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A few days ago, inspired by this recent post of Tim Gowers, a web page entitled “the cost of knowledge” has been set up as a location for mathematicians and other academics to declare a protest against the academic publishing practices of Reed Elsevier, in particular with regard to their exceptionally high journal prices, their policy of “bundling” journals together so that libraries are forced to purchase subscriptions to large numbers of low-quality journals in order to gain access to a handful of high-quality journals, and their opposition to the open access movement (as manifested, for instance, in their lobbying in support of legislation such as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Research Works Act (RWA)). [These practices have been documented in a number of places; this wiki page, which was set up in response to Tim’s post, collects several relevant links for this purpose. Some of the other commercial publishers have exhibited similar behaviour, though usually not to the extent that Elsevier has, which is why this particular publisher is the focus of this protest.] At the protest site, one can publicly declare a refusal to either publish at an Elsevier journal, referee for an Elsevier journal, or join the board of an Elsevier journal.
(In the past, the editorial boards of several Elsevier journals have resigned over the pricing policies of the journal, most famously the board of Topology in 2006, but also the Journal of Algorithms in 2003, and a number of journals in other sciences as well. Several libraries, such as those of Harvard and Cornell, have also managed to negotiate an unbundling of Elsevier journals, but most libraries are still unable to subscribe to such journals individually.)
For a more thorough discussion as to why such a protest is warranted, please see Tim’s post on the matter (and the 100+ comments to that post). Many of the issues regarding Elsevier were already known to some extent to many mathematicians (particularly those who have served on departmental library committees), several of whom had already privately made the decision to boycott Elsevier; but nevertheless it is important to bring these issues out into the open, to make them commonly known as opposed to merely mutually known. (Amusingly, this distinction is also of crucial importance in my favorite logic puzzle, but that’s another story.) One can also see Elsevier’s side of the story in this response to Tim’s post by David Clark (the Senior Vice President for Physical Sciences at Elsevier).
For my own part, though I have sent about 9% of my papers in the past to Elsevier journals (with one or two still in press), I have now elected not to submit any further papers to these journals, nor to serve on their editorial boards, though I will continue refereeing some papers from these journals. As of this time of writing, over five hundred mathematicians and other academics have also signed on to the protest in the four days that the site has been active.
Admittedly, I am fortunate enough to be at a stage of career in which I am not pressured to publish in a very specific set of journals, and as such, I am not making a recommendation as to what anyone else should do or not do regarding this protest. However, I do feel that it is worth spreading awareness, at least, of the fact that such protests exist (and some additional petitions on related issues can be found at the previously mentioned wiki page).
[Some advertising on behalf of my department. The inaugural 2009 scholarship was announced on this blog last year. – T.]
The UCLA Math Undergraduate Merit Scholarship provides for full tuition, and a room and board allowance for 4 years. In addition, scholarship recipients follow an individualized accelerated program of study, as determined after consultation with UCLA faculty. [For instance, this year’s scholarship recipient is currently taking my graduate real analysis class – T.] The program of study leads to a Masters degree in Mathematics in four years.
[A little bit of advertising on behalf of my maths dept. Unfortunately funding for this scholarship was secured only very recently, so the application deadline is extremely near, which is why I am publicising it here, in case someone here may know of a suitable applicant. – T.]
UCLA Mathematics has launched a new scholarship to be granted to an entering freshman who has an exceptional background and promise in mathematics. The UCLA Math Undergraduate Merit Scholarship provides for full tuition, and a room and board allowance. To be considered for fall 2010, candidates must apply on or before November 30, 2009. Details and online application for the scholarship are available here.
- 12th grader applying to UCLA for admission in Fall of 2010.
- Outstanding academic record and standardized test scores.
- Evidence of exceptional background and promise in mathematics, such as: placing in the top 25% in the U.S.A. Mathematics Olympiad (USAMO) or comparable (International Mathematics Olympiad level) performance on a similar national competition.
- Strong preference will be given to International Mathematics Olympiad medalists.
I’m lagging behind the rest of the maths blog community in reporting this, but there is an interesting (and remarkably active) new online maths experiment that has just been set up, called Math Overflow, in which participants can ask and answer research maths questions (though homework questions are discouraged). It reminds me to some extent of the venerable newsgroup sci.math, but with more modern, “Web 2.0” features (for instance, participants can earn “points” for answering questions or rating comments, which then give administrative privileges, which seems to encourage participation). The activity and turnover rate is quite remarkable: perhaps an order of magnitude higher than a typical maths blog, and two orders higher than a typical maths wiki. It’s not clear that the model is transferable to these two settings, though.
There is an active discussion of Math Overflow over at the Secret Blogging Seminar. I don’t have much to add to that discussion, except to say that I am happy to see continued experimentation in various online mathematics formats; we still don’t fully understand what makes an online experiment succeed or fail (or get stuck halfway between the two extremes), and more data points like this are very valuable.
In the discussion on what mathematicians need to know about blogging mentioned in the previous post, it was noted that there didn’t seem to be a single location on the internet to find out about mathematical blogs. Actually, there is a page, but it has been relatively obscure – the Mathematics/Statistics subpage of the Academic Blogs wiki. It does seem like a good idea to have a reasonably comprehensive page containing all the academic mathematics blogs that are out there (as well as links to other relevant sites), so I put my own maths blogroll onto the page, and encourage others to do so also (though you may wish to read the FAQ for the wiki first).
It may also be useful to organise the list into sublists, and to add more commentary on each individual blog. (In theory, each blog is supposed to have its own sub-page, though in practice it seems that very few blogs do at present.)
From Tim Gowers’ blog comes the announcement that the Tricki – a wiki for various tricks and strategies for proving mathematical results – is now live. (My own articles for the Tricki are also on this blog; also Ben Green has written up an article on using finite fields to prove results about infinite fields which is loosely based on my own post on the topic, which is in turn based on an article of Serre.) It seems to already be growing at a reasonable rate, with many contributors.
[This article was guest authored by Frank Morgan, the vice president of the American Mathematical Society.]
The American Mathematical Society (AMS) has launched a new blog
by and for graduate students, with initial entries ranging from “Finding an Advisor” to “Getting a Job.” Although graduate students have long been institutional members of the AMS, the two groups may not always have fully appreciated each other. Graduate students sometimes wonder why they are getting all this “junk mail,” and AMS governance has had relatively minor contact with graduate students. In fact, graduate students are the future of the AMS, and conversely they need the AMS and its support for mathematics. Hence I think that it is a bright sign of the times to see the AMS launching this blog by and for graduate students. Graduate students interested in joining the editorial board or others interested in helping out can email me at Frank.Morgan@williams.edu; we seek a large and diverse board. Meanwhile check out the new blog and post some comments on the entries you find there.
For the last ten years or so, I used to maintain a list of conferences in the area of analysis & PDE (see e.g. this page for a partial archive of this conference list). However, due to many other demands on my time, I eventually ceased to maintain it, instead passing it over to the Harmonic Analysis and Related Problems (HARP) group that was supported by the European Mathematical Society. Unfortunately, the EMS funding ran out a few years back, the HARP group dissolved, and so the page drifted for a while.
This week, I talked to my good friend Jim Colliander (who maintains the DispersiveWiki) and he agreed to host a new version of the conferences page on the Wiki, where it can be collaboratively updated. It is rather sparse right now, but I hope people will contribute to it, either by adding new conferences and related content, or by cleaning up the organisation of existing content. I have also migrated a list of lecture notes and courses in analysis and PDE which is badly in need of updating.
[One can presumably use the Wiki to also host other items of this nature than just a conference list; any suggestions for expanding the page would also be welcome.]
My good friend Tim Gowers has just started an experimental “massively collaborative mathematical project” over at his blog. The project is entitled “A combinatorial approach to density Hales-Jewett“, and the aim is to see if progress can be made on this problem by many small contributions by a large number of people, as opposed to the traditional model of a few very large contributions by a small number of people (see this article for more on the “rules of the game”, and this article for why this particular project was picked as a test project). I think this is an interesting experiment, and hopefully a successful one, though it is far too early to tell as yet.
I can describe the problem here. Let n be a large integer, and let be the set of all strings of length n using the alphabet , thus for instance . A combinatorial line in is a triple of points in that can be formed by taking a string of length n using the alphabet with at least one occurrence of the “wildcard” x, and then substituting the values of 1, 2, 3 for the wildcard. For instance, the string would lead to the combinatorial line in . The (k=3) case of the density Hales-Jewett theorem of Furstenberg and Katznelson asserts:
Density Hales-Jewett theorem. Let . Then if n is sufficiently large depending on , every subset of of density at least contains a combinatorial line.
Furstenberg and Katznelson’s proof uses ergodic theory, and in particular does not obviously give any bound as to how large n has to be depending on before the theorem takes effect. No other proofs of this theorem are currently known. So it would be desirable to have a combinatorial proof of the k=3 density Hales-Jewett theorem. Since this theorem implies Roth’s theorem, and Roth’s theorem has a combinatorial proof based on the triangle removal lemma (see e.g. my Simons lecture on the subject, or Tim Gowers’ background article for the project), it is thus natural to ask whether the density Hales-Jewett theorem has a proof based on something similar to the triangle removal lemma. This is basically the question being explored in the above project. (Some further motivation for this problem can be found here.)