Twenty years ago, when I joined the Canadian Mathematical Society as a young assistant professor, one of the discussions at the Board of Directors was the creation of a new journal. The Chair of the Publications Committee drafted a brief annual report to discuss the issue with the Board and the directors. It was clear that an immediate decision is not possible and that there are several obstacles to overcome. Almost a decade after, when I became a regular member of the Publications Committee, the topic of a new journal was still being discussed in several committee meetings under the title of “Matters Arising From Previous Meetings”. In 2016, I became the Chair of the Publications Committee and, this time with no surprise, we still assessed the possibility of creating a new journal. My mandate was over and the journal was not created. However, the item appears once again under the celebrated title of “Matters Arising from Previous Meetings”, this time in the Executive Committee Schedule for Spring 2021! Why such a long history? Let us have a friendly account of this phenomenon.
Canada has a great international reputation in numerous branches of mathematics. Due to my personal interests, I am familiar with several research groups in Harmonic Analysis, Operator Theory and Operator Algebras. I have had the privilege to be close friends with colleagues involved in research groups such as Geometry and Topology, Number Theory, Mathematical Physics, Graph Theory and Combinatorics, etc. One of the earliest ideas was to create a focused journal on one discipline. Even though the idea gained some momentum from time to time, it was never adopted as mainstream in the Publications Committee. There were several reasons for the failure of this approach. First, in most of these areas there are already a couple of reputable journals. Hence, it is rather difficult to introduce a new one. Second, forming such a focused editorial board is not easy. Third, and possibly the most important one, it is uncertain how long an area would be the main research stream. A journal should run for many years to come. An active area of research might lose its importance or, while being still important, be overshadowed by other more active research groups; in either case, it would be extremely difficult to keep the journal alive. When I started my doctoral studies at McGill in the 90s, Montreal was a great centre for classical harmonic analysis. Prominent experts such as K. Gowrisankaran, V. Havin, C. Herz, I. Klemesh, P. Koosis, as well as P. Gauthier with his celebrated Analysis Seminar, had transformed Montreal into the paradise of classical analysis. Montreal continues to be one of the main mathematical centres of Canada with several strong research groups. However, regrettably, its torch of classical analysis is almost extinguished and imagine what would have happened now if the pioneers have had established a focused journal on this topic in 90s. In short, we should not put our eggs in one basket. A general journal is preferable.
A second attempt, which has been dominant, is to create a general scope journal, like our current Bulletin and Journal, for longer papers. Presently, the length limit is fixed at 18 pages. Shorter papers go to Bulletin, longer ones to Journal. Authors of papers with 18 pages tamper with LaTeX to make it longer or shorter to avoid any conflict. The proposal is to launch a new journal, say the Transactions, and adopt two page-limit restrictions. As a rough and not-yet-approved proposition, papers with less than 15 pages go to Bulletin, between 15 and 40 to Journal, and any paper longer than that will be considered for publication in the Transactions.
Despite the above initiatives, the new journal has not launched yet. I can mention at least two main reasons. First, it is a truly difficult task to start from the scratch and launch a new journal. Therefore, it has not been easy for the Publications Committee to find one, or a group of two, editor(s)-in-chief to start the work. It summons a lot of courage. Second, we enter the Open Access era. The CMS has been in regular contact with the Cambridge University Press to better understand this concept and to make appropriate decisions. It has by no means been an easy line of discussion and it is not over yet. Frankly speaking, the future of scientific journal publication is not that transparent, neither for us nor for the publishers. That is why it has not been so easy to launch a new journal.
Last but not least, this item is once again on our agenda in the upcoming summer meeting. This time, let us make it a reality.