Here’s a nice idea: a journal for people to write about open problems, with the aim of inspiring someone to have a go at solving them. Open Problems in Mathematics is a new open-access journal set up by Krzysztof Burdzy and a few others, and it’s online now.
It’s a very low-stakes journal, presumably because the editors want to encourage people to actually write things for it, and nothing published there should be new work, so it won’t be controversial. Thus, the barrier to entry is low: in order for a paper to be published, the only requirements are that submissions can be at most four pages long, and they must be “sponsored” by a mathematician who’s an expert in the field being discussed. For the sake of a definition, they’ve said a sponsor must be someone who’s had their work cited more than 100 times, according to MathSciNet.
Currently, there are just four papers published, encouraging readers to consider the number of favorite points of a simple random walk, the “hot spots” conjecture, stationary distributions and correlation inequalities for asymmetric exclusion processes (maybe take a walk before reading that one), and the polynomial Freiman-Ruzsa conjecture.
That last paper was written by Ben Green, who says the publishing process was remarkably easy:
As an aside, the time it took from hearing about this new venture (via Louigi Addario-Berry on Facebook) to having an article published was less than 4 hours, which included writing the article (and sourcing free-to-view links for all 10 articles cited), obtaining a written endorsement of it from Timothy Gowers on the other side of the planet, submitting it and having it accepted by an editor.
Maybe it’s only that easy for people like Ben Green, but clearly the editorial process is not protracted. That light touch has consequences – I immediately noticed that the paper on random walks misspells Erdős’s name as Erdös, something which would hopefully have been caught by an editor. Decide for yourself if that’s a good reason not to run this journal.
It’s a pity they’re currently operating the journal through the dire Open Journal Systems software – maybe someone friendly will help them out with setting up a better system. As it is, it took me quite a while to realise Volume 1 was hidden behind the Archives link (obvious when you say it out loud), and it’s annoying that PDFs open in a tiny frame by default. But hey, there’s MathJax in abstracts, so it’s not all bad!
Open Problems in Mathematics
via Ben Green on Google+.