ADASS Publications

1. A journal for the astronomical computing community?

2. The Future of ADASS Proceedings

Gray, Norman and Lewis, Jim

This Birds of a Feather session covers two closely related topics which will be presented in two parts.

Part 1: A journal for the astronomical computing community? (Norman Gray)

The ADASS conferences provide a regular focus for those engaged in astronomical computing. ADASS proceedings provide a very valuable record of each conference, but imperfectly record the activities of the ADASS community, for a number of reasons: (i) appearing after a year, they often present out-of-date snapshots of rapidly-developing projects; (ii) being unrefereed, there is no quality threshold, nor are authors pushed to justify and elaborate where needed to provide the best account of their material; (iii) being tied to the annual conference cycle, projects are reported upon when the opportunity arises, not when they have reached appropriate milestones; and (iv) having restricted page lengths, topics receive only brief coverage.

This matters for at least two reasons. Firstly, material from most ADASS conference papers will be published nowhere else, so valuable technical lessons risk being lost. Secondly, as more people pursue a career in astronomical computing, it becomes more important that they have a means of recording their attainment and a track record of refereed journal papers, with associated citation statistics, is what potential employers will most readily understand.

Open source publishing systems make the establishment of a community-driven astronomical computing journal possible, but is it necessary? Would mainstream astronomy journals publish more technical papers if they were submitted? Are there computing journals that would welcome these papers? What are the benefits of refereeing to this community and would it devote the time needed to referee? Does the lack of refereed publications hinder the career progress of its members?

This BoF will address these and related questions. Most time will be devoted to contributions from the floor, rather than prepared talks. A few contributions will be sought to initiate and shape debate, and those interested in making one are invited to contact the organisers.

Part 2: The Future of ADASS Proceedings (Jim Lewis)

One of the principal aims of any conference is to provide a snapshot of progress on a topic at a given time. This is usually accomplished through publication of proceedings which, although they are unrefereed, are meant to be an accurate representation of what was actually discussed. The traditional format for this is in the form of a book (published, in the case of ADASS, by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific Conference Series). Proceedings published in this way have always had to have page limits for each contribution and restrictions to the type of graphics that can be used and this is in order to conform to what the format of a book can accomodate. The amount of time required for editors to gather together all the contributions and ensure they comply with these restrictions can be considerable and it's often the case that the proceedings for ADASS take about a year to reach the public. Although these are perrenial irritations for both authors and editors, this is a model that has served astronomy well for many years.

The ADASS conference is now twenty years old and in that time there have been tremendous changes in the way that information is disseminated. The advent of the Internet, very inexpensive (or even free) software tools, fast search engines (e.g. Google) and electronic readers (e.g. Kindle) have revolutionised publishing and information exchange. People all over the world are choosing to get their information electronically rather than from printed books and journals and this is not just restricted to astronomy.

With that in mind it is time that we took a long hard look at how we publish the proceedings for ADASS. Last year the Program Organising Committee set up a subcommittee to look into the question of whether we need to change our publication procedure and if so then by how much. Some of the options explored included:

  • the status quo, that is continue publishing a book with ASPCS
  • retain the book as our primary means of publication, but change to publishers who may be a bit cheaper and faster
  • retain the book, but also try to negociate a deal with the publishers to provide open access to electronic versions of the proceedings
  • get rid of the book format altogether and attempt to find a publisher who will host an electronic version of the proceedings
  • get rid of the book format altogether and host the publication of the electronic proceedings ourselves.

All of these options have their strengths and weaknesses and in this part of the BoF we'll give brief presentations on the arguments for and against each. We are hoping a lively discussion from the audience will ensue and that all possible options can be reviewed openly. An audience vote will be taken on Wednesday during first morning plenary session which we hope will reflect consensus within the ADASS community.

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