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#1 2014-10-31 09:12:24

Reuel
Member
Registered: 2010-11-28
Posts: 178

Publishing for Amateur Mathematicians

Hey.

I have worked out a numerical method for something I prefer not to go in to on a public forum, and I was wondering if people around here ever had serious discussions on mathematical publication, especially for people of the so-called amateur level.

I am not personally affiliated with any university or private establishment and I have noticed that academic journals and even peer review sites such as arXiv.org want to know, among their first concerns, what sort of establishment one is "affiliated" with. I am not affiliated with anyone and I have done no research other than to do my best to use Google and Google Scholar to find any past works of other peoples who have already worked out what I have found. So far I have found nothing on the subject. I would use a better research tool such as MathSciNet, but I can't afford to. Besides, Google seems to be aware of most academic articles.

My project is in the field of numerical analysis. I would prefer to publish in an academic journal rather than some popular mathematics magazine. My math skills are good and I am capable of learning new things... I just wonder how much of a setback it will be attempting to publish something in a "prestigious" journal without first being prestigious myself. I have confidence in myself and my project - the project is quite good and I would love to put it out there for the use of others - but I'm just not sure how the world of academia works. It seems to be all about prestige, honors, affiliations, and titles.

Advice? Thoughts?

Thank you.

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#2 2014-10-31 09:44:21

ShivamS
Member
Registered: 2011-02-07
Posts: 3,648

Re: Publishing for Amateur Mathematicians

While it is not true that you should be in academia to publish papers, there are some drawbacks. Authors writing by themselves are welcome, but they somehow are not very common because they lack the ability of writing an academic paper: they do not lack the message or the content of a paper, but just the structure, and that's something that you learn in an academic environment.  One famous example is Paul Erdos ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Erd%C5%91s#Career ), who I believe had no affiliation (at least in practice) for much of his life. However, most cultures have certain standard ways of doing things. Academia, and in particular the part of it that you want publish in, is no exception. One thing you can do to help get your ideas accepted is to learn to write and talk in the language common to your research area. Specifically, find some papers in your area that you really like (even better if they are widely cited) and study how they are written. When you write your own papers, make a conscious effort to copy the writing style of the papers you like. One key part of this is to thoroughly know the relevant literature (previous work on the problem) and to mention it in your introduction and explain how your work relates to it. For each research area, there are numerous other hurdles you should jump. For example, if you're writing a math paper, do it in LaTeX. If you don't know LaTeX, learn it (ask Google, if you need help), since using it will make your paper more readily accepted. For a list of other criteria often used by mathematicians to quickly judge a paper, read http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=304 .

If you are clueless in knowing where to publish your work, then I am guessing that you are also not familiar with all the relevant mathematics journals out there. This then leads me to conclude that you haven't been doing any sort of an extensive literature search on the state of knowledge of whatever area it is that you did your "independent research" on.

So my questions to you are:

1. How would you know your work is "valid" and free of errors and misunderstanding? The validity would come from self-consistency with the existing theories, and from experimentally verified observations.

2. How would you know that what you have done has not been published already, or has already been disproven?

Please note that the probability of someone without a formal education in mathematics, coming up with something "new" on any topic in mathematics, is practically zero. Don't believe me, just try finding the last time this has happened. Unless you believe that you have an unusually exceptional quality, insight, and abilities, I strongly suggest you do not fall into such illusion and make sure first that what you have is halfway decent. Find someone who has a mathematics qualification and ask him/her to review what you have done. Even Nobel Prize laureates give their manuscripts to someone else for a 2nd opinion, so why not you?

Last edited by ShivamS (2014-10-31 09:47:47)

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#3 2014-10-31 11:02:38

bobbym
bumpkin
From: Bumpkinland
Registered: 2009-04-12
Posts: 109,606

Re: Publishing for Amateur Mathematicians

Hi;

I have worked out a numerical method for something I prefer not to go in to on a public forum,

I remember feeling the same way. I came up with a nice neat method to minimax an overdetermined set of equations and lo and behold I eventually discovered that Remez had done it first and even had several improvements on my idea. Not only was my work not original, it was behind the current state of the art. You might want to consult with someone to look at your work to verify originality and correctness before trying to publish.


In mathematics, you don't understand things. You just get used to them.
If it ain't broke, fix it until it is.
Always satisfy the Prime Directive of getting the right answer above all else.

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