Posted by: Administrator | 14/11/2015

Rob Wilson: Questions over the costing of the JCM

[Reposted from comments on the Open Access blog of the LMS]

  1. The figure of 380k quoted by the outgoing President in his letter to the 30 signatories was actually over 15 years, rather than 18. In conversation with me yesterday, minutes before handing over to the new President, he upped this figure twice, first to 415k, then to “nearly half a million”, while continuing to protest that the decision was not about money (!). His parting shot was to bemoan the fact that the SGM would cost another 10k which could be better spent on something else.
    Now we will never get an explanation from the LMS as to how they calculate these figures. They are not audited, and they are not subject to any accounting rules, they are simply internal figures used by the LMS executive for their own purposes. Nevertheless, they do not amount to more than about 25k per annum. This is less than 1% of the annual budget of the LMS, and therefore it is nonsense to claim this is expenditure is “unsustainable”. It is more instructive, however, to look at the audited figures in the annual accounts, where the direct costs of the JCM are listed as 15275 in 2015, more than doubled from 7224 in 2014, and 6180 in 2013, and 5930 in 2012. At the AGM yesterday I asked for, but did not get, an explanation for the doubled figure this year. In any case, the audited figures would appear to be approximately one-quarter of the figure that the outgoing President quoted.
  2. I would like to comment also on the aims and scope of the JCM. There appears to be a lot of confusion on the Council as to what these are, or should be, and to what extent they are achieved in practice. Even the name of the journal, the Journal of Computation and Mathematics, is routinely misquoted as the Journal of Computational Mathematics. In fact, I would argue that the latter name is more appropriate for what the journal, actually is. The former name is too broad, too ambitious, and too vague. But the appointment of editors suggests that the LMS is, firstly, confusing Computational Mathematics with Mathematical Computation. There is a huge difference: I, for example, work in the former area, but not in the latter. Worse, it seems there is a widespread inability to distinguish between Computation, and Computer Science. The attempt to get computer science papers into the journal was always doomed to failure, and in my view the attempt should never have been made. To some extent, then, the JCM may have been killed off by the setting of inappropriate targets.
    Even within the field of Computational Mathematics, there are many disparate subfields. A broad distinction can be made between Exact Computation, exemplified by computational group theory, representation theory and number theory, where the JCM has had a big impact, and Approximate Computation, typical of more applied areas, where it has had little impact. A more realistic focus on the area of Exact Computation might be what is needed to re-brand the journal successfully.
  3. There is a third issue which I think is much more important than the two I have already discussed, and that is the issue of open access to research data. This feature has been offered by the JCM since its inception, and is a feature which is not offered by any other LMS journal. It is a feature currently offered by very few mathematics journals, but it is a feature that is going to be increasingly required, in particular by UK authors where open access to research data is now a requirement in many cases. I seem to remember seeing an announcement recently that de Gruyter are starting up a new journal offering (gold) open access to research data. Of course, the LMS could use the Transactions for this purpose, although it does not currently do so. But the experience gained from the LMS being first in the field 15 years ago should not be lightly thrown away. I too have experience in this field, having for 20 years maintained an open access data repository for finite simple groups and their representations. Both my website and the LMS JCM are highly valued in the community for their ability to reach parts of mathematical research that no other means can reach. In my view, the propaganda benefits to the LMS in being able to claim it is years ahead of the field in open access to research data, far outweigh the small costs involved.
  4. A fourth comment is about the charitable aims of the LMS. The LMS is a registered charity, and needs to be mindful of its charitable aims at all times, in order to maintain its charitable status. The charitable aims are formal statements with some legal force, and the one which covers publications is the following:
    Objective 3: To disseminate mathematical knowledge and make it available worldwide, where appropriate seeking to create an income stream to support the Society’s activities.
    (Quoted from the annual report for 2012-13, as I could not find it in the report for 2014-15.)
    The objective, therefore, is dissemination of mathematics. The objective is not primarily generation of funds. Generation of funds is mandated only ‘where appropriate’. One can argue forever about the meaning of ‘where appropriate’, and it may not be appropriate to argue it here. Nevertheless, it is clear that an inability of a particular dissemination activity to generate funds cannot be a reason for closing down that activity.
    In the early years of the LMS, publication of the Proceedings was one of its primary activities, and one which proved very expensive, and which threatened to bankrupt the Society, until the donation of 1000 pounds by Lord Raleigh in 1874 enabled it to continue. The focus at that time was very much on raising money in order to disseminate mathematics. The focus today seems to be the exact opposite, that is, disseminating mathematics in order to raise money. I think the LMS would do well to reflect more on its origins, and its fundamental purpose of existence.

Posted by: Administrator | 14/11/2015

Ronnie Brown: JCM — question about costs

[Reposted from a comment on the Open Access Blog of the LMS.]

Just to give some of my background, I was an Advisor to the LMS
Editorial Board (for algebraic and general topology) for 20 years till
my resignation in 1994; I was a founder member of the Editorial Boards
of TAC (Theory and Application of Categories) and HHA (Homology,
Homotopy and Applications), and have been on the Editorial Board of
JHRS (Journal of Homotopy and Related Structures) since its inception.
TAC is purely electronic, and its principles are given in the paper.
“Experience with a Free Electronic Journal: Theory and Applications of Categories”,
by Robert Rosebrugh

HHA has a print version, and free access is now restricted to
papers over 12 months old. JHRS is now supported by Springer.

One of my first recommendations for TAC was a paper which I had received
and recommended as Editor for the LMS, but which was rejected on grounds
of length. I therefore asked i the author if he was willing for it to be published asap in TAC.

The advantages of purely electronic publishing are of course quick
publication and access, once a paper is accepted, and low costs. Indeed
the work for the paper is done by the author, the referee, the editor,
and the copy editor, who in the above cases are all academics. So the
financial support if any comes in effect usually from their universities.

So I was somewhat surprised by the costs allocated by the LMS for the JCM, of £380k over 18 years.

Indeed my proposal in the late 1990s for a Welsh Mathematical Journal
(electronic) and for which I had obtained a promise of Welsh Development
Agency funding of £6k, was turned down by a committee of the
University of Wales partly on the grounds that the LMS had required an
allocated £60k for this new e-journal JCM. I had thought the idea that
Wales ought to have at least one academic journal would get support in

It would therefore be interesting to know how the figure of £380k over
18 years is actually arrived at.

It is difficult to make a judgement on the reported failure of the
Journal of Computational Mathematics to reach certain targets unless one
knows what those targets were, in order to make and evaluate comparisons.

As an example, one of the difficulties for small or new journals not
supported by big publishers is to get listing by Reuters ISI. I once did a small survey of Chief Editors of small mathematical journals and found considerable resentment of ISI at rejections for unknown reasons (and lack of courtesy). ISI targets are unpublished. But they make a LOT of money from their listings.

My support for the continuation of the LMS Journal of Computational Mathematics is also partly based on the view that it is important for a Society largely based on Pure Mathematics to have some hand in the area of computation, particularly symbolic computation.

Ronnie Brown

Dear Colleagues

Journal of Computational Mathematics

Thank you for your letter to Council calling for a Special General Meeting of the Society. The request is in order and we will organise an SGM in accordance with the Statutes.

In view of the quite understandable disappointment around the decision at the last Council meeting not to include JCM in the list of journals the LMS will publish with their commercial publisher it might be helpful to summarise some of the salient points raised in discussion and leading to that decision. Perhaps the most important point from my own perspective was the high priority, expressed in the Council discussion, for supporting this critical area of mathematics and computation with quality publications in a more effective manner. Speaking personally, I am very disappointed that this decision was necessary – but do think that it was the right decision. The key to the future is some new member-generated proposals to fill the space that is computational number theory, computational group theory and the mathematics of computational science, with high quality LMS publications that can achieve the standing and sustainability of other recently established journals, such as Nonlinearity, and the Journal of Topology.

To give some perspective and context, the JCM was set up by LMS Council in 1998. It had an initial budget of £130k to cover its launch and the original intention was to create a quality journal in this area, one that was ultimately sustainable.  Attempts, between 2000 and 2002, to improve sustainability through a subscription model failed. The initial budget was spent by the end of 2003. The quality of the journal was patchy with a low impact but with excellent papers in specific sub-fields. In 2010 further efforts were made to promote the journal. When Council reviewed the position of the JCM at its meeting on 29 June 2012, CUP (and other publishers) remained unwilling to sell the journal. The Publications Committee declined an open access fee model, fearing that it would further damage the brand and would likely stop the best authors from submitting papers to the journal.

By the time of the review of the journal by Council in 2012 the total direct support provided to the journal over its by then 15 year existence, was £380k. Council took the decision to make one last effort to improve the quality and visibility of the journal.  It set the journal specific performance targets to be achieved over the following three years with a review to consider possible closure at the end of that period.

It was against the set performance targets that the current Council reviewed the journal at its meeting in October this year.  These goals were not entirely met, but Publications Committee had worked with the current editors on a plan for a way forward which was approved at its meeting last September, and which the Publications Secretary subsequently recommended to Council. At that meeting Council was provided with the details of the progress of the journal and the proposal for its future development, by way of a paper introduced by the Publications Secretary. There was a lengthy discussion on the issue, including that the performance of the journal was mixed in the sense that in some areas it was doing a good deal better than in others, that there seemed to be difficulty in identifying new editors of an appropriate calibre, that the Society had been attempting to improve the success of the journal for the 18 years since its inception with relatively few results.

Following this, Council decided that the Society would do better by this subject area to draw a line under this journal and start afresh with a new title or titles supporting the areas of mathematics and computation. This decision was passed by Council with 12 in favour, 5 abstentions and no one voting against.  I would emphasize that the decision was not at all about income generation, but rather how the Society could best use its resources to support mathematics, and in this context, particularly computational mathematics.

The decision was a matter of judgement, of regret, and of looking for better alternatives; there were arguments for alternatives, and many were expressed at the Council meeting. In my view Council, in this nem com decision, was doing exactly what is asked of them – trying to do what works best for mathematics in an uncertain world.

Yours sincerely


Professor Terry Lyons FRSE FLSW FRS


Posted by: Administrator | 11/11/2015

Tim Gowers: The LMS Journal of Computation and Mathematics

An extract from Tim Gowers‘ blog post Interesting times in academic publishing:

There is a story brewing at the LMS, which made the decision to close one of its journals, the LMS Journal of Computation and Mathematics, which has been going since 1998. Somebody with a paper submitted to the journal told me that he received an email saying the following.


I am writing with news that may have a bearing on your consideration of publishing your article in the LMS JCM, ‘[TITLE OF THE PAPER]’, by [FIRST-NAME LAST-NAME]

As you may be aware, the LMS Journal of Computation and Mathematics has been running for some years as a ‘free’ journal and the costs of publishing the journal have been borne by the London Mathematical Society. From the outset, it was intended that the journal should progress to at least break even and, for a few years, it ran as a subscription journal but did not manage to acquire sufficient support from libraries to cover the costs of subscription management. Over the last few years, we have been considering how to best get the journal to a satisfactory and successful state and, last Friday, the LMS Council (whose members are the Officers and Trustees of the London Mathematical Society) considered the LMS Publications Committee’s proposal for the JCM, which included moving the journal to a gold open access model.

However, the LMS Council did not accept the proposal, and decided instead that the journal should be closed, one reason being that it felt the move to a gold open access model would likely lead to a slow decline that could be more damaging to its reputation. Council felt that the general area of computation and mathematics was one that the Society should, in the long run, continue to be present in, but thought that there were probably better ways to use its resources in this direction. Of course the Society will continue to make the papers already published available in perpetuity.

While we are happy to continue the process of publication of your paper, we are giving all authors yet to be published the opportunity to withdraw their papers. We will continue to publish any papers still in the pipeline providing you are willing to continue.

If you wish to withdraw your paper, please let us know and we will do this on your behalf. If you do not wish to withdraw your paper, no further action is necessary on your part.

Best wishes,

Katherine Wright

Katherine Wright
Assistant Editor, London Mathematical Society

Not too surprisingly, this has annoyed a lot of people. The following letter, with many signatures, has been sent to the LMS Council to urge them to reverse the decision.

In accordance with Statute 19 of the LMS Charter and Statutes, we, members of the LMS, make a requisition to convene a Special General Meeting of the Society; the object of the meeting shall be the reversal of the LMS Council’s decision to close down The LMS Journal of Computation and Mathematics.

The Council’s decision to close the Journal seems to conflict with the public benefit statement of the Trustees’ Annual Report. Moreover, closing The LMS Journal of Computation and Mathematics may be at odds with the charitable aims of the LMS as spelled out in its Charter. Indeed, Article 3 of the Charter says:

“The objects for which the Society is incorporated shall be: […]

(vi) To *make grants of money* or donations in aid of mathematical investigations or *the publication of mathematical works* [our emphasis] or other matters or things for the purpose of promoting invention and research in mathematical science, or its applications, or in subjects connected therewith; […]”

We trust that our requisition will be treated in line with Statute 19 of the LMS Charter and Statutes:

“19. The Council shall within twenty-eight days of the receipt of a requisition in writing of not less than twenty Members of the Society stating the objects for which the meeting is desired convene a General Meeting of the Society. If upon a requisition the Council fails to convene a Special General Meeting within twenty-eight days of a receipt of the requisition then a Special General Meeting to be held within three months of the expiration of the said period of twenty-eight days may be convened by the President or the requisitionists.”

The LMS Journal of Computation and Mathematics is an electronic journal, so very cheap to run. Perhaps the LMS feels that to run a cheap journal at a small loss sets a dangerous precedent, given that it depends so heavily on the income it gets from its journals. But some sort of line has surely been crossed when a mathematical society closes down a journal that is successful mathematically on the grounds that it is insufficiently successful economically.

Posted by: Administrator | 20/06/2009


This blog was started  as a space where LMS members can have an informal discussion about the future of our Society.

Please use this blog to express your opinion; every post is open to comments. If you would like to make a primary posting, just email the text to futurelms [at] Our mediation is a technical requirement (only administrators can post or register people as blog’s contributors); we don’t aim to censor contributions. We look forward to hearing from you.



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