[SciPy-dev] Online SciPy Journal

Travis Oliphant oliphant at ee.byu.edu
Tue Oct 3 11:11:16 CDT 2006

Fernando Perez wrote:

>I think this is an important and wortwhile idea, and I'm willing to help.
>However, I think it's worth clarifying the intent of this effort to make sure
>it really does something useful.
Thank you.  Much of what you have written I've been concerned about as 

>The GAP process (I can confirm that what Robert mentioned is what I had in
>mind when I spoke with Travis, we can request further details from Steve
>Linton at some point if we deem it necessary) addresses specifically the
>issue of code contributions to GAP as peer-reviewed packages, without going
>'all the way' into the creation of a Journal, which is an expensive
>proposition (at the very least from a time and effort perspective).
>There are basically, I think, two issues at play here:
>1. How to ensure that time spent on developing open source packages which
>are truly useful is acknowledged by 'traditional' academia, for things like
>hiring and tenure reviews, promotions, grant applications (this means that
>any changes we target need to make their way into the funding agencies), etc.
>2. The question about having a Journal, covering modern scientific computing
>development, practices and algorithms, and with a more or less narrow Python
>I am convinced that #1 is critically important: I believe strongly that the
>open source model produces /better/ tools, more flexibly, and in a vastly more
>pleasant fashion, than mailing a big check every year to your favorite vendor.
>But if many of us want a professional research future that involves these
>ideas, we're going to need them to be acknowledged by the proverbial bean
>counters.  Else, committing significant amounts of time to open source
>developments will look an awful lot like professional suicide.

#1 is my priority as well.  When I talked about a Journal I meant it as 
a name one could use when citing #1.  In other-words the Journal is a 
way to archive and document the contributions to open-source packaging.

>The GAP developers seem to have found that a clearly defined process of review
>is enough to satisfy #1 without having to create a journal.  It may be worth
>at least considering this option before going full bore with a journal idea.

>In any case, I'm very interested in this and I'm willing to help, and I didn't
>mean to undermine the enthusiasm displayed so far.

I don't think you've undermined enthusiasm.  You have identified what we 
should be thinking about.  As I've looked around at what's available, 
there are already a host of journals one can submit "algorithms" to.  
I'd like to figure out a way we can get "peer-review" credit for 
contributions to the open-source world by establishing some sort of 
peer-review process.

At my university (BYU) two things are looked at for 
"scholarship"-points.  1) peer-review and 2) novelty.

The #1 we can easily argue for with open-source software.  The novelty 
issue is what most people looking at contributions to scientific 
computing with Python will probably wonder about.   Is code that 
implements some other-wise well known algorithm in Python "novel".   
Here is what my University documents indicate about scholarship evidence:

"It should be of high quality and contain some element of originality, 
either in the form of new knowledge, new understanding, fresh insight, 
or unique skill or interpretation"

Other documents may differ, but I think a strong case can be made for a 
lot (but not all) of the software that gets written for SciPy has at 
least "unique skill or interpretation" but perhaps also "new 
understanding" and "fresh insight."   

Other factors include:  the definition of "well-known" algorithm is 
usually quite subjective.  A lot of "well-known" algorithms actually 
require quite a bit of decision-making / tweaking to implement in a 
particular language.   Not only that, but the design of an interface to 
code is also an aspect of code writing that could be considered scholarly.

I really think that having well-stated goals and a good peer-review 
process and someway to "cite" the work would go a long way to solving 
the problem of "how can I get credit for this software"


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