations and specializations; these play a role when we pick where to submit our papers.

The past few decades have seen the emergence of “indices” or “factors” that try to quantify this information, by tracking various quantitative statistics. This has resulted in “ratings” of journals, which are then used (and misused) in a variety of ways. Concerns about the methods by which these ratings were computed have led some mathematicians to call for a rating established by mathematicians themselves. In response to this, the General Assembly of the IMU passed in August 2010 the following resolution:

The General Assembly of the IMU asks the EC to create, in cooperation with ICIAM, a Working Group that is charged with considering whether or not a joint ICIAM/IMU method of ranking mathematical journals should be instituted, and what other possible options there may be for protecting against the inappropriate use of impact factors and similar manipulable indices for evaluating research.

The joint Working Group created by the IMU and ICIAM to study this issue has completed its work. The report of the Working Group can be found here. A first public forum on the report, at a minisymposium at the ICIAM conference in July 2011, showed that the issue and the report evoked strong reactions in many different directions. In order to get a wider community response, it was decided to open a blog in which all mathematicians could contribute their views on the recommendations of the report.

We invite the mathematical community to provide their views on the journal rating issue, and on whether IMU and ICIAM should formulate their own rating. Views on how to establish and update this rating would also be welcome.

The blog will be monitored by a group of moderators appointed to this end by the IMU Executive Committee and the ICIAM Board; their names are given below. The moderators will typically limit their intervention to weeding out invective or libelous contributions, as well as contributions that are inappropriate or off topic. Contributors must identify themselves to the moderators, but can request their posting to be anonymous if they wish.

At the launch of this BLOG on Mathematical Journals, only one category has been created (see right column), namely that on Rating. In informal contacts, members of the IMU Executive Committee and the ICIAM Board have found that many mathematicians have concerns about the present practice of journal publishing in mathematics that are not limited to rating. If there is an area that comes up sufficiently often in the community’s comments, the moderating group will create a new category that regroups such comments. Different categories can develop over time.

The Moderating Group (appointed by ICIAM and IMU jointly) consists of Doug Arnold, Carol Hutchins, Nalini Joshi, Peter Olver, Fabrice Planchon and Tao Tang, with Peter Olver as chair.

We invite you to submit your comments below!

Ingrid Daubechies, President, IMU
Barbara Lee Keyfitz, President, ICIAM