Posted by: Administrator | 07/02/2016

Professor Derek Holt: Floor Statement to LMS SGM, 5th February 2016

I am Derek Holt from Warwick, the current Editor-in-Chief of the LMS JCM. I
would like to make a number of points, but I will start by clarifying my own
position as Editor-in-Chief. In the event of the JCM being revived, I would
be willing to carry on in this position in the short term, but ideally I
would prefer to step down and be replaced within a year or two. But if the
LMS Council wanted to relaunch the journal with a new editorial team, then
I would be perfectly happy with that decision.

I would like to take issue with one of the points made by the Publications
Secretary in his document opposing the motion. He states there that in
2012 the JCM editors were given some targets for the next few years, and
in early 2015 “it was clear that the targets had not been met, and it was a
moot point as to how much progress had been made towards them”.

There were two specific targets. The first was to increase the volume of
publications by a precisely specified amount without a decrease in quality.
In fact we achieved the prescribed increase in 2013 and exceeded it in 2014 and
2015. (I will come back to the question of quality in a moment.) For example,
in 2015, the target was 30 papers totalling 577 pages, and the actual amount
published was 33 papers totalling 773 pages.

The second target was to publish two sets of conference proceedings within
three years. In the even we only published one, but we will be publishing
another this year (which sadly looks like being the final activity of the
JCM), which will make two in four years. So I would descibe it as a borderline
failure to achieve the targets rather than a clear failure.

On the question of quality, I have been Editor-in-Chief since 2008, and I have
personally approved every paper that has been published since then. I can
honestly say that our criteria for acceptance have not change during this
period, and neither has the overall quality of the published papers. We were
not asked to improve the quality, but to maintain it, which we have done. I
have the impression that the goal posts have been moved in assessing the
extent to which we have achieved the targets set.

The JSC has also been criticised for lack of diversity in the range of
subjects covered. It is true that, in the past, the best papers published have
been in a few specific areas, particularly Computational Number Theory and
Group Theory, and I would not dispute that the strongest papers continue to be
in these areas. A new editor and numerous new editorial advisers have been
appointed in the past few years with a view to addressing this situation.
After looking again in detail at the papers published by the JSC in 2015, I
see clear evidence of progress in this area, and a generally broad range of
topics covered including, for example, numerical solution of differential
equations. But it takes time to build up a good reputation in new areas,
and it seems a great pity that we have been so abruptly curtailed just as we
were beginning to make some headway.

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