Committee on Publications

O'Hare Hilton, O'Hare Airport, Chicago

23 October 1999

Meeting Summary

Roy Adler, Donald Babbitt, Joan Birman (Chair of the Taskforce to Review the AMS Book Program), Felix Browder, Robert Bryant, Robert Daverman, John Ewing, Jay Goldman, Donna Harmon, Jane Kister, Abel Klein, Donald Saari and Srinivasa R. Varadhan (CPub Chair).

1. Report from the Subcommittee to Review the AMS Book Program.

A report from the Subcommittee (Joan Birman, Chair; John Conway; Richard Lyons; and Peter Shalen) was presented to the Committee on Publications (CPub). The Subcommittee was charged with reviewing progress in the book program since the previous review in 1995. It focused on three areas - staff (pricing, advertising, distribution, personnel changes), authors (perceptions, comparison with other publishers), and editorial committees (selection, process, relationship with staff). It did not focus on the finished product, that is, the scientific quality of the books, and recommended that a future review should include this aspect. The review concluded with an overview that read in part:

The AMS staff has clearly taken great steps in acquisitions, marketing, and promotion, and continued aggressiveness in these areas is critical. As Ewing noted, "The number of new titles has increased steadily,; unit sales of books are up in the past several years; the other major publishers view the AMS as serious competition for the best books. But scholarly book publishing moves slowly: Good programs are built by reputation, not by snazzy advertising or self-promotion. One key ingredient in building a great book program is steady and sustained effort for many years; another is attention to all aspects of the program." It seems to be a little bit early to make a sharp judgement as to how well the book program is doing in accomplishing the goals of "growth and response to change". We feel that this issue needs to be re-evaluated in a few years, when more data has been accumulated.

The Subcommittee also commented favorably on various aspects of the book program, including the work of the acquisitions staff. It made some general recommendations, however, and the first one requires action by the Council.

  • CPub endorsed the recommendation that the charge to all AMS Book Editorial Committees be expanded to include seeking reprinted books appropriate for their series. Reprinted books are an important way to build the quality of the various series, especially textbooks at the graduate level. Distributing responsibility for reprinted books to all committees (and staff) means that the Reprinted Books Committee can be discharged, and CPub unanimously made that recommendation to the Council.
  • CPub also unanimously made the recommendation that the Acquisitions group (editorial boards and staff) aggressively seek more textbooks suitable for first and second year graduate courses in the Graduate Studies in Mathematics series.
  • And CPub endorsed the recommendation of the Subcommittee that the Acquisitions group increase its effort to acquire books explaining the beauty and importance of mathematics to the general public, citing Brian Green's recent book The Elegant Universe as an example.

It should also be noted that the Subcommittee had no specific recommendations regarding committee structure at this time, except to encourage the Editorial Boards Committee to consult AMS staff when making decisions on appointments.

2. Cornell Euclid Project.

Don Babbitt discussed the Euclid Project, which is spearheaded by Sarah Thomas, University Librarian, Cornell University. The purpose of the project is twofold. First, the project aims to work with some of the main research mathematical societies (the AMS, the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, and the European Mathematical Society) to establish a standard for metadata attached to a mathematical article (roughly, a bibliographic description of an article) and to establish guidelines for authoring tools to produce the metadata. Such standards would be especially useful in reference linking. Second, the project wants to help a selected set of small print-only mathematics journals go online. The above three societies plan to participate in this project.

3. Report from Don Babbitt on the Past Year in Publications.

Don Babbitt reported on actions of the Society as a result of last years CPub meeting. The AMS closed down its preprint server and in its place created a (worldwide) Directory of Mathematics Preprint and e-Print servers on e-MATH. The list is regularly updated and checked for broken links. The Publisher also surveyed the editorial boards of the four primary AMS journals to see if they would be willing to accept the URL of the location of an article on a preprint or e-print server as an allowable way to submit an article to their journal. The results of the survey were mixed. As a result, the following sentence was placed in the "Initial Submission" section of the four journals: If an editor is agreeable, an electronic manuscript prepared in TeX or LaTeX may be submitted by pointing to an appropriate URL on a preprint or e-print server.

Babbitt also discussed various meetings he attended concerned with issues of journal publishing in the Web environment, associated panels on which he participated, and other related activities especially involving the Digital Object Identifier initiative and the related metadata standards issue. The most noteworthy development was the launching of the STIX project, which is an effort to create a large set of licensed, but free, fonts for rendering mathematics online. This project will be mainly paid for by a group of publishers (STIPUB) consisting of the AMS, American Physical Society, American Institute of Physics, American Chemical Society, IEEE, and Elsevier.

4. Report from Jane Kister on the Recent Mathematical Reviews® Editorial Committee (MREC) Meeting.
One of the most important topics discussed at the MREC meeting was the report of the results of a recent survey of the uses of the MR database and MathSciNet. One of the goals of this survey was to determine the change, if any, in the use of the MR database due to MathSciNet, which did not exist at the time of the last (1993) survey. Signed reviews were still highly valued by users while the accuracy of the bibliographic data and author identification were even more highly valued by MathSciNet users than by the print users of the 1993 survey. The extensive new linking from reviews on MathSciNet to full text articles was also reported to CPub.

5. Journal Price Survey.

CPub was informed that a project is underway to produce on e-MATH the results of a survey that will include only price and page information for a selected set of journals. T he data will begin with the most recent four-year period and eventually include 10 years of information. The data has already been collected and the bulk of the surveys have been sent to publishers requesting verification of the data and permission to include the material in the online survey. Data was submitted to publishers in a format essentially identical to what will appear online and they were informed that the AMS would do no further analysis of the data. The AMS will continue to proceed carefully and will have the attorneys review the material prior to electronic posting.

6. Reorganization of Notices.

The proposal to modify the editorial structure of the Notices (see the item in Section 2 of the November 1999 ECBT Agenda) was discussed by CPub. The Committee unanimously endorsed the proposal for approval by the Council.

American Mathematical Society