The eScholarship Publishing program of the University of California is pleased to announce the launch of Combinatorial Theory, a new mathematics journal expecting its first issue in Spring 2021. This journal will publish papers in Combinatorics, an active area of mathematical research with applications throughout the mathematical, computational and natural sciences. Combinatorial Theory is owned by mathematicians who believe in the importance of unfettered access to research as a means of engaging the global combinatorial community. As such, it is an open access publication, with no fees for authors or readers. 

Combinatorial Theory was founded in September 2020, when most of the editorial board for one of the oldest and most prestigious journals in Combinatorics, the Elsevier-owned Journal of Combinatorial Theory, Ser. A (JCTA), announced their intention to resign to start a new, open access journal. The new journal will deepen and broaden the impact of its predecessor, as well as embark on an inclusive vision that is international in scope, with a diverse editorial team seeking top research papers from combinatorial mathematicians worldwide. The journal is committed to fairness and mitigation of implicit biases in its selection processes, including double-blind refereeing, where the identities of authors and referees are not revealed to each other. This makes it a pioneer among mathematics research journals.

Federico Ardila, Professor of Mathematics at San Francisco State University, Former Editor-In-Chief of JCTA, and Advisory Editor of Combinatorial Theory, explains: “With the founding of Combinatorial Theory, we are asking some important questions about mathematical publishing. How can the combinatorics community work together to recognize the most interesting, impactful, and well-written mathematical papers in our field? How do we make them accessible worldwide, with no fees for authors or readers? How should we structure our decision-making processes, in order to reduce the biases that can prevent us from finding those excellent papers? How can we communicate our processes transparently, to assure every author that their submission will be treated fairly? We do not pretend that these questions have easy answers, but we are working hard to find them. We are filled with hope at this opportunity to lay new, more solid foundations for the way we publish.”

The journal’s editors are also committed to making visible the labor of faculty who manage an open access journal, labor that helps advance the field and expand readership but is largely uncredited and under-resourced:  “In addition to ensuring broad access to leading research in this field, we seek to change the culture of how editorial contributions to open access journals are valued in math departments and universities,” says Hélène Barcelo, Deputy Director of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, former Editor-in-Chief of JCTA, and Interim Editor of Combinatorial Theory. “We plan to report on the effort involved in transitioning to an open access publishing model, explaining the need for time release or other recognition or compensation for faculty who are managing editors of open access journals. Diamond open access publications are not ‘free’ – and a good part of their cost rests in the labor of those who run them. We must be clear about the extent of that labor and what is necessary to ensure long-term sustainability of these kinds of efforts.” 

Recognizing the resource challenges of a shift from subscription-based to open access publishing, the editorial board members have also worked to ensure a sustainable funding model for Combinatorial Theory. The journal will be included in the Open Access Community Investment Program, piloted by LYRASIS and Transitioning Society Publications to Open Access (TSPOA), with the goal of helping to match libraries, consortia, foundations, departments and other prospective scholarly publishing funders with non-profit publishers and journal editorial boards that are seeking financial investments to sustain or transition journals or books to Open Access (OA) publishing. 

According to Rachael Samberg, Scholarly Communication Officer, UC  Berkeley; steering committee member, TSPOA; and co-developer of the pilot with LYRASIS’ Sharla Lair: “We developed the Open Access Community Investment Program because we wanted to address a key problem: How libraries, consortia, and other scholarly publishing stakeholders decide what open access content to invest in or fund. Faced with many individual journals seeking funding, and little data to use for decision-making, it is difficult to administer or participate in OA funding opportunities. The pilot is meant to build and test an infrastructure, criteria-based vetting mechanism, and outreach efforts to help journals and projects sustainably publish open access. We’re thrilled for Combinatorial Theory to participate in this initiative.”

Combinatorial Theory will be published on UC’s eScholarship platform, managed by the California Digital Library (CDL), and will use EditFlow for its submission and peer review workflows. The journal will join nearly 90 other UC-affiliated, open access journals published by eScholarship across a broad range of disciplines and serving a global audience.  

“We are delighted to support the combinatorial mathematics community in this new publishing venture,” says Catherine Mitchell, Director of Publishing, Archives and Digitization at CDL. “The editorial vision for Combinatorial Theory is perfectly aligned with the values of openness and equity that drive CDL’s library publishing program, and we relish the opportunity to provide publishing services to support this effort. We look forward to helping this new, transformative journal thrive in the years to come.”

eScholarship Publishing provides comprehensive publication services for UC-affiliated departments, research units, publishing programs, and individual scholars who seek to publish original, open access journals, books, conference proceedings, and other scholarship. Our journals program, in particular, supports publications that traverse standard disciplinary boundaries, explore new publishing models, and/or seek to reach professionals in applied fields beyond academia.

LYRASIS is a non-profit membership organization that supports enduring access to shared academic, scientific and cultural heritage through leadership in open technologies, content services, digital solutions and collaboration with archives, libraries, museums and knowledge communities worldwide.

Transitioning Society Publications to Open Access (TSPOA), is a group of like-minded scholarly communication professionals from libraries, academic institutions, publishers, societies, and consortia. We established TSPOA to provide support, advocacy, and referral services for societies and publishers of society journals to help with transitioning to open access publishing. 

For more information, please contact: 
Catherine Mitchell


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