JBAA papers

Forums General Discussion JBAA papers

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    Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 15:08 on 2012 Jul 25

    I have become concerned that the selection process for JBAA papers may not be "fit for purpose". My concerns are in two areas:-1) It is clear that only a minority of the items currently published as JBAA papers actually fall into the accepted definition of a scientific or learned paper – "a written and published report describing original research results" – and therefore should not be described as such. This is not to say that these submissions should not be published, just not as JBAA papers.2) Based on recent personal experience, it would seem that the process by which JBAA paper submissions are scrutinised (peer review or refereeing) may not be operating in accordance with accepted norms. For example, the results of the review of my paper were given only as a brief summary of a few points made rather than the entire referee’s report being returned to me, as would have been expected. In addition, there was no indication that the referees had made any attempt to suggest how the paper might have been improved for publication (as they are required to do). On the other hand, they did comment on issues which, were they truly independent of the JBAA, were outside their sphere of competence: whether the paper was suitable for the JBAA and whether it would be of interest to the readeship [which is, in any case, irrelevant in the case of a scientific paper]. Finally, there is circumstantial evidence that one of the referees may have been a person with whom I had had extensive discussions about the work being reported: he should thus have declined to review the paper on the ground of prior involvement.I attempted via several emails to raise the second area of concern firstly with the Papers Secretary and then with the Editor of the JBAA but on all occasions received a steadfast refusal to even concede the possibility that dialogue might be entered into, let alone to actually discuss the substantive issues (despite having made it perfectly clear I wished to discuss the general issues, not my paper specifically). Given this response, I felt it would be a waste of time to even raise the first concern.I thus feel I have no alternative but to flag up the matter via the Forum, to see what the Members might have to say on these topics. Personal experience of papers submission (both good and bad, via the BAA and otherwise) would be of interest, together with any views on which types of submission should be deemed acceptable.Over to you!Steve Holmes


    Posted by Gary Poyner at 20:04 on 2012 Jul 25

    I have two papers waiting to be published, and in both cases the referees offered constructive advice in all points raised. I received complete detailed reports from both referees, who were experts in the field relative to both papers. The papers secretary was helpful with his advice and quick to respond to e-mails. I have no complaints in this respect.My only gripe is the time it takes to get papers actually published in the Journal (about one year I think), but this means that the BAAJ has a healthy supply of material waiting to be published. A better scenario than not enough!I have no problem at all with the type of paper which gets through for publication. The BAAJ is readable and varied. Many of the papers are section reports and results from original research (just look at the volume of Variable Star reports over the past few years). In my opinion the quality is extremely high. A top quality Journal.Gary


    Posted by Jeremy at 22:21 on 2012 Jul 25

    I concur with Garys comments. I have submitted perhaps more than my fair share of papers to JBAA and have always felt the way my papers have been treated has been professional and constructive (and similar to my experience in publishing papers in peer-reviewed journals in a completely different branch of science). What has impressed me most is the willingness of referees to provide constructive advice (criticism?) that has helped me to understand and learn more.The referees are individuals, so the type and level of feedback does vary. Sometimes there are detailed reports, other times they are more brief. And the feedback can come from different angles. Thats the nature of the best.The Papers Secretary and the Editor have always been most helpful in dealing with my papers.Regarding the balance of the Journal I like the mix refereed papers,observing updates, less formal articles and news items. The Journal is the house magazine of our Association as well as providing a venue for publishing the results of original research. Go well!Jeremy


    Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 00:40 on 2012 Jul 27

    My thanks to Gary and Jeremy for their comments. It’s good to know that accepted norms are being applied in some instances! However, while I am gratified that they have had good experiences with the papers submission process, one might perhaps say that the application of these norms seems somewhat patchy. As previously remarked, my experience was the diametric opposite from theirs: failure to return the full reports to me; no indication that the referees made constructive comments; a slow turn-round for emails, and a totally unhelpful attitude from the Papers Secretary. All of which confirms my view that I have been badly treated and that the questions I posed to the Papers Secretary were entirely justified and worthy of a reply in a professional manner.I would agree with Jeremy that different referees may give different levels of comment if left to their own devices, but there are very clear guidelines for referees out there on the Internet and so there really is no excuse for this sort of inconsistency. Inconsistency in the treatment of authors is equally inexcusable.Moving on to the concept of a "JBAA paper", I am also very appreciative of the mix of articles published and would agree that the Journal is a top-quality publication. This was not my point, however. I was observing that a large percentage of the articles published as JBAA papers should not have been so classified as they do not fall within the definition of a scientific or learned paper. Publish them elsewhere in the Journal by all means but defining what are, in some cases, merely general interest articles as JBAA papers will only serve to debase the whole concept of the Journal Paper as an entity of scientific merit. One should never confuse the roles of referee and proof-reader!On Gary’s specific mention of section reports, while they should clearly form part of the Journal (as they record the extensive work done by many BAA members over a period of time), I would submit that they also are not "scientific papers" in the true sense of the word. The main problem with them is that they are almost impossible to referee: the source data will rarely be available and there is no logical flow of thought process from theory to observation to conclusion. They are simply what they say they are – summary reports of a season’s observations, no more and no less. Their credibility is not improved by an attempt to dress them up as anything else. There is also a great deal of inconsistency in this area, incidentally – for example, can anyone show me the difference between Richard McKim’s paper on Mars in 2005 in Vol.121 No.4 and his essentially identical-in-concept reports on Venus in Vol.121 No.6, Vol.122 No.1 and Vol.122 No.2 ?While researching the background to my comments I performed a review of all items published as JBAA papers over the last few years and worked this up into a document (I almost said "paper"!) in which I analyse their status as "papers" or "non-papers". If anyone is interested I can finish this off and submit it to the Forum so members can have a fuller appreciation of my concerns in this area.Steve Holmes


    Posted by Gary Poyner at 08:47 on 2012 Jul 27

    One of my two papers ‘in waiting’ is a VSS section report concerning the Polar Programme I co-ordinate. The paper was refereed by one professional and one amateur astronomer. I would like to think that it is a ‘scientific’ paper as such, as it reports on BAAVSS data on objects which are of interest to the professional community. It also presents data in the form of light curves which is probably not available anywhere else. I think to say that a section report can’t be scientific (depending on it’s original purpose and how it’s presented of course) is a bit unfair on both the Director of the section concerned and the observers who have contributed.Just a final thought from me on this. I wonder if this is the correct place to voice your thoughts on the paper secretary and journal editor, who both do an extremely difficult job exceedingly well. It’s unlikely they will repsond on this forum, so it’s a bit of a one sided debate. Surely a letter to Council would be more appropriate.Just my view!Gary


    Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 14:50 on 2012 Jul 27

    I think your parenthesised comment is relevant here – it depends entirely on what the report is reporting. Maybe I should have been a little more precise with my terminology earlier – when referring to a "section report" I was really meaning a report of the summary variety (such as those by Richard McKim I mentioned) rather than of the "new data" variety that you seem to be alluding to. A report on new collections of data leading to the production of new or updated light-curves could well fall into the scientific paper category (much as those by Jeremy and his associates clearly do).The real essence of whether a submission is an article or a paper is, as mentioned in my last post, whether it can be validly peer-reviewed. Peer review is the process by which the technical approach; methods; observations; data collection & reduction techniques, and conclusions of the author(s) can be assessed [and, where relevant, to check that the work reported is not falsified or plagiarised]. It therefore follows that if the submission being refereed does not have all or most of these elements it will be difficult to peer-review it. This is why I find it difficult to concede that "summary-type" reports can be regarded as scientific papers in the fullest sense of the word, and why the many "general interest" articles currently classified as papers are certainly not such.As to whether the Forum is the correct place to be discussing these matters, I did of course think long and hard about this. In the end I decided I should "go public" as I felt it was important to solicit the views of the general membership, as they were likely to have a rather more independent view of things than Council members. Also, I could only write from my own experience so I felt it would be helpful to be able to put this into context. Thirdly, based on the uncompromising replies received during my initial attempts at discussion, I was unconvinced that approaching Council would be worthwhile – this might be called pre-judging the case but by this time I was getting rather frustrated by the lack of dialogue! Lastly, it was suggested to me during these interchanges that I should start a Forum topic on the matter, so eventually I did. Maybe not the correct judgement, but those were my reasons.Steve Holmes


    Posted by Richard Miles at 00:11 on 2012 Aug 01

    Steve – Gary has suggested raising the matter by writing to the BAA Council.For everyone’s info, I have passed on the details of the discussions on this topic to our Business Secretary Ron Johnson, asking him to table this matter for further discussion at the next appropriate Council meeting. Hopefully you will have seen a bcc copy of my e-mail.Cheers,Richard


    Posted by Paul Abel at 18:39 on 2012 Aug 01

    Dear Steve,I’ve had a number of papers published in the JBAA and I have to say I have found the process to be both fair and helpful. Two recent papers spring to mind: first the paper I wrote which discusses my experiences of using the Alvan Clark refractor at Flagstaff, Arizona. I think this would fall into your category of personal experience. I think this sort of thing can still be regarded as a paper since, although it involves a subjective experience, that experience depends on objective facts which appear in the paper(like telescope stats, observing details and so on). When I submitted the paper, I got some useful comments back and suggestions which did help tighten it up.More recently I co-authored a paper with Damian Peach about observing Uranus. This was more of a scientific paper. After submission there were some disagreement between the referees and ourselves but these were sorted out in a way which suited everyone and it seemed to me that the referee process was robust produced a result which allowed the paper to be published.Based on these experiences I cannot therefore agree with with your interpretation that the process is not fit for purpose. I also think that the quality of the papers in the JBAA is uniformly good, with a diverse mix appearing the same journal (other journals could do well to see to this!) I think the above suggestion is a good one, and that perhaps is a line of dialogue to explore. Certainly a council discussion of it is a good idea I think.Best wishes,-Paul.


    Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 23:25 on 2012 Aug 01

    Well! Just as things seemed to be going quiet everything has kicked off again – and in a rather dramatic direction! I shall respond to Richard Miles in a separate post (as his contribution is clearly of a different sort), but here’s a few thoughts on Paul Abel’s comments.Firstly, as with previous comments, I thank Paul for taking an interest. Good to know that the topic has attracted several of the Association’s more well-known "personalities"! I would still be interested in comments from the silent majority, but perhaps the absence of same means most people simply haven’t involved themselves in the papers submission process, which may account for the lack of new faces in the Journal authors list. Again, I’m glad Paul has had good experiences but, once more, this perhaps makes me feel piqued that I didn’t!Paul mentions two of his recent papers. In the case of his submission concerning the Alvan Clark refractor (Vol 121 No.2), his own assessment is indeed spot on – it is an account of his own experiences (and not a scientific paper!). He says it depends on objective facts, and that is clearly true, but he did not have to carry out research to determine these and they do not require data analysis to interpret neither do they lead to any new conclusions. Rather than being a scientific paper, the submission is thus just a well-written and very interesting journalistic article [and I here use "just" in a descriptive rather than pejorative sense!]. It is none the worse for being such, of course, and still fully deserves to be published, but not in the papers section of the Journal.His second-mentioned paper, on Uranus, (Vol 121 No.4) is an interesting one, as it is a bit of a hybrid. The first section, on the history of observations, would fall into what I have categorised as "Historical, Bibliography and General Review" papers which, according to the strict rules of definition, do not qualify as scientific papers. The second part, on observing Uranus, seems to me to be no different from the recent JBAA articles on "Observing Basics" so should surely have been published as part of this series rather than being appended to the historical review.Finally, I would agree with Paul that the mix of articles in the Journal is a good one but the desire for a mixture of articles should not be allowed to influence (or even determine) the selection criteria applied to Journal papers.Steve Holmes


    Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 00:01 on 2012 Aug 02

    And here’s my response to Richard Miles.I must start by thanking Richard for (presumably) believing that this subject was of sufficient merit to warrant being discussed in Council. Clearly, I myself believe the same thing, so I am grateful to him for taking this initiative to get it included on an upcoming Agenda.Given that the matter may thus be about to be debated "at a higher level", I think it important for me to clarify the issues as I see them, to remove any lingering worries that I’m just having a moan because my paper wasn’t accepted. As I said earlier, I have two areas of concern, the first of which divides into a number of sub-topics:-1) Is the Association happy that standards of best practice are being universally and uniformly applied to the papers selection and peer-review process, regardless of the author, the subject matter and the referee(s)? In particular:-1a) Are the standards the JBAA is applying fully and clearly defined? (for example, should full referee reports be returned to authors or not? should referees be asked to comment on "reader interest"? should the names of referees be divulged?)1b) Are referees fully aware of the standards to which they should be working, and what is expected of them in a report?1c) Are all the standards to which the JBAA is working, or expects its authors and referees to work, fully and clearly documented in an easily accessible form?1d) Is sufficient information available to ensure that authors are fully aware of what to expect during the review process and at its conclusion? (for example, what outputs they may expect and whether they have any rights of enquiry).2) Is the Association happy that the types of submissions currently published as JBAA Papers all fully justify the title of "peer-reviewed scientific journal paper", thus placing them in a similar standing to other such papers published by prestigious scientific bodies.On this second topic, I have now completed my treatise analysing recent JBAA papers. While by no means a comprehensive dissertation on the subject of scientific papers and peer-review, it should at least help explain my thinking on the present matter. It can be read via the following links (Sorry – I had to split the document into 3, as the Forum software said it was too big to upload in one piece!):- [file name=JBAA_papers1.doc size=30720]/images_old/fbfiles/files/JBAA_papers1.doc[/file] [file name=JBAA_papers2.doc size=150016]/images_old/fbfiles/files/JBAA_papers2.doc[/file] [file name=JBAA_papers3.doc size=26624]/images_old/fbfiles/files/JBAA_papers3.doc[/file]Steve Holmes


    Posted by Nick James at 06:45 on 2012 Aug 02

    I’ve been watching this thread for a few days and I think it is time to make some comments.Firstly, it would not be fair on the author or the referees to discuss specific aspects of Steve’s submission in a public forum so I will not do that.On Steve’s general points:- Guidance for authors is provided online but I agree it could do with a bit of an update. It is generally correct though and most authors make an effort to comply. We are, though, pretty flexible in what we would accept, unlike many professional journals.- It is correct that, once the paper had been rejected by Council, it is our policy not to enter into further correspondence with the author. This is done for reasons based on past experience. I accept that this is frustrating for the author but such discussions generally go nowhere and they take up a lot of valuable time.- The referees of each paper are unpaid experts in their field. Their job is to tell me whether the paper is correct, contains interesting material and, yes, whether it is likely to be of interest to our readers. I do not ask them to use their valuable time to copy edit papers, make technical corrections or help the author re-write stuff. That said, many referees will do this but usually only when the paper is likely to get through to publication.- I’d prefer referees not to be anonymous but sometimes they request this, generally for good reasons such as avoiding interminably long e-mail discussions with the author. I respect their wish.Over the last few years we’ve been trying very hard to make the content and layout of the Journal more appealing to our readership and I’m not really worried about the precise definition of a "scientific paper". We are an amateur organisation with a mostly amateur readership and we can use any definition that we want!I’d certainly be interested in views from everyone else but, to avoid the usual back-and-forth correspondence, I’ll back out of the discussion for a week or two before I respond again.Nick.


    Posted by Paul Abel at 11:47 on 2012 Aug 02

    My final words on the matter; I think I would agree with everything you’ve said Nick. Similarly, I agree the precise definition of a ‘scientific paper’ would be far too restrictive and quite honestly pointless. What is the point in devising some obscure definition which we then have to rigidly stick to it and see the quality and breadth of papers we get in the JBAA drop away. I would argue, that as long as the material has been peer reviewed and presents some interesting new experience/facts/suggestions to the community- then it is suitable to be published in the JBAA as a paper. The fact that we can do that gives an outlet for material which might otherwise remain unpublished. I don’t really have anything further to add except to reiterate what I said earlier; I have found the process to be fair and helpful and the quality of the JBAA and the papers within it are very good. Moreover, as with all publications, the editor(s) have a right to say what goes in.Best wishes,-Paul.


    Posted by David Basey at 13:52 on 2012 Aug 02

    I had been thinking of posting my thoughts here for a while and in some respects Pauls last post has done that for me. However there is a little more I would like to add as one of Steve’s Silent Majority. First off let me say I have been a member of the BAA for several decades and have consequently read quite a few Journals, usually from cover to cover. That fact alone indicates that I at least am very happy with the mix.Taking Steves two points in turn.THE REFEREEING PROCESS.I have never submitted a paper so I cannot comment on the process first hand but as a customer I have expectations, specifically that whatever is published in the Journal is honest, accurate and true. Not only this, but it needs to be demonstrably so, without this the Journal clearly loses credibility. In practical terms this need translates into some form of refereeing process which is what we have irrespective of whether it is a scientific paper, a review or a Section report on an apparition.Ideally as a customer I would like to see all papers published in a timely manner but we have to accept that in most distributions there will always be a long tail. Now we may never know the reasons for the delay as that lies between the author, the referee and the Papers Secretary. There are I suspect plenty of good reasons for delay, for example illness and lets not forget the fact that all of these individuals have day jobs and give of what spare time they have on a voluntary and unpaid basis.While I understand the reason for Council not entering into discussions on a rejected paper, nonetheless in the interests of fairness there ought to be some method by which disgruntled authors can appeal if they feel they have been unfairly treated. A simple statement of their grievances for consideration by say the Papers Secretary should suffice. It seems unjust to risk losing a valid paper because of say, poor refereeing.SCIENTIFIC PAPER.To my mind we are getting hung up on terminology. But at the risk of being pedantic here are my thoughts.First off, I would agree with the definition that Steve offers of a scientific paper. Clearly within the Journal we have papers that do add to the sum of scientific knowledge and equally we have papers that do not. That really is my point, there are different types of paper all of which have value and nowhere does the BAA state that the Journal publishes papers only of the former kind. The Journal itself only refers to refereed papers not specifically scientific papers. Also, to quote from the Journal page of the BAA website:For 122 years the Journal has published the observations and work of BAA members. It also contains many other articles and items of interest to all amateur astronomers.The Journal is not debased by having a mix of articles rather that is its strength given its function. Do we need to separate them into categories? I think not, surely the Membership is capable of reading an article and telling the difference between one type of paper and another.Apologies for the length of this, the little more I wanted to add in the first paragraph seems to got out of hand.


    Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 21:42 on 2012 Aug 06

    Having left things for a few days to see whether there would be any further posts (and to enjoy a fabulous Olympic weekend!), herewith my next set of thoughts.Thanks to all three of the recent contributors (particularly to the representative of the Silent Majority!), whose comments had a number of common themes. I shall firstly respond to Nick James’ first three points though (concerning papers submission and refereeing)My point about there being insufficient definition of the process did not refer to how to submit a paper (for which there is indeed guidance) but what happens next – I would suggest that there is no guidance about this at all. I would also suggest that what does, in practice, happen next is almost certainly not well-defined and definitely inconsistent. As to there being no discussion entered into after acceptance/rejection, I am happy to see that David Basey seems to agree with me that this is unreasonable. Even if one does not question the decision itself, surely one must be able to question the process by which the decision has been reached if one feels the material has not been fairly assessed?Moving on to Nick’s point about referees, I feel this illuminates one of the areas in this discussion where it seems there has been misunderstanding of the basic principles involved. Nick says that a referee should tell him whether a submission is correct, contains interesting material & is of interest to the Journal readers, and should not be involved in copy editing, technical correction & suggestions for re-writing. Unfortunately, if one consults any standard text on the refereeing of scientific papers, one will find that all but one of these assertions are incorrect!It is clearly one of the responsibilities of a referee to say whether the content of a submission is correct (or at least not incorrect) but, as I have said on a number of occasions, they should not be asked to give an opinion on interest (either generally or specific to a given Journal). "Interest" is not a criterion by which a scientific paper should be judged, and a fully-independent referee is unlikely, in any case, to have a sufficiently comprehensive knowledge of the interests of a readership to be able to give a judgement on this point.As to the "editorial" aspects, I agree that a referee should not involve him or herself in the fine detail of this but, again, a reading of standard treatises on refereeing will show that the making of constructive comments and suggestions for re-working is a fundamental part of a referee’s "job". As to not making technical corrections, surely this is a part of the "correctness" argument? It would hardly be sensible to let blatant errors go uncorrected, and if a referee expresses doubts as to correctness should he/she not provide a refutation rather than just say "I’m not convinced"?I shall now move on the the points where a consensus of views is emerging. Almost all contributors so far have said that they rejoice in the good range of articles published in the Journal. I have already said that I fully support this view. However! This does not mean that the definition of "BAA Journal paper" should be widened in order to include a greater range of subject matter for the Journal as a whole. Nick says that, as the BAA is an amateur organisation, it can use any definition of scientific paper that it wants and Paul appears to agree with this. I find this attitude extremely worrying. Unfortunately, if we wish our Journal papers to stand alongside papers published by other prestigious organisations it is absolutely not the case that we can do what we want. Papers in prestigious journals are published in accord with the internationally agreed definition I stated earlier (and which David agrees is accurate) and so if our papers are to stand comparison they must be published to the same standards. If we start making up our own rules then credibility is lost. We may be an amateur organisation, in that no-one is paid for their duties, but surely we must strive for the highest professional standards in all our actions – and that includes the publication of scientific papers.Again, I totally agree that [most of] those submissions that do not qualify as papers according to the accepted definition should still be published, but in a different section of the Journal – Section reviews, Historical perspectives, Observing seasons etc. This way we still publish the great range of material while maintaining a firm distinction between peer-reviewed papers and articles.I hope that the above will not be dismissed as a mere "what’s in a name?" argument, as the answer in this case is "everything!". A paper published in a science-based journal (as the JBAA is) is a scientific paper and the definition of a scientific paper is not open to us to alter. We should thus work within the definition, publishing as JBAA peer-reviewed papers those submissions that accord with it, to the great advantage of the standing of authors of same and the Journal as a whole, while publishing other "submissions of interest" as articles in other sections. To do otherwise will reflect credit on no-one.I have already given a link to the definition of "scientific paper" in my document reviewing published JBAA papers, so here’s some attachments which explore peer-review in great detail, in case anyone is unsure of the principles which are (or should be!) involved:- [file name=Review.doc size=49152]/images_old/fbfiles/files/Review.doc[/file] [file name=Review1.doc size=72192]/images_old/fbfiles/files/Review1.doc[/file] [file name=Review2.doc size=30720]/images_old/fbfiles/files/Review2.doc[/file]Steve Holmes


    Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 00:06 on 2012 Aug 22

    I had hoped that once people had more time to tap their keyboards rather than stare at their TV screens in this post-Olympic epoch there might be some more posts on this thread – but no (good number of "views" though – shows the rank-and-file are at least interested in this topic even if they don’t comment!). I shall add a further contribution though, to keep things ticking over while Council cogitate.Nothing extra about the issues at point (you’ll probably be glad to hear!) but instead an opportunity for Members to see what they’ve been denied due to my paper not being accepted for JBAA publication. I originally constructed it in web-page form so all I need to do is give a link, and everyone will be able to browse the paper in its full glory. So – here’s the link:-Perturbations to the orbit of CeresComments are most definitely invited (your chance to be a JBAA Papers Referee!).Steve Holmes


    Posted by Andrea Tasselli at 10:28 on 2012 Aug 22

    After having read the "paper" in its web format I can see why the "powers that be" refused publication; it is basically an essay in orbital mechanics which I suspect has little appeal to the readership of the JBAA, being mostly interested in actual observations rather than in any amount of celestial mechanics avulse from said observations. I, for one, would be immediately skipping to the next article just on sight of the title. By the way, the JBAA is not a "science" publication per se but just the journal of the BAA, an amateur organisation dedicated to astronomical observations by amateurs.Andrea T.


    Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 01:03 on 2012 Aug 23

    An interesting post from Andrea, as it touches upon several of the points I have been making.I find Andrea’s description of my work, together with his subsequent use of the term "observations" rather revealing. While of course we all know that the only "real" astronomers are those brave souls who freeze to death at 2am while peering into their eyepieces, the science of astronomy is not, never has been and cannot in the future be solely about observations. As in any scientific endeavour, theory and practice must go hand-in-hand and so "computational astronomy" is just as valid as taking pictures of galaxies. Can one presume that if Messrs Copernicus and Kepler were to submit their work on planetary orbits to the JBAA their submissions would be rejected on the grounds that they were just "basically an essay in orbital mechanics"? We are, after all, the British Astronomical Association, with all that implies, not the British Astronomical Observations Society.Following this train of thought through a little, may we assume that, as Andrea appears to believe the BAA should devote itself to observations and the reporting thereof, he would agree that many of the papers (and indeed other articles) currently published in the Journal have no right to be there? One would struggle to find much observational content in what I have called Historical and Biographical submissions, for example, so presumably they should have been omittted. One can’t have it both ways. Several contributors have revelled in the range of items in the JBAA, reflecting the wide range of interests of its members (both observational and otherwise), and so do I. I simply wish to ensure that a clear and firm distinction is made between "papers" and "articles", as "paper" in the context of "Journal" has a special and widely recognised meaning which should not be distorted.I now move on to Andrea’s presumption that my paper would have little appeal to the readership of the JBAA, and certainly not to him. Three points to be made here. Firstly, I am not clear how he feels he can accurately judge whether a paper might be of interest or not: what sample of the membership is his comment based on? I have previously made the same remark concerning similar views expressed by referees. Secondly, it is of course his prerogative to be uninterested in my work. For my part, I have no interest whatsoever in the large number of papers by Boyd, Shears et al. I, like Andrea would with mine, quickly flick past them as soon as I come across them. Unlike Andrea, however, I do not consider this a valid reason not to include them in the JBAA. Indeed, they are exactly what the Journal should be publishing. Which leads me on to my third point. It is one I have already made several times but which seems not to be getting through so I fear I must repeat it again – "popularity" is absolutely not a criterion by which a scientific paper submitted to a Journal should be judged, so let’s stop the preoccupation with the interests of the readership.Lastly, the "By the way" paragraph. I feel I must point out that I did not refer to the JBAA as a science publication but rather as a "science-based" one – quite a difference. I have already remarked in another post about the word "amateur". We may be amateurs because we do not make a living from our hobby but I would fervently hope we all adopt a professional approach to it. Stressing the "amateur" aspect of the BAA is destructive in many ways, as it encourages amateur thinking (in the worst sense of the word) and gives the impression to others that this is all we are capable of. If we want to be seen as professional we must act as if we are, and that applies to JBAA papers as much as any other aspect of the Association.Steve Holmes


    Posted by Andrea Tasselli at 16:51 on 2012 Aug 23

    I seem to remember (but I might be wrong on this count) that there is a specific bit in the Association charter that refers to it being "devoted to the pursuit of astronomical observations [by amateurs]" as well as remarks to that effect by some officers. If this is indeed the case then a paper such as the one being discussed here might find it difficult to be published, with some reason. While articles have been published that do not directly deal with astronomical observations I submit that:1. AFAIK historical articles published refer to either astronomical observations done in the past or past observers or are in any way connected to astronomical observations.2. Theoretical articles have been publised that deal with celestial mechanics in some form but they are related to the actual act of observation either in acta or in fieri. As for the other points made as shall reply as follows:a. I wrote "I suspect" I was implicitly airing my opinion about both the palability of such an article to the wider readership of the Journal, the composition thereof and the reason why the publication was refused. Again MY opinion. Something I thought was elicited by Steve’s previous post.b. As I (as well as all other members) pay for the pleasure (or the displeasure) of actually reading the Journal’s contents I suspect that the "popularity" of articles to be submitted for publication would be very high on the editors’ agenda. Just because a paper’s content is scientific doesn’t automatically grant the right to be published, I would expect.c. While computational astronomy is certainly a fascinating subject I hold that it should find its way into the journal only whether is related to observations not as an area of interest per se.d. I cannot find anything more ridicule that the snobbish attitude of always trying to show to measure up to what the "pros" are doing. Why should we (amateur astronomical observers) have to try to compare with the professionals is beyond me. Andrea T.


    Posted by Richard Miles at 21:51 on 2012 Aug 23

    Have made time to further follow the discussion / read attachments / view your first draft of a paper entitled "An analysis of periodicities in perturbations by Jupiter to the orbit of dwarf planet Ceres, with application to other major asteroids" for the first time.Certainly plenty of constructive criticism and useful material has been made available in the course of the online discussions over the past few weeks thanks to the contributions from all concerned and especially from yourself Steve. We should certainly be able to exploit much of this to hone the process of accepting articles and papers for publication in the JBAA. Thanks everyone.Allow me to broach the concept that a significant fraction of material submitted for publication never sees the light of day by appearing in said publication. There are a whole host of reasons for this but generally speaking having more articles and papers than space to publish is generally a healthy situation. Remember that from time to time some draft articles/papers will inevitably be received which really are unsuitable for publication anywhere. However, your draft paper is certainly not in this category as I found it to be of interest to myself as the current Director of the Asteroids and Remote Planets Section. It is good to see that you used Aldo Vitagliano’s SOLEX software to further pursue your initial numerical-based analysis. The question whether or not this should have been revised and reproduced as a JBAA paper is a difficult one. I remember well a paper I wrote and submitted in 2004 entitled "Methane abundance in Titans stratosphere", in which I used photoelectric and CCD observations of the central flash seen during the occultation of 28 Sgr by Titan obtained from two observing sites (both run by amateur astronomers) in 1989 to calculate the concentration of methane in Titan’s upper atmosphere – the paper was rejected by a professional astronomer and that was the end of the matter. Looking back on it I certainly believe this was unfair. So like you I have been on the receiving end of what I considered an unfair process.So yes, let’s see how we can further improve matters for future JBAA authors. As I have just published a lengthy theoretical paper in the journal Icarus, I have first-hand experience of how the publisher Elsevier operates and there are a few approaches they use which may be adopted in suitably modified form by the BAA, for example.The idea of a second publication alongside the Journal has been discussed in the past and indeed has been tried in the past. What has now changed the game is the internet. Needless to say how we best utilise the internet has been a perennial topic for Council. Various approaches can be envisaged: Some BAA observing sections have their own publications which can exist in both paper and in online form, but doing this for ALL sections requires volunteers to come forward to help make these possible. Roger Dymock, my predecessor as Director of ARPS, used to publish "Impact", which was an online section newsletter. In total 23 issues were published between March 2006 and April 2008 and each issue required several days work to compile and edit. If "Impact" was still extant, your draft paper could have been published as an online one. Is there scope for BAA online publishing of material of a more technical nature? Or how about some lengthy technical papers being published as an extended abstract in the Journal and the full article is then made available online? Some professional papers have started to appear with an online Appendix for example, in which items of a more technical nature or which are physically big, or which are best displayed as a high-res PDF are made available.Finally, how about publishing your paper on astro-ph? It’s accessible at:http://arxiv.org/archive/astro-phI might be able to help you do this.Richard


    Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 01:22 on 2012 Aug 24

    Excellent! Two more meaty contributions to reply to. Andrea’s first:-If the Association’s Charter does indeed refer only or mainly to the promotion of observations then there might well be reasons for certain classes of submission to be turned down. However, to have a submission rejected because it is "contrary to the Bye-Laws" is quite different from having it initially accepted and then rejected after review. Submissions in the first category should be rejected by the Papers Secretary or JBAA Editor, and of course there should be information about this in the Guidance to Authors so that prospective authors will not waste their time writing inadmissible papers. However, once a paper has passed this hurdle it has clearly been deemed "appropriate to the Journal" and thus suitable for publication if its content is acceptable.Andrea’s comment a) simply affirms the point I was making at the time: judgements of this sort about the acceptability of a submission can only be the opinion of the person making them, not of the whole membership. This is exactly the reason why perceived popularity must not be a criterion for assessing papers. His comment b) contains what I assume is just a "slip of the pen", when he refers to the popularity of "articles" when I was actually talking about "papers". However, what he ends up by saying is perfectly correct – the popularity of "articles" i.e. submissions of a general or journalistic nature, should very definitely be the concern of the Editorial team as that is what makes the Journal interesting as a whole. It does not apply to "papers" though. One does not subscribe to a solely paper-publishing Journal for the pleasure of reading the papers, but because one feels that information will be gained from them. The JBAA is somewhat different, in that it contains both "articles" and "papers" but, as I have said on a number of occasions, the two classes of submission should not be confused. And no, it is obviously not the case that merely having scientific content grants to a submission the right to be published – but then, I’ve never claimed that it does!Comment c) is, I think, covered by my preamble. Whether or not a certain class of submission is acceptable is a matter for the Association as a whole and the JBAA Editorial Team in particular, but exclusions must be made explicit, not implicit.Finally, I am at a loss to understand why Andrea thinks that amateurs attempting to measure up to professionals is "ridiculous" and "snobbish". We clearly cannot equal the volume or span of their work but we can certainly aim to equal its quality and most particularly (and this was the actual point I was making) their professional standards. The reason why we should all strive to do so may be "beyond" Andrea but I hope it will be only too obvious to the bulk of the membership.Moving on to Richard’s excellent contribution, may I say how pleased I am that someone is at last taking a constructive view of all this and accepting that, just possibly, there might be areas where process improvements can be made. I am also gratified that he found my paper interesting!The suggestions in his last [main] paragraph are all good ones which I feel should very definitely be considered by the Association. As he says, there may be other ways of doing things in this online age. His mention of the other already-existing BAA publications reminds me to highlight my view that some of these might be a better place than the Journal to publish submissions which are not really papers under the standard definition. I do recognise that cost would be an issue if the existing Journal were to be split though, so would re-iterate that publishing both papers and articles in the one Journal is fine as long as the two are not thereby confused.Finally, I would of course be delighted to publish my paper at "arxiv"! I had rather assumed that this archive was the domain of professionals but, taking my cue from my response to Andrea, I would be very keen to use Richard’s expertise to help me stand alongside them – many thanks for the offer. If he could email me some further information at steve.britastro@holmesfamily-UK.net we can see what might be possible.Steve Holmes

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