Consideration of bylaw revisions to publication policy, 2019
Report of 31 Jan 2019 teleconference:
Eleven members of the Publication and Speakers Committee met on 31 January 2019 to discuss possible revisions of the bylaws. The main conclusion of our discussion was that the policies are holding up well, and changes are not urgent. The same discussion yielded three main points on which we could consider updates to the bylaws, regarding forecasts, definitions of key papers, and the publication review process, as well as several minor issues.
The issue that is mostly likely to come up in the near term relates to forecasts by collaboration members. The bylaws state that projects and papers that rely on collaboration resources (simulations, designs, pipelines, etc.) should be covered by the policy. For non-key science forecasts there is a bylaws category “Forecasts/Technical Reports” with short author lists dedicated for this purpose.
It is a trickier case when collaboration members plug simple instrument specifications into a forecasting pipeline that they created outside the context of the collaboration or working groups. Because this does not really use collaboration resources, our discussion generally considered this work to be outside the purview of the publication policy. However, the issue is difficult if the work makes statements about the capabilities of CMB-S4 to perform on its key science topics or even important non-key topics. In cases like these it makes sense for at least the working group leads to be kept in the loop. The Simons Observatory collaboration, for example, requires collaboration members to provide (to the analog of the Science Council) any non-collaboration paper that mentions the project at least 48 hours before submission, and requires that the paper note that it is not an official collaboration paper. The CMB-S4 bylaws currently do not have such requirements, and are not clear about which cases should be considered collaboration papers and which should not.
Another big picture issue was a discussion of the definition of key papers. The Science Council, according to the bylaws, will “maintain” (i.e. determine) the list of topics that will be considered key for CMB-S4, and it decides whether to accept projects that are proposed. (The proposal includes a request for key/non-key/etc.) However, the process by which the Science Council makes these determinations is not defined by the bylaws, except to say that key projects are ones where the Collaboration must speak with “one voice.” Committee members noted that this process may not be urgent to define, and that Planck, for example, did not hold a workshop to define the initial slate of papers until after the satellite was acquiring data.
The next category of discussion related to the process the bylaws describe for publication review. Because the review process is concluded by consensus between the authors, working group coordinators, collaboration-assigned reviewers, and the publication board rapporteur, it would in principle be possible for a paper to get trapped in an endless review cycle. On the other hand, the committee noted that a paper that cannot break out of that cycle may not be one that we want to bring forward. The bylaws specify three week periods for collaboration-wide comment, and that all comments will be addressed. It may be useful to include a statement that comments that occur outside the three-week window may not be addressed or only addressed on a best-effort basis.
Other topics of the bylaws discussion included:
- The two year time limit that ex-members remain bound to the publication policy, and whether that is too long in cases where a Junior person has left the project.
- Whether the publication board should maintain a unified style guide.
- Whether a speaker being local to a meeting should be added to career status and other criteria when weighing candidates for a speaking opportunity.
- A few typos and minor corrections.
In summary, the Publication and Speakers Committee’s discussion highlighted some important issues that can be used to guide revision of the bylaws, whether that happens this March, as originally scheduled, or at a later date according to the wishes of the Governing Board.