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What can iMechanica do for Extreme Mechanics Letters (EML)?

Teng Li's picture

iMechanica is turning 8 in a month. The ever growing of iMechanica users has gone far beyond one’s expectation.

The thriving of iMechanica finds its driving force originating from the creative ways iMechanica users have come up with to use this open platform to serve their needs.  Discussing a cutting edge mechanics research topic through Journal Club, publicizing one’s latest mechanics publication, promoting an upcoming mechanics conference, experimenting a new way to teach mechanics courses, getting help in using ABAQUS, or simply posting a mechanics job opening. iMechanica runs like a common: it belongs to whoever uses it.

Now as mechanics community getting ready for EML, let’s discuss what iMechanica can do for this newly launched mechanics journal.

Indeed it’s already doing it, and doing well. The “getting ready for EML” post has logged 10,000+ reads, with 46 comments, in a week, quickly emerging as one of the most popular discussion threads in iMechanica. Many mechanicians shared their thoughts, raised their concerns, and expressed their supports (including some extreme excitement about EML).

Enthusiasm sparks great ideas. So let’s discuss creative ways to further use iMechanica for the growth and thriving of EML.

Here are a couple of thoughts.

One straightforward way is to use iMechanica to promote more in-depth discussions of papers published in EML.  A possible way is through mechanisms such as iMechanica Journal Club, where EML authors host the discussion thread on their latest EML paper, and if necessary, a few other related recent publications. This way, readers get to know better an extremely new/interesting/useful… frontier in mechanics, the authors get their EML paper publicized, and in long run, EML gets more interactive.

One more explorative way is to use iMechanica to experiment new mechanisms of scientific publishing. As indicated in the comment by Laney Zhou, Executive Publisher at Elsevier, the name of EML reflects the way how publishing could support or facilitate communication of research outcomes in the field as quickly and widely as possible. For example, shall we consider to experiment a more open and potentially more speedy mechanism for peer review using iMechanica? Fast review/editorial process has been a signature of (or a key factor for?) many high-impact journals, but it still involves multiple steps, e.g., editor inviting referees, referees accepting invite and performing review, editor contacting authors with feedback for possible further review cycles, etc. Can we have an option to solicit open comments via iMechanica as part of peer review process? If so, how to strike the balance between speed and quality?

The above thoughts by no means should dominate the discussion topics here, but rather serve as a starting point to solicit your thoughts on many of such open questions. We welcome and look forward to your inputs! Mechanics community has given a warm receiving for the birth of EML, let's now help baby EML get well along with her iMechanica brother, growing and thriving together.


K Jimmy Hsia's picture

Dear Teng,

You raised a very good point. The issue is in fact broader than iMechanica and EML. So far social media platforms such as iMechanica have been highly successful at the "tail end" of scientific research process (I wanted to use the term "rear end" and "front end" initially, but was afraid some extremely imaginative people would interpret it figuratively), i.e., journal clubs, recent publications, conferences on published/finished research. Some would say that, once in a while, such discussion forums would also help the "head end" of the process by generating new ideas and identifying new directions. But few, if any, have thought about using such platforms to perform functions in the "middle section" of the process, aka, the peer review and accepting/rejecting research results for publication.

There is a good reason for not doing so. Running an open review of submitted research results may pose significant risk for a number of reasons (quality control, making public of unpublished results, etc).

However, we all understand that the world has changed and is continuing to change. Who would have thought that Wikipedia became such a reliable source of info if everyone, experts and laymen alike, is allowed to modify the entries!

Is it an experiment worth trying?

Zhigang Suo's picture

I'm typing from my iPhone In streets. I recall some years ago Nature tried open review process

what happened with that experiment?  Anybody knows?


N. Sukumar's picture

In some cases (call for papers in a specific area), is there room for double-blind reviewing -- the other end of the spectrum vis-a-vis open review? I am not sure if any journal in mechanics does so.  I have participated in reviewing for computer graphics (esp. SIGGRAPH) where they use it: manuscripts only have the title mentioned (no list of authors) and even Acknowledgements and References are such that they try not to reveal the names of the authors.  It seems to work for them.  They have primary, secondary and tertiary reviewers for a paper and there is even an online discussion after each reviewer posts his/her review with interactions online back-and-forth between the reviewers.  It is time-consuming and requires significant effort on the part of the reviewers, but it appears to be more thorough and fair.  The authors get a chance to respond to the critique and to make revisions, and then it goes back to the reviewers before a final recommedation is made.  The whole process (submission to decision) takes less than 2 months. Of course, since SIGGRAPH takes place only once a year the extra care and effort can be justified.

Teng Li's picture

Thanks, Suku, for sharing your experience on double-blind reviewing. Would you further elaborate your understanding on the motivation and benefit of double-blind reviewing? It could be helpful for us to better understand the need for open review.

In the Wikipedia entry of "peer review", there is a section describing the evolution of the concept of open review.

N. Sukumar's picture

Teng,  Based on my limited experience both as a reviewer (just a few conferences in comp. graphics) and as an author (SGP 2008; 5 reviews were provided), here's my take.  The process unifies and streamlines the process, for both, authors and reviewers.  Everyone is on the same page.  One must take care and thought in preparing the paper since each statement and/or inference can be critically examined: at least one reviewer, if not more, is likely to be an expert in the specific area.  Furthermore, the double-blind process levels the playing field: focus can be squarely placed on the content alone. The layout of the presentation that is expected is also typically the same for all papers -- sections/subsections are structured along these lines: 1. Introduction + Related Work + Contribution; 2 to 4. Details on Methods and Techniques Used;  5. Numerical Algorithm; 6. Results and Discussions and 7. Conclusions.  The same format provide a roadmap to the authors on how to structure the paper, and it also permits reviewers to more easily discern the novelties and/or contributions in the paper.

Teng Li's picture

Back in spring 2006, some of us discussed the idea on a possible wiki forum,, for mechanics community, where one can freely post research findings and others can freely comment. The wiki forum was launched and tested among a few people. But as our interests and efforts became more focused toward the launch of iMechanica in September 2006, the seemingly premature concept of wikimechanica didn't really materialize. In June 2007, Eric Mockensturm at Penn State initiated the discussions in iMechanica on Open Source Publishing, another one of the most popular and in-depth discussion threads in iMechanica (23,000+ reads, 60 comments).

If these concepts/ideas and alike were premature (or at least for mechanics community) seven or eight years ago, with the launch of EML in 2014, it may be a good opportunity to re-visit and re-evaluate such concepts/ideas.

In the era of Wikipedia beating Encyclopædia Britannica, the spirit is to keep our mind open and this discussion fun. So, share your thought with us please.

One word: Re-review of the rejected papers.

EML should completely allow any author of any article rejected by EML to have an unreserved opportunity to officially and openly discuss it here via a special category of iMechanica posts, wherein the rejected article together with (I suppose anonymous) reviewer's comments are posted here. Integrally, there should be a systemic assurance from the EML board that the author's opting for such a public re-review process at iMechanica won't hamper the author's future publication chances at EML in any way.

Needless to add, the article would receive open (and often very much non-anonymous) scrutiny/review/feedback/constructive suggestions from all mechanicians---reviewers, editors---and other mechanicians too.

If a dominant streak---if not a sort of consensus---emerges that the article should have been allowed publication in EML, then the Journal should have some systematic supplementary mechanism to periodically consider such discussions at iMechanica, and then either timely include such articles for publication in EML in future, or arrive at an editorial decision to re-affirm the rejection and thereby close the special thread of this re-review category. (The author, I suppose, would continue to have the ordinary iMechanica freedom to create another, usual kind of, thread for any further discussions, if he so wishes.)

No, IMHO, EML doesn't have to go in for "Open Review" as the primary mechanism. But guess, iMechanica could play a positive supplementary role for EML, by providing a systemic/systematic forum for a public re-review.

Just two cents.



Teng Li's picture

Thanks, Ajit, for sharing your one-word and two-cent, which fits perfectly the spirit of this open discussion. Many of us, if not all, have the experience at least once, if not many, of having our submission of a manuscript rejected due to unfavorable review comments that we feel cannot be fully justified. More often than not, such situations occurs when a manuscript is reviewed by referees outside the expertise of the authors. Frustrations aside, rejected authors can find a way or another to eventually get the paper published elsewhere, as long as the science in the paper is solid and the findings sound. Indeed, such frustrations experienced by mechanicians were exactly the starting discussion point that later ignited the idea of launching a letter-styled journal with a focus on mechanics. Long story short, here comes EML. This said, we would hope EML to become a home for cutting-edge mechanics research. A possible side benefit of such efforts could be rigorous but better justified reviews, and thus less unnecessary frustrations. 

Some different but relevant review models could include postpublication review and open peer commentary. Only getting to know these terminologies after reading through the Wikipedia entry of peer review myself, I realized that many practices in iMechanica indeed fall into these categories. Individual mechanicians post their published results and solicit/respond comments from others. A Journal Club discussion leader writes a short entry introducing an interesting mechanics topic and refering to a list of publications, then moderates discussions on these papers. All posts and comments are uniquely timestamped (with a unique URL, thus identifiable and searchable), so in this sense are "published" and subject to "open review".  Many of these practices in iMechanica led to active discussions, and some readers, being authors themselves or commenters, may get inspired for new ideas that lead to new publications. 

While EML will start with the traditional single-blind review model as we are most familiar and comfortable with, it is helpful to have an open and non-binding discussion to envision and explore any possible publishing model that fits the need of our community the best.

K Jimmy Hsia's picture

Dear Ajit,

Excellent comment. "Re-review" is a process. But it involves many important issues related scientific publication, as Teng already elaborated. There may not be a "one-size-fit-all" solution to the challenges faced by the researchers. But one thing is clear, if we don't try, we'll never find a better way to address these challenges.

I cannot give an answer to your comments. But I can assure you that TEAM EML will take your suggestions seriouly and discuss these issues at our regular meetings.



Dear Jimmy and Teng,

Thank you.

[The reason I didn't come back to you earlier is because I was too busy in the meanwhile, including over the last weekend, to even connect to the 'net.]

* * *

One reason I thought of a public re-review is that (i) practically speaking, EML seems to be headed to become a niche journal, (ii) and yet, due to its short publication time (and, let's face it, the high-profile editorial team many of who also blog actively), it is bound to attract papers that may not suit the very core of the editorial team at EML---and hence, the core of EML. So, some kind of a mechanism that helps the new journal evolve and expand/narrow its focus as the time goes by, would be nice to have.

Another reason is that I don't share the idea that a rejection is necessarily bad or that public blogging/discussion about a rejected paper is necessarily bitter. Nope. What is bad is that the editors are unable to state a good, concrete, reason for the rejection---not the very fact of rejection. I have had conference papers rejected, as noted on my personal Web site, and so, I know. In one case, the rejection was actually OK: though the conference was titled "computational mechanics," the de-facto emphasis was on advanced theoretical and computational modeling for niche areas such as plates and shells. The conference organizers had also received a large number of papers falling in these niche areas, even though the as advertised theme was too broad (covering entire computational mechanics). So, the rejection would have been immediately understandable. But the absence of this kind of clarity in communications, nay, absence of any communications regarding the reason for the rejection, was annoying. (And so was the insistence of one of the sub-editors that the abstract may use only the grammatical third person---not the first person. For reasons best known to his own person. That one was not just annoying, it was irritating.)

If an author knows that the reason for rejection was unsuitability of the topic, and if he opts for a public re-review, other mechanicians could help him by pointing out the right alternative avenues for its publication. After all, blogging a preprint at iMechanica cannot be considered a prior publication---no citation index makes reference to the iMechanica threads as publications. The work could also get helpful suggestions. For instance, it is conceivable that the paper included too much work and could be split up into two separate papers (with a little bit extra material in each). This kind of a feedback, too, is possible.

One final reason why I suggested a re-review is that the editorial board of EML seems to be comfortable blogging. If (i) a new journal (ii) falling in a niche area (iii) having an Internet savvy editorial team also does not experiment with ideas like the public re-review---which, at least to my mind, is much more "safe" and "reliable" avenue than outright "Open Source" editing or "crowd-sourcing" of editorial responsibilities and all---then why would Nature/Science (with 100+ years of tradition to keep), or PNAS if you must include something outside the two, would ever seriously consider or systematically implement such things? ... You see, if the experiment fails here, it would be far easier for a journal like EML to roll down the shutters on that one experimental idea, and still recover very rapidly in an agile manner, than to the more established "behemoths." That's why I made the suggestion to the EML.

And, as you noted, of course, iMechanica can always be used for the papers accepted by EML. That goes without saying. An author never has any trouble on the acceptance side (though other authors might!). The real trouble is on the rejection side. And the sting---if any---can be taken out in an honest, neat, systematic manner, together with some real help for betterment/making it more suitable for better suited avenues of publication.

Another two cents. (I will check back replies, but mostly, I would be closing my contributions on this thread with this. I really don't think I have much more to contribute other than whatever I have written (at much length, as usual!).)



K Jimmy Hsia's picture

Dear Ajit,

I didn't realized two cents could "buy" such well thought out and well reasoned comments!

As you pointed out, "rejection without proper justification" is what frustrates many researchers most. I would even separate the papers rejected right away from those rejected after peer review. It is the former that would often give a one-sentence justification, e.g., "not suitable for publication in the Journal". Unfortunately, this sentence can be interpreted in several different ways. I heard the story of the frustrating experience of publishing the experimental observations of a quasicrystal from Danny Shechtman at a conference more than 10 years ago ( He submitted the paper to J Applied Physics and was immediately rejected, some people simply didn't believe crystals could be aperiodic. It took about two years before he finally published his discovery. Shechtman received Nobel prize in chemistry for his discovery of quasicrystals in 2011.

RE-review openly of the "rejection without review" papers by a selected social media group is an interesting way to address such frustration, but more importantly, to help the research community better communicate their research results. However, the process is more involved than  just a "re-review". It needs to be thought out clearly of the potential outcomes of such a step: re-consideration for publication in EML, proper justifications for rejection, recommendation to authors for re-submission to another journal, or even how to revise the paper or re-do the work. Important considerations: who are the ones to make these decisions of further actions? based on what criteria?

I don't have a clear answer to these questions, not yet at least. But I'm a true believer of collective wisdom. So your and other people's opinions who have thought deeply about these issues would be extremely valuable.

Keep posting your comments to let us know what your opinions are. Thank so much for doing so to help the community!


azadpoor's picture

If I understand the scope of the journal correctly, EML, among other things, aims to publish high-impact mechanics papers which may not receive the recognition they deserve in other publication media. I think this is a great opportunity and very nice aim. There are, however, several questions that I have been asking myself and you guys may find them relevant too.

- First of all, do you plan to use the traditional top-bottom editorial process of Chief Editor ---> Associate Editor ---> Reviewer ----> Associate Editor ----> Chief Editor ---> Editorial Decision? Honestly, I think this model is slightly outdated and may not work for a journal like EML that has quite a broad scope. In particular, it is not easy for a limited number of editors to decide about the impact of individual papers in the areas which they are not particularly familiar with. An alternative approach is giving EB members complete autonomy over the review process and making editorial decisions. This approach has been used successfully by several journals particularly mega-journals such as PLOS ONE and PeerJ. I think a variant of this latter approach may work the best for EML.

- Are you going to reject papers without sending them out for review? If yes, what criteria are going to be used for editorial rejections? Is it going to be solely based on rigor or also based on the perceived impact? I think rejection based on perceived lack of impact is the most frustrating experience for authors, because you seldom know what is considered high-impact and what is considered low-impact by the editors. Personally, I have had papers rejected based on impact that turned to have much higher impact than the ones that were perceived to be high-impact. Actually, I cannot predict the impact of my own papers. How can editors predict the impact of so many different papers coming from so many different areas? One more, I think using a larger number of EB members and giving them autonomy over pre-review rejections could increase the likeliness of basing such decisions on a more accurate estimation of the impact of submissions.

- One of the problems I have been noticing when reading letter-like papers is the omission of too many methodological details. Often times, it is not really clear what the authors have done and it is impossible to reproduce their results. This is a more serious problem for mechanics papers, because most theoretical and computational papers involve so many parameters, methodological details, and assumptions that it may be completely impossible to reproduce the results of the paper without having access to full description of the methods. I have personally seen too many papers in journals like PRL and APL that simply cannot be reproduced without having to guess at least some of the methodological details. Nature has a somewhat better approach, because most papers are associated with lengthly supplementary documents that layout the methods in detail. What is going to be the EML's policy on reproducibility? Do you require the authors to provide a full description of the methods used in the study? How do reconcile that with the letter format of the journal? Are you going to use supplementary documents as the standard way of presenting the methodological details?

K Jimmy Hsia's picture

Dear Amir,

What wonderful comments/suggestions/questions! Although I believe many on TEAM EML have already read and started to think about your comments, these are issues that require more in-depth discussion, debate, and collective decisions. Some of these issues have already been discussed at our regular TEAM EML meetings (I'll provide an answer to your first question later). I can assure you that these issues will continue to be discussed at our meetings. We'll try our best to convey our thoughts and justification of our decisions to researchers in the future. EML homepage and iMechanica will be excellent venues for disseminating such info.

Here is the answer to your first question. TEAM EML has decided to have a "flat" review process/organizational structure. Papers submitted to EML will be handled by a single editor or associate editor throughout the entire review process. Only under special circumstance the Editors-in-Chief may intervene in the review process. This is partly due to the need to speed up the review process, partly due to the fact that we, as a TEAM, have high confidence in the Editors/AEs' judgement, integrity, and abilities to handle the review on her/his own. This process is not without risks. It may be adjusted in the future to reflect the community's and journal's needs. Again, the goal is to serve the community effectively. We'll try to make our decisions to best achieve this goal.

Thank you again for your comments. Looking forward to your future contributions!


Pradeep Sharma's picture


Dear Jimmy and the EML team,

Amir's comments resonated with me. As someone noted, predicting is hard---especially about the future. Like Amir, I have often been wrong about which of my own works will be well-cited and so his point # 2 does require careful thought.

However, pre-review rejections cannot be avoided.  Especially as the number of submissions to EML rise, this will likely become a necessary tool to maintain the short publication time. Like most things, the key, I suppose, lies in that elusive balance. My personal experience is that this “balance” boils down to the wisdom of editor(s)---there is, I think, no other magic formula that avoids unfair pre-review rejections while maintaining fast publication.  The EML team is quite good and my hope is that they will be able to manage this reasonably well. The advantage, when compared to journals like PRL or PNAS, is that mechanics has a narrower scope and the editors  (collectively) are likely to be familiar with almost all aspects of the field of mechanics.

Supplementary material is a good idea and I think that the editors should encourage this. In contrast to the papers, it usually does not take too long to prepare the supplementary material.  There have been several recent instances where I and my students have spent more time perusing the supplementary sections than the actual papers---the two papers that come to mind immediately were published in PRL and PNAS.


Laney Zhou's picture

Hi Amir,

We have journals with a similar editorial structure as Plos One of which all editorial board members handle papers, albeit much anrrower scope. The advantage is as you mentioned these people are closer to the specific topics of papers they are asked to handle therefore, better understanding of the paper and easier for them to identify reviewers. The downside however, is it's difficult to control editorial times and to have a uniform editorial approach towards dealing with papers. Personally I think the Plos One or PeerJ editorial struture is necessary for mega journals covering a large range of subjects and quality standard is not so high, i.e. sound science. What we try to do for more specialised journals with the whole board handling papers is actually the other direction, i.e. moving papers  back to a number of editors covering subject areas, to bring down editorial times and increase author experience. I shall not make a conclusion though that we should restrict ourselves to the current size of editors and associate editors for EML. As the journal grows it's very much possible that some subjects are not familiar to any of our editors and we will need to revisit the editorial structure.

Zhigang Suo's picture

Dear Teng:  Thank you so much for asking the question, How can iMechanica help his baby sister EML?  Re-reading the proposal for starting EML drafted by Jimmy, Sulin and you in 2010, I noticed again that  you highlighted in the proposal the potential use of iMechanica to enhance EML.

You, as well as other iMechanicians, are also asking a much broader question, How will researchers better communicate in the time of the Internet?

About a year ago I read a book, Reinventing Discovery, by Michael Nielsen.The book is entertaining, perceptive, and provocative.   It recounts many successes (e.g.,  Linux , Wikipedia) and failures (e.g., Nature’s attempt of open review).

The book also recalls the bizarre method of publishing used by Galileo. Here is a timeline of Nielsen’s narrative:

The narrative illustrates an interesting fact: A good method of communication may be invented long  after the technology is available. The invention of scientific journals needed to wait for more than two centuries after the technology of printing was available. How long will we wait for another revolution in scientific communication after the Internet?  Should we wait for another two centuries?  Or should we do somthing to accelerate?

Incidentally, Nielsen should know something about publishing.  His textbook, Quantum Computation and Quantum Information, has received over 21,000 citations on Google Scholar.  As a calibration, the most cited paper by Einstein, which happened to be on the same topic, has received a citation of 12,000.

Nielsen’s book, however, is unclear about the vision of future, or what we should do now.  Imagination is hard, especially about future.  Nonetheless, the book is a must read for anyone interested in discovery and communication in science. You can get a quick overview of the book by watching his TED talk.  Towards the end of his talk, he did provide some useful suggestion that everyone can do today.

Teng Li's picture

Dear Zhigang, thanks for sharing Nielsen's book and TED talk. I found the story about the pre-journal publishing mode in Galileo and Newton era particularly inspiring. Will read (or listen to) his book for more. As Nielsen pointed out in his TED talk, we should not be surprised by the fact of scientific communication lagging behind the wave of the Internet, social networking, etc., given its peculiar nature as explained by Nielson. But the (r)evolution of the methods of communication has been accelerating with the advent of the Internet and the ever advancing of technology.  Sixteen years ago, Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, created the first logo for his start-up in a style mimicking the logo of Yahoo!. Now Yahoo has been struggling to sustain, and Google is bringing revolution to our life in many facets. Smartphones become popular so quickly that legislation becomes necessary to regulate its proper use behind the wheel. I am not quite sure when the next revolution in scientific communication will come, but am quite sure it will come much sooner than what it took from the invention of printing to the launch of the first journal, especially if scientific community keeps the discussion and pursue going.

Zhigang Suo's picture

In conversations, Laney Zhou, Executive Publisher at Elsevier, and Louise Curtis, Publishing Director at Elsevier, keep asking, What can Elsevier do for Mechanics?   They are open-minded and energetic.  They are deeply interested in how business AND science can benefit from the Internet.  Like us, they are looking for creative solutions.  Also like us, they have a job to do and have little time.

As I noted in a previous comment, we are still at the very early stage of the Internet Revolution.  Even very brilliant minds cannot offer much useful ideas of what to do.  But the Internet is such a huge opportunity, even some ordinary ideas can go a very long way.  Think about the idea of Amazon.  It surely is a much simpler idea than that of finite elements.

I have an ordinary idea.  For months I have been listening to audial recordings of The Economist, from cover to cover. In the evening of Thursday each week, I download the new issue of The Economist to my iPhone.  During weekdays, I listen to the audio when I am driving and on the treadmill, a total of more than 90 minutes each day.  Each issue of the Economist is about 5 hours long, and I can finish the whole issue before the next Thursday.

My wife has subscribed to The Economist for some time, but I seldom had time to read it.  Then she taught me to listen to the audio.  This change has made all the difference.  

I don’t make any selection of topic.  I just listen to every item, from cover to cover.  I cannot say I am really interested in Argentina default, or middle east conflict, or Chinese corruption.  But I listen to them all.  I occasionally hear something that I don’t know I would be interested in.  Here is one example yesterday:  “Central to his thinking was a distinction between managers and leaders. Managers are people who like to do things right, he argued. Leaders are people who do the right thing. Managers have their eye on the bottom line. Leaders have their eye on the horizon. Managers help you to get to where you want to go. Leaders tell you what it is you want.”  Now I know the distinction.  I am not a manager.  I am a micromanager.

Here is an idea.  How about EML posts audios for all papers?  It makes no sense to record a paper in entirety.  All these equations and graphs!  Let’s say we require each paper to have a 300-word summary paragraph similar to that in Nature.  The paragraph describes, in succession,

  • a basic introduction to the field, comprehensible to a scientist in any discipline

  • more detailed background, comprehensible to scientists in related discipline

  • a statement of the general problem being addressed

  • a statement of the main result (here we show…)

  • general context

  • broader perspective

Let’s say in steady state EML publishes 20 papers each week, and each paper takes about 3 minutes of audial time.  This will give about 1 hour of recording each week.  Let’s say Elsevier hires a professional of great voice.  A voice of either Laney or Louise will do well.

We then make people form a habit to listen to summaries of all papers, every week.  We will certainly hear about things we don’t know we are interested in.  EML will be part of daily conversations, instead of Argentina default or middle east conflict or Chinese corruption.  We will all cite EML papers more frequently.

We will call it Radial EML, or Voice of EML. We will make a podcast. Once people subscribe to it, they will automatically receive it every week.

What do you think?

Teng Li's picture

Excellent idea! Zhigang.

When I first moved to Maryland, I learned that metro area including Maryland/Virginia/DC had the second worst traffic in US, only behind Los Angeles. A few years later, I heard from news that DC area has "proudly" beaten LA and become No. 1. In a good day, my commute time to work is about 1.5 hours. I miss the days back at Cambridge or Princeton, walking or biking to office within 10 minutes, but now need to deal with the traffic on daily base. Like many, I tried to better use the commute time and NPR and C-SPAN became my first rescues. By the time arriving office in the morning, I'm done with news "hearing". Returning commute is more diverse. All things considered, Science Friday, etc. Over the years, I got to know quite some stuff that I may not be interested to learn in the first place. The advent of smartphone offers more options for my daily commute. I can download podcast from favorite apps, picking materials of my choice. Themes I've been listening to evolve over the time, but listening to something has become routine just as my daily commute.

May I make some minor suggestions for the idea of Radio EML or Voice of EML. Why not offer an option of Audio abstract at EML submission, limit it to 2-3 minutes, and let the authors do it?  It can serve as a longer version of elevator pitch for authors to compete reader's interest in their papers. This way, we distribute the work load of Laney, and plus, gain the diversity of personality. If such a podcast is available, I'm quite sure it will be a much more interesting option for my commute than House debate over Obamacare, at least to me.

Zhigang Suo's picture

Dear Teng:  Thank you for the comment.  The audial abstracts submitted by authors have some desirable attributes, as you indicated.  But they also have some obvious undesirable issues:

  1. For authors who do not speak English well, such a requirement would present yet another obstacle.

  2. Even for native English speakers, the regional accent and personal style are distractive.  Whereas Australian English is entertaining in movies, it can be hard to understand.  Here is a recent Economist piece on how American Southern speech draws unwanted attention.


Regarding 2, here is an analogy.  How do you feel about a journal that prints files prepared by individual authors?  Some authors prepare them using LaTex, some using Word, and still some using photos of their beautiful handwriting.

Sulin Zhang's picture

It is a very novel idea to have an audial abstract (2-3 mins) for each paper published in EML, batch downloadable by iphones.  The challenge is, how to make the audial abstracts not only scientifically attractive to mechanicians, but also entertaining/understandable to laymens. Who knows, maybe someday some economists might listen to audio EML ...

Teng Li's picture

Thanks, Zhigang, for pointing out the potential challenges of voice of EML in terms of making an audio abstract. Such challenges ubiquitously exist in the broader area of public speaking.

Language is one of the barriers in giving an effective speech, being a conference presentation, dinner talk, elevator pitch, or voice of EML, but not all. In an article in Harvard Business Review titled "How to give a killer presentation", Chris Anderson, the curator of TED, (not to be confused with another Chris Anderson of former editor-in-chief of WIRED and author of Long Tail) shared the story of a 12-year-old boy from Kenya giving his TED talk. Though nervous and inexperienced in English, the boy told his story before a crowd of hundreds, which ended with a full standing ovation.

Giving a killer talk is an art. If suitably and effectively delivered, accent could even be the personal style of the artist.

To ease the undesirable issues as Zhigang mentioned, Voice of EML can be set as an optional item of submission. Maybe the authors can be even allowed to get someone else to narrate the audio abstract, if needed. 

azadpoor's picture

You are sure familiar with the Elsevier Audioslide option offered for the papers published in their journals?
Just in case, here is the description:

Zhigang Suo's picture

Dear Amir:  Thank you for pointing out this option.  The audioslides can be incredibly effective.  Here is one example from Whitesides group.  This video appeared on the front page of the website of Science in the week when their paper Camouflage and Display for Soft Machines was published.  The video is only a little over three minutes, but is a remarkably effective overview of the paper.  Please do take a look at the video.  It really is exceptional.

But for now I still like audios:  I can listen to them during driving and walking.  Perhaps I will adapt to videos when I have a Google Glass. Is it legal to watch video and drive simultaneously?

Also, for Radio EML to work well, audio summary should be available for every paper.  Audio summaries should not be optional for a few papers.  A complete offering may promote the readers to listen to many, and discover topics that they don’t know they are interested in.

Laney Zhou's picture

Thanks Amir for mentioning audioslides. It's one of the most popular functions on ScienceDirect and EML will have the option for authors to submit AudioSlides if they would like to. Zhigang you are more talking about podcasts and would like it to be mandatory for all papers. What can already be done, say we would like to experiment it is to ask authors to provide it as part of the supplimentary data. But let me talk to a few people at Elsevier first before more concrete suggestions.

Zhigang Suo's picture

Louise Curtis emailed me two examples of articles with audio podcasts:

Once you are on the page of the article, see the “featured multimedia for this article” box in the right pane.

I also tried the podcast of the Lancet on iPhone.  It has weekly updates consisting of interviews of authors of featured articles.  

Similar podcasts are available for Science and Nature.  I listen to them occasionally, and I did one podcast with Science.  The interviewer emailed me a day or two ahead with a list of questions.  I prepared answers in writing.  She interviewed me over the phone.  The podcast was about 8-minute long, and the entire interview was a little over 10 minutes.

Thus, podcasts are very easy to produce.  The question is really about us.  What do we want for EML?  

As noted before, my own preference is to have a professional read 300-word summaries of all papers published each week.  People can subscribe to the Extreme Mechanics Podcast on their smart phones, and form a habit to listen to them all, just like in days before the Internet, when we flipped through each issue of JMPS from cover to cover.  

But I can be easily persuaded into other formats.  Please comment.

Zhigang Suo's picture

For the generation coming of age during, and shortly after, the Cultural Revolution, in China, Voice of America brings nostalgia, memories so rich in detail, yet so inexplicably distant.  China has changed enormously.  So has America.  So have our lives.

In those years, listening to Voice of America in China was illegal.  But people listened to it anyway.  I don't recall that anybody got into trouble.  VOA was a beacon in the long, dark night.  For some, it offered a view of the outside world.  For others, it offered a dream, an American dream. Or rather, it offered a dream of America.  For still others, it offered a way to learn English.  Oddly, the mention of VOA also brings back memories of revolutionary songs and the eight model Chinese operas.

A college classmate of my wife had a radio when he was a teenager.  In rural China in the early 70's, the radio was his window to the world.  One day, he discovered a program that taught English.  He started to listen to the program every day at the same time.  He discovered something about himself:  he loved languages, English and Chinese.  When universities in China re-opened in 1977, he got into an English department. This peasant's son surprised everyone.  He spoke perfect English, with an American accent.  That program was Voice of America.  He is now a law professor at Cornell University. He writes a column in the Wall Street Journal, Chinese Edition.

I do not listen to VOA anymore.  Am I an American now?  Have we lost our dreams, along with the youthful drive to seek illicit fun?  Listening to another round of discussion on obamacare offers no dream. It is so pointless that it does not even cause nightmare.  Listening to coy pronouncements of Clinton dynasty is downright stupid.

It's time to start Voice of EML.  Youthful and uncomplicated pleasure, despite being legal.  Something that you and I can do something about.

K Jimmy Hsia's picture

What a fun discussion, and a beautiful idea!

Radio EML sounds somewhat commercial. Audioslides? Nay, not extreme enough. Voice of EML has my vote. :Voice of ..." gives one the feeling that it is a conversation, a conversation contributed by everyone -- the exact spirit of EML.

Teng Li's picture

The experience with and story of VOA Zhigang shared remind me those days when I listen to VOA in college years. In late 90s, listening to VOA was not illicit fun anymore in China, but not popular among young people either. I don't recall any of my classmates routinely following any VOA program. Incidentally, I came across Learning English, a VOA program aiming to help non-native speakers to learn American English and culture. Those remote, slow yet articulate voices served as my routine treat after breakfast for years. My favorite part of the Learning English is called American Mosaic, through which one can learn not only American English, but also a flavor of American musics, pop culture and life. 

Life moves on. Like Zhigang and many others, I also do not listen to VOA anymore. But those voices and stories behind them were imprinted in my memory. Just like VOA can do for its listeners by opening up a window to get to know what's going on in America, Voice of EML can also serve as a handy channel for its listeners to stay informed and current with what's going on at the frontier of mechanics. And just like the Camouflage and Display for Soft Machines video released along with Whitesides' 2012 Science paper, Voice of EML should potentially not only serve mechanics researchers but also intrigue researchers in other fields and even more general public, a long-term vision of EML.

Writing up this comment and recollecting experience with VOA make me realize that I might subconsciously become a bit of biased when I cast my vote for "Voice of EML" over "Radio EML" and "AudioSlides". But incidentally, the name of Voice of EML echos the Voice franchise, a TV series going viral across the globe. One solid evidence: Every episode of The Voice of China (中国好声音), now at its third season, receives No. 1 rating among all TV series in China. It is so extremely popular that even my daugher starts to follow, the very first and currently only Chinese TV series she follows. So in this sense, "Voice of EML" is modish as well.

azadpoor's picture

Would it make sense to aim for every journal club to be ultimately published as a review/perspective paper in the EML? Do you guys plan to publish review/perspective papers too? The papers could also incorporate a summary of the discussions happening around the journal club in iMechanica. This could stimulate a better discussion as well as higher quality journal clubs.

K Jimmy Hsia's picture

Dear Amir,

Thanks for the question. We are planning to publish review articles in EML, but by invitation only. Selection of topics and invited contributors will involve EML's Advisory Board (they are there to provide advices, aren't they) and the rest of TEAM EML. At the moment, we will not allow authors to submit long, review papers on their own since this will be inconsistent with the letter-style flavor of the journal and create unnecessary burden to the editorial team if many people submit such articles.

Teng Li's picture

Dear Amir, thank you very much for bringing up a nice idea of possible further development of an iMechanica Journal Club discussion into a review or perspective paper in EML. Originated from a discussion started by Pradeep Sharma, the monthly Journal Club discussion has become a signature feature of iMechanica. With active interaction among interested audiences and proper moderation by the discussion leader, the month-long discussion over a Journal Club on iMechanica are in many aspects similiar with a topical workshop. What's more, iMechanica Journal Club has its unique advantage, e.g., open for general public without institutional boundary and time constraint (topic remains open for discussion even after a month at the top of front page of iMechanica). As a result, many past Journal Club discussions are in-depth and stimulating.

One type of review/perspective papers is the summary of the outcome of a topical workshop, often co-authored by the workshop participants and probably led by a few coordinators, for example,

M.E. Kassner, S. Nemat-Nasser, Z. Suo, G. Bao, J. C. Barbour, L.C. Brinson, H. Espinosa, H. Gao, S. Granick, P. Gumbsch, K.S. Kim, W. Knauss, L. Kubin, J. Langer, B.C. Larson, L. Mahadevan, A. Majumdar, S. Torquato, F. van Swol. " New directions in mechanics". Mechanics of Materials. 37, 231-259 (2005)

Significant efforts are expected to forge the verbal discussions over a workshop into a review/perspective paper like the above. But iMechanica Journal Club has the necessary components and potential to further develop some extremely active and inspiring discussions into a review/perspective paper in EML. More thoughts on this are extremely welcome.

azadpoor's picture

I think the most important concern is to maintain a high level of scholarly discussion and presentation in the review papers, despite the fact that many different authors may be writing the review papers originating from the various journal clubs. The first few journal clubs published as review papers are therefore extremely important, because they could serve as templates for the future review papers. For the first few journal clubs, we could encourage more people to participate in the process of converting a journal cub discussion to review papers. Ultimately, the experience accumulated during the process of converting the first few journal club discussions into review papers should be written as a document that could be later used by other journal club leaders for writing their own review papers. It might be also worth designating one person from the EB as the review editor to ensure that there is consistency between the level, depth, and style of the the review papers originating from different journal clubs.

Pradeep Sharma's picture

The idea is indeed interesting however, (in my opinion) its success is likely to be highly variable. In other words, I think it is best not to tie an archival journal review/perspective feature to an (relatively) uncontrolled free-flow discussion forum. Every now and then, it may make sense to invite the Jclub participants to co-author something (case in point----Zhigangs paper). If the frequency of such invitations to the Jclub become frequent enough, then you all may consider revisiting the idea.

The reverse idea however may work very well. The EML team may consider making it mandatory for all EML review article authors to convert their paper into a Jclub discussion. Since EML review articles are by invitation only, you will have quite a bit of advance warning to schedule the appropriate Jclub feature.

azadpoor's picture

I very much like the 'reverse idea'. Of course, it makes a lot of sense. Maybe the review editor of the EML should be also responsible for the journal club themes of iMechanica. The review editor could consult the advisory board on a yearly basis and compile a list of possible topics for the review papers (and thus journal club themes). The review editor will then commissions the review papers to leading researchers in those areas of research with plenty of time for them to prepare their papers. The paper swill be ultimately published in the EML and will be the basis for journal club discussions in iMechanica. The downside will be that there will be no room for incorporating the post-publication discussion on iMechanica.

vicky.nguyen's picture

I also think that the the journal clubs entries are too variable to turn each and every one into a review article.  However, if an entry generates a lot of comments and discussions, the EML editors may want to invite the author and some key commenters to submit a review article based on their imechanica posting.  This would require some coordination frm the JClub and EML editors, but knowing that a JClub entry may turn into a review article will motivate more  good journal club entries and active participation.  It would strengthen both iMechanica and EML.

azadpoor's picture

I completely agree with your point that the journal club entries are too variable. That is why it might be a better idea to use the reverse order as suggested by Pradeep and further elaborated on by myself in my previous comment. If the journal club entries are commissioned by the review editor (based on the recommendations of the advisory board), written by the journal club leader(s), peer-reviewed, and finally published in the EML, there is a good chance that we will get consistent quality of journal club entries. The only downside, as I previously mentioned, is that it will not be possible to incorporate the input of the commentators in the review paper.

Teng Li's picture

Amir, it might be possible to incorporate the inputs from commentators when an EML review paper is under discussion through iMechanica Journal Club. Some times, journals receive submissions with comments on a previously published paper. This often is followed by a response by the original author(s). Both comment and response are published in the same format as the original paper. If the Journal Club discussion on an EML review paper brings in new significant insights, a summary of such discussions could be published in a similar fashion. Just my 2 cents.

azadpoor's picture

That is a good idea, indeed. Of course, it will depend on the quality of the discussion on iMechanica. Probably not every discussion will qualify for a commentary paper but some might very well do.

Xuanhe Zhao's picture

I agree with the Pradeep and Vicky, and would like to suggest a
two-way approach. When the EML editorial board select potential
authors of review articles, they may suggest the authors to post
excerpts of reviews on Imechanica JClub for comments, discussions and publicity. On the other hand, the board may also keep an eye on existing JClub discussions and common entries for potential reviews. This approach requires some coordination between EML and Imech, but would benefit both and the community.

Now that this topic and all possibilities have been discussed from an academic viewpoint, let me bring in a non-academic perspective.  It's always great to have journals that cover topics that are too interdisciplinary to interest practitioners of dominant fields.  I hope EML will fill such a niche.  The practical outcome remains to be seen and I will wait for developments with interest.

People who have read some of my comments on iMechanica know that I have two favorite gripes:

1) The cost of journals:  NZ universities spent ~$51 million on journal subscriptions in 2013. Compare that to the $55 million/year research funding that's available via the Marsden fund (approx. equivalent to the NSF in the US).   I would have preferred a open-access journal.

2) The tendency of incremental publications:  The incentives prevalent in academia lead to the publication or numerous publications on the same topic, each paper making only an incremental contribution.  This tensdency leads to a considerable wastage of time for people outside academia who would like to make use of new findings to create new products or processes. Also, letter style publications, e.g., in Nature, are extremely difficult to replicate, even when extensive supplementary materials are available.  Are enough groundbreaking discoveries made in mechanics every year to justify a letter style journal that does not report incremental updates?

-- Biswajit

N. Sukumar's picture

Given the Letter format of EML, consideration should be given to position papers on specific topics in mechanics and/or those that overlap areas in which mechanics plays a prominent role.  There are many outlets -- via other journals and handbooks -- for review articles. IMO, what is currently missing are papers that provide a clear and fresh outlook with significant new content on emerging research topics as well as those that are seemingly mature but not well-understood.  For someone who has a clear understanding of the research topic and the various connections to it, a few pages would suffice to convey what is exciting about it and the most prevalent approaches that have been pursued so far, their pros and cons, and what is desired to fill the existing voids and to furnish potential improvements in the state-of-the-art. I perceive this to be of equal interest to, both, the expert as well as the newcomer in the field. This is not a research article in the traditional sense of the word, but it would be beneficial to the larger community.  It would also provide pointers on what are the important research questions and open-problems, which can guide future research in the area.

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