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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

TheoretiCS: A New TCS Journal

Guest Post from Paul Beame on behalf of the TheoretiCS Foundation

I am writing to let you know of the launch today of TheoretiCS, a new fully open-access journal dedicated to Theoretical Computer Science developed by the members of our community that I have been involved in and for which I gave a brief pre-announcement about at STOC.

This journal has involved an unprecedented level of cooperation of representatives of leading conferences from across the entire Theoretical Computer Science spectrum. This includes representatives from STOC, FOCS, SODA, CCC, PODC, SoCG, TCC, COLT, ITCS, ICALP, which may be more familiar to readers of your blog, as well as from LICS, CSL, CONCUR, ICDT, MFCS and a number of others.

Two Points of Emphasis

  • Our quality objective - TheoretiCS aims at publishing articles of a very high quality, and at becoming a reference journal on par with the leading journals in all of Theoretical Computer Science
  • The inclusive view of Theoretical Computer Science that this journal represents, which is evident in the choice of two excellent co-editors-in-chief, Javier Esparza and Uri Zwick, and an outstanding inaugural editorial board.

Guiding principles and objectives

  • We believe that our field (and science in general) needs more 'virtuous' open-access journals, a whole eco-system of them, with various levels of specialization and of selectivity. We also believe that, along with the structuring role played by conferences in theoretical computer science, we collectively need to re-develop the practice of journal publications.
  • The scope of TheoretiCS is the whole of Theoretical Computer Science, understood in an inclusive meaning (concretely: including, but not restricted to, the Theory of Computing and the Theory of Programming; or equivalently, the so-called TCS-A and TCS-B, reminiscent of Jan van Leeuwen et al.'s Handbook of Theoretical Computer Science).
  • Our aim is to rapidly become a reference journal and to contribute to the unity of the Theoretical Computer Science global community. In particular, we will seek to publish only papers that make a very significant contribution to their respective fields, that strive to be accessible to a wider audience within theoretical computer science, and that are, generally, of a quality on par with the very best journals in the field.
  • TheoretiCS adheres to the principles of 'virtuous' open-access: there is no charge to read the journal, nor to publish in it. The copyright of the papers remains with the authors, under a Creative Commons license.

Organization and a bit of history

The project started in 2019 and underwent a long gestation. From the start, we wanted to have a thorough discussion with a wide representation of the community, on how to best implement the guiding principles sketched above. It was deemed essential to make sure that all fields of theoretical computer science would feel at home in this journal, and that it would be recognized as a valid venue for publication all over the world.

This resulted in the creation of an Advisory Board, composed of representatives of most of the main conferences in the field (currently APPROX, CCC, COLT, CONCUR, CSL, FOCS, FoSSaCS, FSCD, FSTTCS, ICALP, ICDT, ITCS, LICS, MFCS, PODC, SoCG, SODA, STACS, STOC, TCC) and of so-called members-at-large. 

Logistics and answers to some natural questions

  • The journal is published by the TheoretiCS Foundation, a non-profit foundation established under German law. Thomas Schwentick, Pascal Weil, and Meena Mahajan are officers of the foundation.
  • TheoretiCS is based on the platform episciences.org, in the spirit of a so-called overlay journal.
  • The Advisory Board, together with the Editors-in-Chief and the Managing Editors, spent much of their efforts in designing and implementing an efficient 2-phase review system: efficient in terms of the added-value it brings to the published papers and their authors, and of the time it takes. Yet, as this review system relies in an essential fashion on the work and expertise of colleagues (like in all classical reputable journals), we can not guarantee a fixed duration for the evaluation of the papers submitted to TheoretiCS.
  • Being charge-free for authors and readers does not mean that there is no cost to publishing a journal. These costs are supported for the foreseeable future by academic institutions (at the moment, CNRS and Inria, in France; others may join).
  • The journal will have an ISSN, and each paper will have a DOI. There will be no print edition.

2 comments:

  1. I'm curious why you chose episciences.org instead of using OJS.

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  2. The ability to support the desired editorial workflow for the journal was a key component. The workflow for TheoretiCS is designed for both a quick first-stage turnaround, and a visibility of papers under review for the full editorial board (except for those who editorial board members who have a COI). This is designed so that papers do not languish with a single editorial board member and to ensure consistent quality control.

    Both OJS and episciences.org were considered and there were advocates for both. While each had advantages, episciences.org were much more ready to commit to supporting the desired editorial workflow and COI options. They have already made software updates in this direction. Some also were not convinced by the sense that one had to choose/rely on a single sponsoring university by OJS, though other liked how other OJS journals worked. In principle, had OJS been able to commit to supporting the desired editorial workflow the decision could have gone the other way.

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