Intents of the Journal Club

It is commonly believed that these days Physicists get most of their information on developments in Physics over the internet. In condensed matter physics a good fraction of it is first published in the cond-mat archives. This fraction will inevitably increase. The intent of this Journal Club is to use the internet to satisfy a commonly felt need to identify important advances in condensed matter physics and to stimulate directions for new fruitful inquiry based on papers published on the Internet as well as those in print Journals which are also available on the Internet.

The idea of a web-site to identify four to five outstanding papers in condensed matter physics every month is an outgrowth of the the Journal Club set up at Bell Laboratories by Conyers Herring in the late 1940’s, who ran it till he left for Stanford in the mid 1970’s. The Bell lab Journal club is famous for the impetus it provided to young scientists at Bell labs. The institution worked so well because of the high standard of selection of papers set up by Herring and the availability of a large set of dedicated and interested participants whose expertise covered almost every exciting area of condensed matter physics at any time. It is felt that using the internet, and with the help of well chosen participants, the advantages of identifying exceptional scientific papers can be shared by the whole condensed matter physics community.

The proposed web-site works as follows. About 20 correspondents have been chosen who are active practitioners of science and who have a deep interest in the development of the subject. Their interests span a wide range of sub-fields in Condensed Matter Physics. There would be a turnover of the correspondents over a period of a few years. (The organizers may request scientists not on the current list of correspondents to contribute in specific areas from time to time.) These correspondents are asked to identify outstanding developments that they come across in the publications over the internet or in the various regular scientific Journals which are also available as non-commercial scientific archives on the Internet. A correspondent is also requested to provide between half page to a page commentary on the paper selected and why he/she finds it particularly interesting. Any given correspondent would not have to contribute more than 2-3 papers a year because in a given month only 4-5 papers are selected. The correspondents are requested not to write about papers of which they or their immediate colleagues are co-authors.

Various colleagues at universities have told us that they would find such a web-site of great help in their institutions, especially for graduate students and post-docs. The web-site can set the stage for detailed discussions and commentary in their respective institution.

In the proposed system, there need be no contact between the authors of the papers and the correspondents. Only interesting papers are identified. Adverse remarks about papers, questions of priority etc. are avoided as there are plenty of other outlets for such issues.

It is inevitable that several interesting developments will be missed by the Journal club. The hope is that almost all that are covered are thought provoking and encourage further developments.

This is an experiment; the success of its aims can only be determined after it has run for a while. Features of it may be changed depending on the advice we get and our experience in running it.

Note Added (May 2004): In order to better cover the diverse sub-fields of condensed matter physics, we have added to the list of corresponding members, all our guest correspondents and a few more. The contribution of each correspondent may be seen by clicking on the icon next to their name. The status as a corresponding member will generally lapse after a year of inactivity.