MathGen and open publication

Nate Eldridge, a postdoc at Cornell, recently got a randomly generated mathematics paper accepted at an open access journal.  Obviously this is hilarious (I think his responses to the referee comments may be the best part), but I’m troubled by two aspects of the response on his blog:

  1. Many commenters seem to think that it would be a great idea to spend $500 to get this nonsense paper published.  This is, um, questionable.  Luckily Nate deals with this in a follow-up post.
  2. Many commenters seem to think that this is an indictment of mathematics generally, or of open access publishing generally.  Nate discusses the first strain of comment here, but he only mentions the second indirectly.  In fact open access publishing in mathematics has a surprisingly long history: the excellent Electronic Journal of Combinatorics was founded in 1994 and has always been free to both authors and readers.  (My understanding is that for a while it was also published in a hard-copy form available for subscription but that this is no longer the case.)  And I believe there are several other examples of reputable open access journals in and outside of mathematics, as well.  People interested in science (broadly defined) should be interested in promoting open access, not tearing it down; the right target to mock here are bad journals, not open access ones.
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