November 21, 2016

Be as Brief as Possible but no Briefer

Nature Highlights article on the Journal of Brief Ideas, which itself is brief.

No, this is not an Einstein quote. But Einstein very well may have submitted to the Journal of Brief Ideas [1], an open access version of Occam's razor. I just submitted a brief paper called "Playing Games with Ideas: when epistemology pays off", which is the equivalent of a fully-indexed abstract [2]. While some people might find 200 words to be too brief, the Journal allows for attachments to be submitted, thus allowing a bit of circumventing with regard to the word limit [3].

According to the Journal FAQ, submitting such brief reports is part of establishing something below the current standard for the minimal publishable unit. It is also important for enforcing good scientific citizenship practices [4]. Very short papers have occasionally been published in regular journals. Mathematics papers by Lander and Parkin [5] and Conway and Soifer [6] accomplished mathematical proofs in less than a paragraph (but with multiple figures). Other than these rather mythical examples, it is quite the challenge to integrate a well-formulated idea into the Journal of Brief Ideas' 200 word limit.

[1] Woolston, C. (2015). Journal publishes 200-word papers. Nature, 518, 277.

[2] Indexing done via document object identification on Zenodo, doi:10.5281/zenodo.167647

[3] If a picture is worth 1000 words, then the Journal of Brief Ideas become less brief than its name implies.

[4] Neisseria (2015). All you need to publish in this journal is an idea. Science Made Easy blog, February 13.

[4] Lander, L.J. and Parkin, T.R. (1966). Counterexample to Euler's Conjecture on sums of like powers. Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, 72(6), 1079.

[5] Conway, J.H. and Soifer, A. (2004). Can n2 + 1 unit equilateral triangles cover an equilateral triangle of side > n, say n + ɛ? American Mathematical Monthly, 1.