Sebastian Pokutta's Blog

Mathematics and related topics

Rejecta Mathematica – your paper just got an extra life

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A few weeks ago The Economist ran an article (thx for the pointer) on Rejecta Mathematica, an open access journal that offers an outlet for papers that do not necessarily fit well into any other journal or have been rejected for various other reasons. From The Economist article:

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.

The inaugural issue from July 2009 is available here. Don’t miss out on the letter from the editors in that issue which provides insight into the why, who, how, and when. From the letter:

First, there is ample evidence that in the traditional review process, significant (even Nobel prize-winning) research is occasionally overlooked and groundbreaking work is some-times actively shunned [2–4]. Perhaps this is most dramatically illustrated in the fact that at least “36 future Nobel Laureates encountered resistance on [the] part of scientific journal editors or referees to manuscripts that dealt with discoveries that on [a] later date would assure them the Nobel Prize” [5]. While it would be presumptuous for us to assume that we can spot significant work that others may have missed, we can provide a venue to introduce rejected work to the community and  increase the chances that its value will be appreciated sooner rather than later.

Second, there is also evidence that a research community can derive value from a centralized repository of rejected papers, even when (and perhaps especially when) the results are either incorrect or not significant enough to warrant consideration for a ma jor international prize. Rejecta Mathematica can benefit authors looking for feedback on their work, wanting to warn the community against false starts (i.e., the classic “null results” that never see the light of day, only to be repeated by others) [6, 7], or wanting to illuminate the occasional vagaries of the peer review process to enhance accountability and scientific integrity [8]. Our journal can also benefit readers who want access to “minor results” that may be useful but not publishable in isolation. Indeed, Rejecta Mathematica has existed in folklore for many years as a fictitious place to send papers that were never to see the light of day, and the concept of a formal repository for rejected papers hoping to be discovered and revived (called Rejuvenatable Mathematics) has also been proposed [9].

Written by Sebastian

August 18, 2009 at 8:05 pm

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