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J-club Editor: Election versus Appointment?

Pradeep Sharma's picture

As many of you know, last year we had a lively debate prior to the launch of the j-club regarding the rules and regulations governing the functioning of the j-club. This continued in a more low-key fashion this year. One of the more important topics under discussion has been the selection of the future editors (which is to be done each year). I, and perhaps a few other people, had reasoned that the editor should be elected by popular vote. It was proposed that candidates will either self-nominate themselves or be nominated by other mechanicians.

In discussions with a few active and prominent members of iMechanica (who are potential candidates for next year) a number of issues came to light which have prompted me to reconsider my initial thoughts. This post is intended to open a debate on whether the J-club editor should be elected or appointed. Let us defer, for the moment, how this "appointment" will be made.

Here are a few of the concerns with the election process that have been raised (---and I concur). It would be interesting to hear feedback on these and other issues related to this topic:

(1) Several mechanicians who would make excellent candidates for this job are reluctant to run in a public election (for various reasons). On a more personal note I realized, somewhat belatedly, that I myself would not have participated had this job required me to go through an election process. This is a serious issue since the j-club has now emerged as the public face of the iMechanica and in the words of a fellow mechanician, j-club, the first thing seen by new incoming visitor.

(2) This job should not be left to the vagaries of popular vote especially since iMechanica is a web-based medium where there is little oversight into voting modalities. Do we want an editor who is "popular" and known in the community or someone with strong technical depth, breadth and a vision to match? Popular voting process may be but is not always congruous with the latter. A good analogy is Journal of Applied Mechanics. The editor is not elected by popular vote. He or she is appointed based on technical merit and overall vision for the journal. Most journals follow this model to more or lesser degree.

What would be a suitable procedure to "appoint" the editor? There are several ways, I suppose. We could very well follow the example of Journal of Applied Mechanics and have an "executive committee" which makes these appointments or simply have one person in charge of it (e.g. Zhigang).

Zhigang Suo's picture

For those who might have missed these discussions, here they are

Zhigang Suo's picture

Thank you , Pradeep, for leading us with the establishment and further development of the jClub.  Indeed, jClub is now perhaps the most prominent feature of iMechanica to many newcomers.  It also has a tremendous potential.  Sooner or later all explicit  knowledge will be online.  Information will become totally free, accessible to everyone.  When that happens, information by itself will have zero value, just like air or water.  What will be valuable will be how to use the information to create something else.  The jClub will go a long way to help us.

Public election has its own merits. It gives a mechanism to enable all users to influence iMechanica. I think we also have a mechanism to show the merit of individual candidates. For example, a candidate can write about her vision of the jClub. Other people can express their endorsement of certain candidate by writing comments.  Through this process, the candidates can get some feedback as what fellow iMechanicians want.  However, as we all know, democratically elected presidents need not be more competent than presidents selected by less democratic processes.

I completely understand the concerns that you have raised.  I now ask the same question that you have asked yourself:  Would I run for election if I were a younger researcher?  I might, under two conditions:  (1) Several people that I admire nominate me as a candidate, (2) the election process cannot be easily gamed.  As you know, I did run for election to chair a Gordon Conference.  It was great fun and I had no regrets.  Now, Condition (2) is uncertain for a web based platform like iMechanica.  I just don't know what might happen if we hold an open election.

If the initial reactions you got from active iMechanicians indicate a more prevalent concern, we will just have to reconsider the process.  iMechanica is very young.  A procedure set up now needs not dictate what we should do in future.  Perhaps we can consider a public election in the future, and do something readily doable now. 

I eagerly await guidance from you and all iMechanicians on this matter.

Xi Chen's picture

In my view we should take advantage of such issue, otherwise jClub makes no difference than other journals and we would lost an important chance to test the web-based outreach. Before the voting, several candidates need to be identified, who are both technically capable and willing to run the election. If we have two candidates with equal technical merit, I do not see if there is anything wrong with the winner who has more popularity.

Of course, the entire voting process must be fair and all votes should be tracked. I noted a bug of iMechanica: the counter that tracks how many times each post was read. For example, right now the all-time #1 post looks weird, and I strongly suspect somebody deliberately clicked it hundreds of times everyday to promote this post (without a need to login -- all one needs to do is just clicking the "refresh" button on web browser 10 times a second). This issue can be solved by limiting 1 vote from a registered user AND a recognizable IP. This is done in other similar voting processes in BBS, and user who violate this law will be warned.

Pradeep Sharma's picture


Thanks for your comments. I certainly agree with the points you have raised (and partly formed the reason for my position (pro-election) in the first round of debate. Let me reword the concern I raised: I do feel that "eventually" the selection should be through election. The question is whether we should have an election during the early stages of iMechanica where the growth direction of iMechanica needs to monitored a bit more closely. To me the most serious aspect of going through the election route (at this stage) is that many mechanicians (who otherwise are capable and willing to do the job) might shy away. Some may feel strongly about this concern and others may not. My post hopefully will quantify that and provide a basis for a broadly accepted decision.

Xi Chen's picture

Pradeep, thank you for raising this interesting issue and I understand your concern. I would suggest the candidates (3-5) to be selected by a committee with expertise, to make sure that they are both capable as the editor and willing to run the election. The candidates can be either directly nominated by the committee, or they could first register (which means they are willing to run election) and then the committee identifies 3-5 candidates (more like a faculty search process). Next, we let the public to vote.

Another suggestion to address your concern is to have a poll right now, to ask the general users how comfortable are they feel about voting, if they were asked to run the election.

N. Sukumar's picture

I concur with Xi's first proposal. A few candidates (who are also interested in serving as the Editor) can be selected by a committee and then a public vote can take place to pick the Editor.  In the first stage, a simple registration form should suffice to allow interested candidates to apply for the position. Once the committee comes up with the short-list, the public vote on iMechanica can take place (voting period can be a week or two). A simpler implementation of the above (committee targets potential candidates to gauge interest) would also be good.

I'm pretty much in agreement with Pradeep here. I don't think this should be an (outright) popularity contest.

I would favor either direct appointment through a committee or nomination by committee followed by popular vote. It might be best if the votes aren't publically tallied as well. Obviously the committee would consult with the prospective candidate(s) in advance to gauge interest, ideas, etc.

Henry Tan's picture

I think the mission of iMechanica and the motivation of J-Club, which defines the role of an editor, determine the method for the selection.

Either of the methods, election or appointment, is fine once it serves the goal.


I have not followed the J-Club discussion very closely and my understanding might be off-base. Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

My understanding is that the editor's role is to select topics that are to be discussed in a given year. The topics are solicited from all members of iMechanica sometime before the year starts (or maybe even during the year). The editor will be helped by a committee in the making of these decisions.

The editor should be able to select topics of interest to a broad range of readers (and also topics in emerging areas). With a committee of experts to help, I think almost any member will be able to do the job reasonably well. If most of iMechanica's readers continue to be young researchers and students, I don't think that the choice of editor really matters that much. A vote can easily be arranged and counted provided voters are required to log in into iMechanica. A sort on the IP address and user name + a uniqueness filter will should be easy to implement.

There are a few problems with the above scenario:

1) How is the committee of experts determined? In no such committe can be formed, the editor will have to act alone. In such a situation, a purely democratic process of choosing the editor may not yield the desired quality of J-Club authors and topics. I would prefer nominations and a vote on the nominees in such a situation.

2) The J-Club articles are presumably the first thing new readers see on iMechanica. If we are attract established and well-known mechanicians to become regular contributors and readers, we will have to provide quality and value on the front page. I feel that this is a nontrivial problem and will probably not be solved by having a J-Club editor who is well known. However, we stand a better chance of attracting established people if we follow the nomination+election route.

My overall feeling is that since iMechanica is a different medium of expression than journals and we should follow an path that is appropriate for this medium. Even though the forum is used for free by a number of people, the cost of maintaining the service is being borne by someone. I feel that whoever provides the service has the final right to decide how the service will function, whether it is by committee or by fiat. If I were to own the service, I would use the democratic path of making the editorship open to any member with the benefit of a committee of advisors.



Mogadalai Gururajan's picture

The main job of the editor is in selecting discussion leaders; by her choice of discussion leaders and the subjects of discussion, the editor leads and guides the journal club in a direction which she thinks will benefit mechanicians in general and iMechanica in particular. So, I have the following suggestion:

(1) The potential editors come up with a proposal as to what they think are the topics for the journal club under their editorship (Akin to the suggestion of Suo);

(2) A committee (whose composition is again a question--probably it can consist of all the iMechanica members with admin privilege, or it can consist of the editors and all the discussion leaders of the past year) goes through the proposals and shortlists, say three or five or ten of them (akin to the suggestions of Pradeep, Xi, Sukumar and John) ;

(3) The editor is then chosen from the shortlisted nominees based on popular vote (which was the original proposal).

Thus, unlike conventional journal editors, jclub editors are still chosen by popular vote; however, the proposal and selection processes makes sure that the required standards are met.

I can see some problems with this model, namely, the first round is by self-nomination and many potential editors might not be willing to do that. Even those who want to nominate themselves might not want to go through the drudgery of making a proposal. Further, as Dolbow suggests, if potential editors think that the process is a popularity match, they might not be willing to participate in the process.

However, in the long run, I think, iMechanica will benefit from those editors who are willing to put in the effort of writing porposals and are willing to go to the public with their proposals; it will also choose those editors who are willing and capable of talking to all the constituent groups of iMechanica. The popular voting will make the journal club relevant to more and more people.

Finally, should the efforts of those editors who wrote the proposal but who were not elected should go waste? I do not think so. There is nothing that stops the unelected editors in running some posts on select themes in their own blogs. iMechanica can also come up with a mechanism wherein such posts will be branded (say, potential jClub post) and will be shown in the front page with an icon next to them.

Konstantin Volokh's picture

I suggest that the most enthusiastic iMechanicians should be appointed. The degree of enthusiasm can be calculated by the number of posts including discussions and blog entries. It is also good if the editor will be collective, that is two or three persons will make decisions...

Teng Li's picture

I believe we all agree with the importance of jClub as the public face of iMechanica. This is exactly why present thread has raised quite active discussion so far.

Here I'd like to point out another concern about the public election.  In Xi's comment above, he mentioned a possible bug of iMechanica, that is, one can potentially manipulate the times a post has been read.  Such a manipulated process can be equally possible when it comes to public election.

At the early stage, iMechanica is now wide open to everyone of interest.  Not willing to discourage potential iMech users, we currently do not perform authorization  process for each registration. Registered user are free to make best use of iMechanica, unless certain malicious actions (e.g., scam comments) have been identified. Such an open setup can be potentially used to manipulate a public election.  I believe the current setup of voting is limited for 1 vote from one registered user, no IP address limitation applied. This is partially due to technical issue related to Drupal, partially because we also don't want to potentially limit the access from users who are using a shared IP address, which is very likely the case for many students.


Xiaodong Li's picture

I think that "selection through election" will be fun and this process may attract more graduate students. I do agree that at the early stages of iMechanica the growth direction needs to be monitored a bit more closely. This voting process may end with several candidates with high votes. This is ok. We can then form a committee and let the committee appoint the Editor. The committee may also serve one-year term to assist the editor to select topics of interest for the issues to come. The J-Club has been stimulating discussions and new research directions. We need to encourage self-nominations to give enthusiastic iMechanicians opportunities to serve the community.

Rui Huang's picture

I was urged to comment. But there has been a lot of discussions or debates. I can't even catch up with all, and I don't feel I have more to add either. I just wish the matter could be simpler.


MichelleLOyen's picture

There are many levels of involvement in the jClub that are fully open to participation of all "enthusiastic iMechanicians". Anyone can read the papers and comment, and some lively discussion has resulted in all jClub issues thus far. iMechanicians can post suggested topics for future jClub issues, and can volunteer (or volunteer indirectly through nomination by a close colleague) to participate as a topic editor for one of the monthy issues. I think these are excellent ways for iMechanicians to get involved with the jClub, and encourage full participation through these mechanisms by all interested parties and especially including graduate students. However, I am of the opinion that because the jClub is the public face of iMechanica, and is a very large collaborative commitment on the part of both the editor and the iMech architects, this is not a position that is best filled through a vote.

It is entirely likely that one's opinion on this subject is guided in part by one's impression of the roles and responsibilities of the jClub editor. I believe that this is where the discussion becomes difficult. I don't agree with the idea that the position should be held by a committee; the fact that the position lasts only for a year and thus changes relatively frequently dictates that on reasonable time-scales, different views will be found. However, I wonder if any vote could allow for the election of a wide range of editors with different views and perspectives over the next few years, something which I believe is critical for the long-term success of the jClub. For this reason, and for the level of responsibility of the position as largely shaping the public face of iMechanica, I believe this position should be appointed, not elected.

Rui made a very good point. A big advantage of jclub is that it is simple: It is very simple to access; It is very simple to make a comment; And it is very simple to learn from other comments. Since we are trying to make jclub simple, why we need to make the selection of the jclub editor complicated? We can simply have a commitee (just like the executive committee of AMD but the members are young researchers). This committee receives self-nomintation for editors and decides the editor. This committee also oversees the quality of the jclub and offer suggestions to the editor. The committee can have 3-5 members and have 2-3 years term. The first committee can be nominated by established researchers and the future so-on committee can be determined by the previous committee.  


Henry Tan's picture

Do we really need an editor?

If so, I would like to do it. Four things I will do first:

1) to invite as many as possible scholars to come and post or comment;
2) to encourage each discussion leader to have his or her style in leading;
3) I would encourage each discussion leader to be an instructor, assuming that the reader of each discussion theme has only an entry level equivalent to a senior undergraduate, or even below that; however at the end of the month, the reader can really reach to the top level in that theme if he/she follows.
4) to look for support and secure funding, so that each discussion leader can be paid, and paid high.

For other things an editor need to do, please suggest. I am able, and love to be an editor.

Zhigang Suo's picture

When Pradeep first proposed jClub, it took us a long time to debate why iMechanica wanted a jClub, and how we should implement it.  We experimented with many options, some of which were rather sophisticated.  But in the end, we settled on something very simple:

The mission of the jClub is to facilitate discussion at the frontier of mechanics and its applications.  That is, jClub is a mechanism to discuss mechanics.  jClub is not a journal that publishes new papers.  Papers are means to an end:  facilitating discussion of mechanics.

The implementation of jClub is also straightforward, as described in the operating notes.  The jClub involves no new software, even though we tested several modules.

About the process of selecting the next editor, it seems many of you also urge for simplicity.  Let me digress a little, to provide some background for the suggestions that follow.  About a month ago, I posted an entry on making the jClub more frequent.  Right now the jClub runs at one Theme per month.  In that post I gave several reasons why one month is too long.  You may also want to take a look at comments made by several other people.  Empirically, we have all seen that each jClub Theme receives enthusiastic attention for the first 2 weeks. 

Here are a few suggestions for you to consider:

  1. jClub runs one Theme every two weeks.
  2. We ask Pradeep to serve one more year, and hope that he is willing.  He has emerged as a thoughtful and gentle Editor, guiding us in establishing the jClub.
  3. We ask Michelle Oyen to serve as a second Editor.  She is iMechanician Number 19, and the Discussion Leader of the Founding Theme of the Month.  Many of us have benefited from interacting with her.  She is a Biomechanician, working on subjects very different from Pradeep.
  4. Thus, we will have two Editors at a time; they overlap for one year. For example, Pardeep (07,08) and Michelle (08,09).  If we follow this pattern, selecting a new Editor every year and each Editor serving two years, we will always know at least one Editor next year.  This ensures continuity, so that if you want to be a Discussion Leader, you know who to talk to.  Roughly, the two Editors will each engage 12 Discussion Leaders per year. 
  5. If this pattern continues, we can have a jClub Council which consists of the current Editors and past Editors, up to 5 people in total.  The presiding senior Editor chairs the Council.  
  6. In the beginning years (say, 07-10), we ask John Dolbow, Xi Chen, and Xiaodong Li to serve as members of the Council.  These individuals were enthusiastic proponents of the jClub in early days. 
  7. The Council will decide all matters regarding the jClub, including periodic review of the operating notes of the jClub.  Before any major decision, the Council may seek feedback on iMechanica, a practice that seems to have been the norm of the jClub since Pradeep's initial call for feedback.

 Please express your opinions on these suggestions.

Kaushik Dayal's picture

Dear Zhigang,

Your outline for the operation of the journal reading group is simple and straightforward. I think all the points make sense, and we can always evolve if that's required. Hopefully, the people you've named for the positions will be willing to fill them. Pradeep has set things nicely so that there are no critical links if anyone involved needs time off due to travel or other reasons, and your suggestions keep that simplicity.

I particularly like the idea of having a new selection every couple of weeks. That way, if there's a topic I'm not particularly interested in, there's a shorter time to the next selection. Perhaps we could have an informal rule that each of the Editors picks the discussion area alternately.

A suggestion made in earlier discussions, that seems like a good idea, was that the papers need not necessarily be path-breaking or by leading researchers in the field. These papers are often in prestigious journals that have tight limits on length, and the authors are unable to provide sufficient perspective and detail that's required for an outsider to the field.


Xiaodong Li's picture

I very much like the proposal for the bi-weekly issue. Recent developments in nanotechnology and bioengineering have brought mechanics into the important domain of current research. Design and reliability of micro/nano devices and biosystems rely heavily on the adavnces of nanomechanics and biomechanics. The J-Club has been stimulating discussions, and in particular, new research topics/directions. The feedbacks I have collected so far are very positive. The graduate students like this J-Club platform a lot.  This is another merit - serving as an education tool for graduate students. I would be very happy to  be a J-Club Council member. 

Xi Chen's picture

Zhigang, thank you for your nomination and I will be more than pleased to serve on the council and work with John and Xiaodong.

Regarding John's concern below, may I suggest that we coordinate the 2 bi-weekly issues within a month. For example, a monthly theme can be "biomechanics" and then one bi-weekly issue of jClub is on theory or computation, and the other one on experiment, etc.

This would be a little bit similar to MRS bulletin in the sense that different aspects of an area are exposed to the readers, and this mode would require some work (but manageable) from the 2 editors and council.

Regarding how to promote the response rate and activity of iMechanica users, that's not just a problem related with the jClub but a general problem with this forum. Maybe each user can be given a "performance score" which is calculated based on login time/frequency, number of posts/comments, and role, etc., and the users with higher score may be rewarded in one way or the other.

Mogadalai Gururajan's picture

I agree with the proposal; as far as the increase in frequency is concerned, the more the merrier. Finding discussion leaders is a vaild concern; on the other hand, as far as the number of readers are concerned, as the topics become more diverse, the non-overlapping readership will also widen, I believe.

Pradeep Sharma's picture

Dear Zhigang, thanks for proposing this framework for the j-club. I agree with your suggestions. I will be happy to help in any way I can.

Regarding the increased frequency; your have made persuasive arguments but I am not fully sure whether we are ready for that yet. However, there is only one way to find out...lets try it!! The one advantage of the e-medium of iMechanica is that we can experiment and try out notions such as these.

N. Sukumar's picture

The proposal is sound; am in agreement on all points.  Have a comment on the issue of frequency.  A new jClub theme once every two weeks could be a target that would find appeal, but finding volunteers (there is no dearth of topics) might be the determining factor.  By late Fall 2007, one can be in a better position to judge, depending on the level of interest and proposals received for 2008, if two issues per month can be easily sustained in the long run. 

I agree with Sukumar that Zhigang's proposal is sound.  The job of finding the right topics and volunteers can be made easier with a call for proposals whenever the need arises.


I don't necessarily agree with the idea of biweekly issues, at least not yet.  I second Suku's call to wait until fall 2007 to see if this can be sustained.

The main argument for increasing the frequency is that after a few weeks, not too many people are commenting on a jClub theme.  What this tells me, however, is that while iMechanica's list of members is growing, the number who actively participate has not.   Essentially, it's the same group of people who are commenting on jClub, and these folks come here almost daily.  Perhaps increasing the frequency of jClub would change this, but I'm not certain.  

And I'll again point out that the call for future monthly themes has still received fairly little attention.  I understand that many people would like to increase the frequency so that they'll see something they like more quickly, but is the demand for more themes in total actually there yet?

John has a point here.  If you look at the hits on each blog post (prior to any comments being added) the number is around 100.  That indicates that the number of regular readers is probably less than 100.  The number of regular posters and commenters is around 20.   For each new comment, a post gets approximately 100 new hits. (These are just estimates. Zhigang probably has the exact numbers.)

A new J-Club article every two-weeks might increase the number of regular vistors.  However, I agree with John that we might not see such an increase.   iMechanica will be more attractive if the abstracts that are posted are accompanied by some insights on the pros and cons of the research and future directions.

Zhigang Suo's picture

Dear Suku, John and Biswajit:

Thank you very much for overall endorsement of my suggestions, and for voice concerns about frequency. I sincerely appreciate both. To persuade you (and myself!), let me list a few resons for increasing the frequency. (Several of these were raised and commented on in a previous thread.)

  1. If you look at the available 4 Themes of the Month of the jClub, the overlap in commenters on different Themes is low. More frequent Themes should engage more fractions of iMechanicians.
  2. Each jClub Theme receives nearly all comments for the first 2 weeks. Even though the number of reads accumulates for the rest of the month, the post and the comments in effect have become static. (Teng seems to have integrated his Theme on Flexible Electronics into a course he was teaching, so that many students from the University of Maryland participated in the discussion. This is a great idea, and Teng may want to let us know how he did it.)
  3. I learned somewhere a rule of thumb for a typical website like iMechanica: ~10% registered users are regular readers, and ~1% registered users are regular writers. iMechanica now has 2000 registered users, so the rule of thumb would suggest about 200 regular readers and 20 regular writers. These numbers seem to be about right. If we don't want to fight against this rule of thumb, we can simply let the total number of users grow organically, and expect to see more regular users and writers. This scaling is also supported by our experience of the past few months. As Michelle Oyen pointed out, a more frequent jClub may attract new users in diverse areas.
  4. iMechanica now has ~2000 registered users. It is nearly impossible to select a theme at the research frontier and yet of interest to most users. As a user, if a Theme is too remote to your interest, you will have to hope for better luck next month. A month seems to be a long time for a graduate student eagerly learning new things.
  5. A Discussion Leader should have complete freedom to frame the Theme to her own satisfaction, and should not aim to please everybody. A Theme will be a success if it engages several users in an in depth discussion, and the resulting thread is of interest to a fraction of users.
  6. Mechanics is a diverse field. Many themes are worth discussing, in depth and frequently. We will never run out of themes. Even if we do, we can always repeat the old Themes.
  7. The Discussion Leaders of the first few Themes have set a high standard. These Themes are easily among the best entries in iMechanica. More frequent Themes should add more high-quality posts.
  8. Your main concern is the number of volunteers to serve as Discussion Leaders. In return to the hard work put in by the Discussion Leaders, each Theme is put on the front page of iMechanica for a month, along with the photo of the Discussion Leader. When you click the photo, you reach her account. Consequently, each Theme is also an opportunity for iMechanica to introduce a mechanician to the community. The idea is somewhat similar to that of a featured speaker at a conference. Given the large user base of iMechanica, many people can be persuaded to volunteer as Discussion Leaders. Perhaps someone can write a post titled "Why Should You Volunteer to Be a Discussion Leader?", following Teng's post, "Why Should You Post in iMechanica?"
  9. If it is desirable to leave each Theme at the top of the front page for a month, we can simply do so by having two Themes at the top at a time.
  10. Although most users are young mechanicians, there are also several very established mechanicians among us. I believe some of them can serve as excellent Discussion Leaders, providing longer perspectives. I have a Gordon Conference in my mind as a model. iMechanica can be a platform for mechanicians of all ages to interact.

I would suggest we simply place the call for future jClub themes on the front page of iMechanica, to better gauge both supply and demand interest.  If we happen to obtain 24 high-quality suggestions/volunteers, then that would suggest that we're in great shape.  

I think it's important to keep in mind that jClub is only one part of iMechanica.  There's lots to be seen here.  If someone comes and isn't interested in the current jClub theme, I would hope they would readily find something else of interest in one of the forums or recent posts.

It seems we're locked in on monthly themes until December 2007.  Since the current idea is that we would keep two themes up at once anyway, wouldn't a compromise be to just promote a fairly active, non-jClub discussion to the front of iMechanica once a month, just below jClub?   

Harold S. Park's picture

While it is true that most of the discussions on each J-club topic appear to occur within the first week or two of the initial posting, I would first want to plan a bit ahead to see if there are indeed (1) 24 people willing to act as bi-weekly J-club editors, and (2) whether the subjects are sufficiently varied such that there are enough new/different topics to discuss.

Of course, like communism, life and religion, we could discuss things theoretically all day and all year. Why not move forward with the bi-weekly concept, solicit editors, and see whether we can fill 24 slots with folks besides the 12 that are already doing it this year and whether the topics are sufficiently new. If yes, then let's see where it leads. If it takes a LONG time to get 24 editors in place, why not stick with what's already there?

When I read the comment by Prof. Suo about the frequency of jClub, I agree with some of his comments. At the beginning of Month (for start-up of new theme of jClub), it seems that most people engage the jClub, while in the last 1 or 2 weeks, it looks that hits on jClub reaches the stationary. Bi-weekly jClub might be good, as long as there are sufficient volunteers to serve the discussion leaders as well as sufficient participants. Since the number of registered users are over 2000, hopefully we might have sufficient volunteers and/or participants to jClub.

Obviously, as Prof. Suo mentioned, the bi-weekly jClub might help to introduce the various topics related to mechanics. In recent days, since I am busy with my works, I could not post the interesting topics related to mechanics. In recent days, I could see very interesting topics in nanomechanics, biomechanics, etc., which are updated very quickly. So that bi-weekly jClub may help us to catch up the current interesting topics related to mechanics.

Anyway, bi-weekly jClub is agreeable to me. Also, jClub is very helpful to students, I think, I strongly recommend my students to read the articles on jClub.

Konstantin Volokh's picture

I agree comletely. Once in two weeks will be more vivid for the journal club.

Hanqing Jiang's picture

I think Zhigang’s suggestions work. We can elect a jClub Committee who is responsible for the appointment of jClub Editors. The Editors will do their jobs on selecting topics, inviting comments, and making sure that the discussion is on the right track of the topic. In terms of topics, the first round is most likely “broader” area and they can be chopped into pieces for “fine” topic later on. Like the history of internet, in the early 90’s, all internet companies were focusing on searching engine. Now, we have really diversified internet services. Some are expanding their strength on search engine and some changed their gears to more focused area. So I don’t worry about the topics if the jClub runs well. The most important thing in my mind is how to increase the frequency of the jClub. I am wondering if we need to introduce some incentive mechanism, like other forums use. I don’t have a good idea on how to run incentive mechanism on iMechanica, but I think it is a means to increase the frequency of the jClub.

Nanshu Lu's picture

Zhigang's arguments are very persuasive. I just simply think about what determines the length of a jClub. Once this is clear, to fix the frequency will be much easier.

First, the length of a jClub should really depend on the range of the topic and the horizon of the discussion leader. For example, if Zhigang is leading a jClub named "Mechanics in Electronics", I believe three months may not be too long. However, if we have a post doc or young researcher as the discussion leader of a very novel but specific issue, maybe two weeks is a proper length.

Second, it depends on the activity of the discussion leader. For many people it is the first time to arrange a discussion of such style. They are getting more sophisticated and creative on this. Naively, I just have a simple example here. The leader can arrange a 3-step discussion if he really wants to extend the active discussion throughout one month. First ten days, basic literature review, to provide readers with the necessary background, raise the challenges and grab people's attention; second ten days, what is going on in this field, what has been solved and what remains as the bottleneck; last ten days, future study, potential solutions or ask for new ideas and suggestions. People will have much better and feasible ideas than mine if they really have enthusiasm and would like to devote here. This returns to the issue "Why Should You Volunteer to Be a Discussion Leader?", say how to stimulate people's potential.

Third, from readers aspects, the length of a jClub also depends on the time period that readers take to learn the issue. Experienced mechanicians may feel the present frequency is a little bit low. However, for beginning graduate students or even some new comers to mechanics it may take them much longer to read the suggested literature and ask for help or raise questions here.

These are just what I can think of. It is such a complicated issue and varies from person to person. I cannot suggest any solutions at present. But as a personal preference, I think one topic one time is better. We place jClub at the top of imechanica so as to draw people's attention and hope our readers can focus on one specific subject and have active discussions and contributions. If two jClubs appear at the same time, our main purpose is weakened.

MichelleLOyen's picture

You raise a very interesting point and one that is worth mentioning.  One of the key advantages of the way that iMechanica is run is that the material is all archived on the internet.  When a jClub posting disappears from the front page, it does not completely disappear!  You are free to add your thoughts many weeks after it appears even if it no longer appears on the front page. 

Your comments will likely be read even if they are posted on an older topic. Many readers of iMechanica follow the recent comments through a feed or on the right-hand side of the page.  Although the majority of the "recent comments" on iMech refer to recent posts, sometimes the recent comments are related to older posts.  I know for topics of my own original posting, at times the discussion has waxed and waned such that a new burst of comment activities comes up many weeks later.  This is a great strength of iMechanica's format.

From a practical perspective, we can arrange to make jClub topical table of contents pages to help organize the historical jClub posts.  For example, a biomechanics table of contents would include the links back to each biomechanics topic.  Each jClub post can have several different topics (for example, biomechanics and computational) and thus can appear on multiple table of contents entries.  

I know that it is my intention for my own new students in the future, to give them the link to the jClub topic that I led in January, since this was in my research field and thus unlikely to become uninteresting any time soon! 

Teng Li's picture

I agree with Zhigang's proposal on jClub editors and jClub Council. Such a setup ensures the sustainable operation of jClub. As for Suku and John's concern on jClub themes, I have the following input. With two editors and other members of jClub Council, the call-for-jClub-themes can be more effective. For example, while keeping the general solicitation of jClub thems going, each Council member is in charge of solicitating future jClub themes closely related to her/his expertise. If the Council members are suitably chosen so that their expertise can cover the broad spectrum of mechanics, the possible jClub themes will thrive.

Zhigang Suo's picture

This suggestion by Teng might work. If every member of the jClub Council nominates several Discussion Leaders a year, we will have some immediate benefits:

  • Ensure more diversity of the Themes.
  • Reduce the work load for the Editors.
  • Engage more people to actively participate in each Theme.

The nomination process is straightforward:

  1. Before nomination, a nominator contacts a potential nominee (or the other way around) to gauge the level of interest.
  2. Once the level of interest is ascertained, the nominator writes a comment in the call for nomination, briefly introducing the Nominee and the Theme.
  3. If the Editors like the nomination, they will contact the nominee, and reserve a time slot in the jClub archive.

Of course, every registered user can nominate a Discussion Leader. You can also nominate yourself. You can also nominate someone by contacting the Editors privately.

MichelleLOyen's picture

I am in favor of an increase in the jClub frequency as well as the other suggestions forwarded by Zhigang.

I believe there are a few objective measures of the supportability of increased jClub frequency. A scroll down the main page demonstrates the diversity of iMech participants posting. Although I don't have statistics to back it up (Zhigang?) it is clear that over the last few months the diversity of faces appearing on the main page has increased dramatically.

There is thus far relatively little activity on iMechanica from within the biomechanics community. In keeping with my overall interest in improving cross-over between traditional biomechanics and applied mechanics researchers, I believe the growth potential for iMechanica is large in that direction. I suspect a similar potential exists in the field of fluid mechanics, another mechanics community with a historically-based divergence from the solid mechanics community. The expansion of the discussion outside the existing scope of the current participants presents great potential for the identification of new problems and the development of cross-discipline collaborations.

The final point I'd like to make is that the jClub episode has prominence on the iMech page, and a more rapidly-changing header will encourage people to check back more often. The dates of the next issue can be displayed in the box of the current issue so people know when to look!

The literature is large and growing. All graduate students have to know their own literature for their specific subject, and graduate student involvement in developing the bi-weekly postings is another exciting opportunity for sustaining a diverse and enthusiastic topic base for future jClub issues.

Finally, I will happily serve iMech in this capacity assuming the new model proposed above by Zhigang finds consensus agreement.

Ying Li's picture

In my opinion, at the first stage of the imechanica, appointment may be more proper for us. We need invite some famous persons like Hutchison, Suo et al. to do such job to give some classical issues or some young but very positive persons like Xi Chen, Teng Li et al. to give some new research areas they studied. This is the first stage. It may attract more and more people to join the topics in imechanica. Then we can run an election for finding a proper person to take this job. This is the second stage.

Zhigang asked me to comment, and so just to be a bit playful:

I advocate taxing gasoline at the pump at one penny per month, in perpetuity.

At about 160B gallons per year current consumption in the USA and averaged over a full year, this would provide close to $10B for R&D of new, and more rapid implementation of already well tested and "well performing", renewable energies, in the first year.

A fraction would go to mechanics R&D, no doubt!

On a more serious note about the issue at hand--the vetting is good, but I am a new enough newcomer to iMechanica that I don't have strong opinions on the issues on the table--yet, that is.  I do enjoy iMechanica, so keep up the good work, all. It takes a community to make a community...kind of an interesting chicken and egg issue. I'd say we have a real community, in that regard, even if "virtual".

Best, Rod

Rui Huang's picture

Apparently, debating continues one after another, for all good purposes. As for the newest issue, the frequency of jClub, I again don't think this is a complicated or critical issue for the success of jClub or iMechanica in large. I have no clear preference to either one or two Themes a month. If I had to vote, however, I may vote for one Theme per month for the following reasons:

First, I view jClub as a nice feature of iMechanica,  but perhaps not as prominent as Zhigang thinks. So far, I have enjoyed many discussions outside jClub. With 2 themes a month, jClub may grow into a dominating voice of iMechanica, which may not necessarily benefit our community in the long run.

Second, the lack of volunteers to run jClub (as editors or discussion leaders) reflects an implicit issue with the current iMechanica community. As mentioned in some previous comments, the numbers of frequent readers and writers are much less than the total number of registered users. As we see in essentially all the discussions of iMechanica (including jClub), a relatively small community (<100 members) is forming. On one hand, it may be difficult to sustain the more frequent jClub at a reasonable level. On the other hand, the jClub by itself may not help much to grow this community of frequent users. Someone may come for a particular issue, and then disappear thereafter.

Third, probably as a suggestion to really gear up the reputation and impact of iMechanica, the jClub editors or council may want to work to recruit more senior discussion leaders. With an established reputation of a discussion leader, it will attract more attention. Searching for discussion leaders outside of the formed community would also bring in more users from different areas of mechanics.



Henry Tan's picture

I view iMechanica as a toy for a mechanician.

The good thing about iMechanica is that you can write as many as you want, till satisfied enough. There is no limit. And you can organize things as if you are the editor.

It is fun, mechanics and science become so fun to enjoy.

For me, I hope can be selected as a J-Club Discussion Leader once a year. Once registered, I got the feeling of being an Editor and a Discussion Leader already. No election needed, really. iMechanica is a magic place for fun.

Since we never know what will happen before we try it, and since both Pradeep and Michelle nicely agreed to serve as editors, why not try to run a biweekly frequency? We will see the positive and negative aspects of this method very soon, then we can adjust to make it better. This is the beauty of having iMechanica: We don't need to limit ourselves by any existing rules and we are open to any new methods.


Patrick Onck's picture

I have read the above discussion today. Given the history of comments the format that has been proposed by Zhigang (suggestion on Jclub ...) and supported by many active iMechanicians really makes sense. Voting turned out to be controversial (not only from a fraude point-of-view).

Something for background thinking of the jClub-editors. At the Dutch radio there is an item that is called "De Giel-mobiel" (the mobile phone of Giel). The phone has been given by Giel to a Dutch celebrity a time ago, with the request to pass it through to another interesting person/celebrity (after being interviewed on air by Giel, of course). It is interesting to see how the phone travels through media land. Something similar could be done in the J-club: ask every discussion leader to suggest a future discussion leader of their interest. This will expand the horizon of iMechanica considerably through local networking and will undoubtedly lead to surprising J-Club items.

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