The Journal of Number Theory has been (for some time) the standard “specialist” journal for number theory papers. By that, I mean it was a home for reasonably good number theory papers which were not (necessarily) good enough for some of the top general journals. Of course, like every journal, there are better and worse papers. At least several papers in this journal have been referenced on this blog at some point, including those discussed here and here.
However, a number of recent changes have been taken place. JNT has introduced “JNT Prime” which seeks to publish
a small number of exceptional papers of high quality (at the level of Compositio or Duke).
(I’m not sure if free two-day delivery is also included in this package.) My question is: why bother?
I have several points of confusion.
- It’s easier to start from scratch. It is much easier (as far as developing a reputation goes) to start a new journal and set the standards from the beginning, than to steer a massive oil tanker like the Journal of Number Theory with its own firmly established brand. Consider the Journal of the Institute of Mathematics of Jussieu. This early paper (maybe in the very first issue) by Richard Taylor set the tone early on that this was a serious journal. Similarly, Algebra & Number Theory in a very few number of years became a reasonably prestigious journal and certainly more prestigious than the Journal of Number theory has ever been during my career.
- The previous standards of JNT served the community well. Not every journal can be the Annals. Not every journal can be “better than all but the best one or two journals” either, although it is pretty much a running joke at this point that every referee request nowadays comes with such a description. There is plenty of interesting research in number theory that deserves to be published in a strong reputable journal but which is better suited to a specialist journal rather than Inventiones. Journal of Number Theory: it does what it says on the tin. Before the boutique A&NT came along, it was arguably the most prestigious specialist journal in the area. It is true that it was less prestigious than some specialist journals in other fields, but that reflects the reality that number theory papers make up a regular proportion of papers in almost all of the top journals, which is not true of all fields. So where do those papers go if JNT becomes all fancy?
- Elsevier. Changing the Journal of Number Theory is going to take a lot of work, and that work is going to be done (more or less) by mathematicians. So why bother making all that effort on behalf of Elsevier? Yes, Elsevier continues to “make an effort” with respect to Journal of Number Theory, including, apparently, even sponsoring a conference. But (to put it mildly) Elsevier is not a charity, and nobody should expect them to start behaving like one.
So I guess my question is: who is better off if the Journal of Number Theory becomes (or heads in the direction of becoming) a “top-tier journal” besides (possibly) Elsevier?