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Journal Club: Response/Feedback requested

Pradeep Sharma's picture

Hello everyone,

I had previously posted this entry on the AMD blog and perhaps it worthwhile to post it again on this forum. I would like to solicit feedback and comments on an idea to further enhance the role and utility of iMechanica.

This inspiration comes from Bell labs and the physics community.....

They started a journal club (year 2003). Each month ONLY 2-3 already published recent journal papers are reviewed and commentary posted in the form of a newsletter. Since only 2-3 papers are reviewed, the selection is much more stringent and careful. The contribution is regular and periodic (monthly). Hence, this newsletter is taken seriously by physicists.

In our case, this can be done within iMechanica. I suspect we could achieve the same kind of interest if we restrict "notable" papers to 1-3 per month and make it a regular monthly feature. In principle anyone could submit a commentary but the blog moderators will select the top 2-3.

The operational rules are open for discussion. Briefly though, I am thinking on the lines of rotating 1-2 moderators with a term of say 2 months. The moderator will receive commentaries on recently published papers RELATED to mechanics area. The moderator will highlight 1-3 notable commentaries in the journal club newsletter. A key requirement must be that the commentaries/paper highlighted are related to mechanics in some form or the other. The concept of rotating moderator is to provide breadth and prevent bias of any one individual. Rotation of journal club moderators will also keep the "work-load" well distributed.

Please leave your comments below. Thank you.


Zhigang Suo's picture

Pradeep posted this suggestion in Applied Mechanics Research and Researchers on 21 March 2006.  At my request, Pradeep kindly placed his suggestion on a journal club in iMechanica.

We probably don't need to rush to any decision, but we will soon face a more general question, How can we combine the best of the two worlds: the free Internet resources (such as iMech) and the peer-reviewed journals. After all, they will co-exist for some time.

I have my own thoughts on this for some time, some of which were discussed in an earlier post, What if all papers are openly accessible.

I should emphasis that I am not particularly interested in free access of all papers. Somebody has to pay the price. To me, what is important is that most researchers have access to most papers. I believe that we can already do that, through the online libraries of our institutions.

What interests me most is how we can leverage the existing journals and the Internet to best do mechanics.

The question is an important and practical one. It is also a question that we might be able to address with iMechanica. Please weigh in with your thoughts.

I like this idea very much, and have a couple of other suggestions.

We might make an effort to identify papers by authors/groups that are not currently well-represented on iMechanica. Then, if there were a lot of discussion about one such article, we could contact the corresponding author and let them know about it/invite them to join. Personally, I would be flattered if a group like this were discussing one of my papers (hopefully favorably!). Hopefully, they would join and encourage their group to do so as well.

My other suggestion is to try to identify papers from outside the usual sources/journals we all read. This is another mechanism to expand the community.

Pradeep Sharma's picture


Thanks for your feedback. I think both your suggestions have merit. However, here is a thought on your comment regarding selecting papers outside the usual sources: I believe that moderators should definitely look at the "lesser known" sources but given that the paper must be a "mechanics" paper, we may very well have to rely extensively on the usual mechanics journals.

Your first comment brings to fore a different issue. Should we, like the "condensed matter journal club" linked in my original post, have a formal monthly newsletter or should this simply be a "blog" post? I personally favor the newsletter type approach (which can be a section within iMechanica on its own). Like any magazine, it would be "released" on the web on a fixed date with (perhaps) accompanying emails sent to all members who subscribe to this magazine. For example, I receive email from the condensed matter journal club whenever the new issue is out.


I suspect we will have to rely on the usual sources, no doubt. However, increasingly, I find the basic principles of mechanics being applied (sometimes not particularly well) across a fairly diverse set of communities.  I think it's in our interests to reach out to such communities.  The mechanics may be fairly lightweight by some of the measures here, but that's OK.  

 To get started, however, perhaps it's best to go with the path of least resistance and focus on the standard bearers.  Along these same lines, a newsletter seems simply like more work than a blog post/exchange to me, no?


Pradeep Sharma's picture


You are right that the newsletter would be a lot of work compared to the informal blog posts we have ongoing right now. I am worried that in absence of a formal "newsletter" type coverage, it won't be taken as seriously. For example, it is quite prestegious to be featured in the condensed matter journal club since it is so selective. One way to take care of the work load would be to rotate the moderators. It is hard to say how well this will work out until we try. Currently, there is no barrier to ANY blog member to review ANY article they wish to and post it. The difference between the newsletter and such unsolicited (no doubt high quality) posts would be the regularity and presumably consistent quality. A good analogy for the moderators is the rotating associate editors we currently have in various journals (e.g. Journal of Applied Mechanics), except that rotation time is shorter.

Maybe it is wishful thinking but my original intent (inspired of course by the condensed matter journal club) was that each subscriber mechanician will look forward to the first of the month since the newsletter link will arrive by email listing the notable 1-3 mechanics papers picked along with commentary by the moderators. Any bias towards one sub-area of mechanics will be prevented since moderators will be rotated out frequently.

Someone senior who is well-connected to the community can be a "permanent" moderator (Zhigang!) and thus in charge of selecting the rotating moderators.

The reaching out to other communities will be automatic since presumably the moderators will sample literature from all types of sources and not just the staple mechanics journals.


MichelleLOyen's picture

I'd like to support the idea of including mechanics papers from "diverse communities". There is no question that mechanics research is done with varying degrees of success by people with different backgrounds; my field of biomechanics is like any other--some papers are of high quality and the standard of mechanics would not be objectionable to a more classical mechanics crowd. Some papers are terrible. By having members of diverse communities who work in mechanics select (what they believe to be) "high-quality" papers from their own field for a journal club, we increase the discussion of mechanics across all fields.

Pradeep Sharma's picture

Dear Michelle, thanks for your comment. Perhaps we should give it a try and see how it goes.

Since both you and John have shown interest, would you both like to join me to start this journal club together? We could be the "editors" for the first term (duration to be determined) and then turn it over to other people to moderate it.

Let me know what you think and I will try to come up with a template (subject to modifications by both of you).



   I say we go for it.  Thanks for taking the initiative.



Zhigang Suo's picture

Eloy Villanueva and I have started trying two modules that might be used by the journal club. They are both installed on iMechLab. One module is called organic group, the other is called ejournal. We have not spent enough time to make them work properly yet.

One possibility is that several of you simply start a tryout journal club, using whatever tool you see fit. We will then find a suitable module to house the journal club.

The other possibility is that we first find a suitable module first.

Do you have simpler things in mind?

Henry Tan's picture

I missed these discussions and am trying to catch-up.

Seems that I cannot access the iMechLab. Is it closed?

Hi Pradeep,

As professor Suo said, we are currently testing the use of a module called organic groups. The name organic was chosen because the group can keep on growing indefinitely. The group is supposed to create something like a communcal blog in which only the members may write in it. In the case of the journal, the group members would be the journal moderators who can select the articles to be posted in the blog. This could potentially serve well for the journal if it works as we hope it does. But as of right now, we are still working to figure out the details of how it works. This might take a week or two. However, if you wish to start the journal now and figure out how to integrate the module later, we can try that too. 

Pradeep Sharma's picture


Any luck with the "organic group" module? If it works out, we can perhaps start by using it for the journal club.

Zhigang Suo's picture

Pradeep:  As a developer, you have full access to configure the two modules on iMechLab.  Do you want to first experiment on iMechLab with a dummy journal, and work through the process?  Once you are happy with it, you can explain to the rest of us.  Importing to iMechanica should be straightforward.  You may find some descriptions of the two modules on  Eloy will also be looking at these two modules.

Pradeep Sharma's picture


Thanks....I will experiment with it this weekend.

thanks for your interest, but I haven't gotten a chance to finish exploring it. I will work on it more tomorrow, Sunday. I'll keep you posted.

Hi Pradeep and fellow mechanicians,

Professor Suo and I have devised a model for creating a journal on iMechanica. It is a simple model which doesn't require installing any additional modules or features.

We simply let a user be a journal manager, and he selects excellent blog entries as articles to be published in the next issue of the journal. He will then create a blog entry listing the titles of the articles with their respective authors and make each title a link to the original post. This way another user only needs to click on the title of an article to see the full entry.

The list of issues created by the journal managers will be posted on another page, which will be the homepage of the journal. The journal homepage will be a list of links to particular issues, which are only the blog entries of the journal managers, and in turn the issues will have links to particular articles. Finally, a link to this journal can be posted on the right hand column for easy access. We can have people rotate the job of being the journal manager and he will be responsible of publishing the next issue. Does it sound good?

We have even developed a preview journal on iMechLab, listed as a link on the right column as "iMech Journal". Please take some time to check it out and give us feedback. Notice that each issue of the journal is simply a blog entry by a regular user. You can even make your own issue. Just let either me or Professor Suo know, and we can add your issue to the journal homepage. You will need to use HTML to format a list of articles, but if you need help, click on the tag titled "serious" on the top right, and look for an article titled "Journal formatting". Remember, this is only a model and we want your feedback about what you like and what you want to change. Thank you.

MichelleLOyen's picture

Dear Pradeep,

that sounds great and I am very happy to be involved. This definitely goes along with my thoughts on opening up cross-disciplinary discussion in different sub-fields of mechanics!


Pradeep Sharma's picture

Dear John, Michelle and Zhigang,

Thanks for the response. Give me  few days to to shop around for a possible format (of course--email or post your suggestions as well). We will take it from there!


Zhigang Suo's picture

Pradeep has suggested one model in his original post. Perhaps we should have a discussion about what models we'd like to experiment. Let me throw out another model.

Say our journal will simply list a few (say five) papers per month, selected from all sources (including those posted in iMechanica), by an editorial board of recognized experts. For example, initially we may recruit 50 recognized experts. Each expert nominates a single paper at the beginning of the month. All 50 nominated papers are announced. At the end of the month, each expert votes on however many papers he or she has time to read and thinks worthy. The top five papers are then included in the journal.

We will use iMechanica to experiment with voting processes for the users to elect board members, as well as for the board members to select papers.

Because iMechanica already provides space for anybody to post (almost) anything, the purpose of the journal will not be publishing, but filtering. By restricting to a small number of papers, the journal will serve as a more selective filter.  These few papers may attract large numbers of comments that perhaps will help to define future research directions in mechanics and unite the discipline.

This said, here is a caution. We are probably all in The Long Tail: what is interesting to one person may be boring to another. We might be wasting our time to create yet another prestigious journal that everyone whats to publish in the journal, but few people actually read the journal.

I'd like to hear from you about your favorite models and related thoughts.

Note added on 15 November 2006.  Here is a related post by Roberto Ballarini.

Teng Li's picture

Although I've been enthusiastic about the idea of online journal club, I share with Zhigang's concern about the effectiveness of journal club.
While more and more mechanicians are practicing mechanics in a wide spectrum of areas, fewer and fewer people can own the expertise in most branches of mechanics. In terms of the numbers of papers and journals, we all have noticed the significant increase in recent years. Unfortunately, our capacity to read and learn is, however, limited. One just can not effectively identify papers of both her interest and high quality from the ever growing publications. Even the papers in prestigious journals (e.g., those with high impact factor) can hardly be of interest of most audience.
One natural question for our iMech journal club is that, what papers should be recommended? Zhigang's proposal of 50 experts might be a solution. But chances are, we might still have difficulty to identify top five papers, given the diversified interests of mechanicians serving in the 50-member board. One possible solution is that, we run a specific topic in each month, which might be easier to identify papers.
Nonetheless, I agree that we should give a try through iMechanica.

MichelleLOyen's picture

I guess my view here is that what you (Teng Li) see as a "concern" is essentially the sole reason that I am very interested in the idea of the journal club! I already read the papers in my own fields of study; the purpose for me of a journal club is to have an opportunity that encourages me to step outside of my own literature while staying within my chosen larger field of mechanics. A journal club and perhaps small meetings like the Gordon Conferences are key activities in continuing interdisciplinary discussion within a larger field, in my opinion.

I do like the idea of "topical month" paper selections; we have done this in the past in an integrated biology-biomechanics J Club where each month a leader is chosen, chooses the articles, and the leadership rotates amongst the membership. There can then be an overview board reviewing the selections before their announcement each month to keep the topics on track with the overall goals of the group.

Xi Chen's picture

Michelle, I agree with your view that the journal club could foster interdisplinary research and spark new ideas. I wonder if could set up a poll function, to ask the users to vote for the favourite monthly topic (from a list of potential topics). Then the moderators could invite somebody in that area to become the co-editors of that issue. This may also get more users involved into the activity.

N. Sukumar's picture

The idea of selecting articles that revolve around a topic-of-the-month appears a reasonable one, since it'll be more focused and the experts in the area can fill in the gaps where needed and also critique the papers. Anyway, just go with what appears simple to implement; can be refined with time.

Teng Li's picture

We've just installed some modules to implement the voting function in iMechLab. You may want to try it out.
Basically it's a digg-it style voting system. You can vote up or down for each post, by which the point of each post increase or decrease by 1.  This can serve as a poll function once we have a list of paper of recommendation open for vote. Later on, we can make recommendations based on the points by ranking.

Joost Vlassak's picture

Hi all,

Coming back to the journal club - I think both Pradeep's suggestion and Zhigang's model have merit and need not be exclusive. It seems to me that Zhigang's system would require some organizing and larger-scale participation in iMechanica before it can be implemented. Meanwhile, what is stopping us from trying out the journal club? I would very much welcome discussion of a wide range of papers with some bearing on mechanics.



Pradeep Sharma's picture

Thanks everyone for comments.....

Zhigang, your model would work perfectly fine. As Joost pointed out, it would require somewhat more involved organization and good "voter turnout".

I have some additional suggestions: regardless of the format we use, "organic" module or simply a separate webpage within iMechanica; we will have a table of contents contining the title of the papers chosen along with a commentary. In addition to providing a link to the actual journal paper, it may be worth file to request the author to post a non-journal version of it on arxiv (to which we then provide a link). This way, without violating copyright, we can provide access to the full text of the article. Arxiv is already well maintained and so will require no maintenance from our side.

I suppose I have some different views on this. 

I suspect we could spend several months debating how the journal club should function in great detail, only to learn that many things we thought would work well do not.  

My suggestion is that we keep it very simple to start, and then add functionality/organization as iMechanica grows and as we see the need for it.  

MichelleLOyen's picture

I couldn't agree more.  We will have a really approachable feedback mechanism for what's working--and how the journal club could improve--by virtue of the nature of this forum.   Since we're a growing group, it is likely that there will be a more developed organizational structure later on, but why introduce that until we need it.  After all, until we start actually doing something there can be no real feedback!

Teng Li's picture

Based on the prototype of journal club proposed by Zhigang and Eloy, as well as some feedbacks from our fellow iMechanicians, I'd like to put the following set up for journal club under discussion:

The reference information (Title, abstract, etc. ) of a selected published paper as well as a hyperlink to its full access are first posted in an entry in iMechanica. The journal manager then collects a list of such entries and keeps the link information in a separate entry (say, one issue of iMechanica Journal). The readers are then directed to any specific entry of their interest to post comment. This way, we use iMechanica as platform for conversations among the journal club members. May any interesting issue come up for a paper, the authors of such a paper would be happy to get involved into the interaction.

Your comments are cordially welcome.



MichelleLOyen's picture

I like the scheme proposed by Teng above; it creates a nice archive of the papers that we consider interesting for future use, thus providing a mechanism for people new to the field to go back through the J-club activities.  It also allows for the possibility of getting contemporary authors involved in the discussion without excluding historical "key works" from the journal club.  If the preprint version from the authors is available it can be included in the archive, but this need not be a requirement for inclusion. 

Pradeep Sharma's picture

Dear Eloy and Zhigang,

I tried to take a look at iMech Journal you have created but could not access it. For some reason, it does not accept my regular iMech password. Could you advice how I might access it? I tried creating a separate account on iMech lab but that did not work either. In any event, I do understand your proposal for the journal club format and certainly it is far more simpler than what I had in mind (and thus likely to be more robust).


I agree with Michelle that Teng's suggestion allows the J-club to remain a separate entity yet strongly linked with iMechanica. As far as full text pre-prints are concerned, a simple way to avoid another "file management" headache, we could encourage the selected authors to post them on arXiv (which is turning out to be phenomenal success on its own).

Is everyone in agreement on Teng's post? If yes then, without further ado, lets inaugrate the club on the 1st of Jan! We do need to establish a set of ground rules so that the club is self-sustaining. I am taking the liberty to suggest a few ground rules here which may be used by the rotating J-club managers. Please feel free to comment/change.

(1) How many J-club managers should be there? Ans: I suggest two managers per term, ideally with some diversity in their technical background. These two will do all the work and are rotated out when their term is complete. There has to be a third "permanent" J-club manager who is simply there for continuity and will step in if there is a real need. I suggest Zhigang for this purpose.

(2) What are the "term limits" for the J-club managers? Ans: I suggest 2 issues i.e. 2 months.

(3) Who is eligible to be a J-club manager? Ans: Everyone who claims he/she is a mechanician! Students should be especially welcomed.

(4) How are the J-club managers selected? Ans: I propose that the first two be from the few of us who have been discussing this subject at length. Once our group of 5-6 people is exhausted, the departing journal managers should be responsible to select their replacement and to advise them of the J-club rules. I nominate that Michelle and John be the first two. Teng and I can be the second two and then so on....

(5) Are there any rules on which papers can be selected? Ans: (i) We are all mechanicians with a loose mandate to promote mechanics. Keeping this in mind, I think we should insist that the selected papers MUST have mechanics content. Exceptions may be made for papers that although don't have much mechanics content, are nevertheless ripe for application of mechanics. In the latter case, the J-club manager should make this transparent.(ii) The papers must have been published within the last 12 months. There is no barrier to anyone from commenting on any paper published at any time on the iMech blog. However the purpose of the J-club is to promote discussion of contemporary literature hence the suggested restriction of 12 months.

(6) How should the J-club manager select the papers? Ans: Thats up to him/her! The implicit responsibility that comes with this job is that the manager sample the literature extensively.To promote discussion among iMechanica members who are not on this email list, I will post this on the blog also.

Best wishes,


Zhigang Suo's picture

Great job, Pradeep! I apologize for forgetting to add you to the list of iMechLab developers. Now you are on the list, with your full name as your user name. You can always request a new password if you forgot the old one. iMechLab is a completely independent web site from iMechanica, so that we can mess around in iMechLab without worrying about messing up iMechanica. As a developer of iMechLab, you will have the full administrative authority to the site.

Now a recap of the basic mechanics of the Journal Club, as described in the comments of Eloy and Teng.

  • To facilitate discussion, each paper should have a distinct URL on iMechanica, to be created by the author of the paper, or by the manager.
  • Each month, a manager posts a new issue as an entry in her own blog, pointing to the URLs of the selected papers in iMechanica, possibly with a brief introduction to the theme and the papers. The new issue will appear on the front page of iMechanica. If needed, we can make the entry stick to the top of the front page for the first week, as by this example created in iMechLab: December 2006 Advances in Shear Stress.
  • On the sidebar of iMechanica, a link to the archive of the back issues will be created.

I'll next comment on Pradeep's excellent and detailed proposal, point by point.

(1) I like the idea of two people per team. Two-way communication is an oder of magnitude easier than 3-way communication. Let's keep it simple. However, how about we have one individual serve this third-person role per year? I'd like to suggest Pradeep for this role for the first year, since it is his enthusiasm that has kept this idea alive. We should keep the work of this third person to absolute minimum, hopefully no more than updating the archive and ensuring continuity. For the latter task, I'm sure many active iMechanicians will chip in.

(2) Term limits of 2 months per team sounds just fine. A person should not serve more than one term, say, in the same year.

(3) I like the idea that anyone can be a manager.

(4) Self-perpetuation of the managing team. This point is particularly good. It gives a natural way to sustain the effort.

(5) Rules to select paper. I believe we should select papers from any source. This includes papers in traditional journals, as well as papers posted in places like arXive and iMechanica. The managers may even go out their ways to ask for drafts from individuals who have exiting papers in progress. The only requirements are (i) that the paper be accessible to a lot of people and (ii) the paper be deposited in a place with a trustworthy timestamp. I also agree with Pradeep's requirement of papers being relevant to mechanics. But the 12-month rule may be relaxed, I think. If an older paper is particularly relevant to a theme, and is not widely read, why not? The managers should avoid conflict of interest. Avoid selecting their own papers, or papers of their students and advisers, or papers by people working in the same institutions.

(6) I'd like to reiterate Teng's suggestion of having a theme each month. To focus discussion, perhaps we should further restrict the number of papers per issue. How about 5 or even 3?

About names.

  • Should we have a name for this journal club? I'm fine with the name Journal Club as a tab on the side bar. But any bright suggestions?
  • Should we call the managers each month the Hosts of the journal club? Their role will naturally go beyond selecting papers, and they will likely be active participating in the discussion. After all, they have read these papers and related papers, and should have a lot to offer.
  • Should we call the third-person that serves one-year term the Captain of the journal club?

I'd like to hear more from all of you. In particular I'd like to hear comments on

  • What are the incentives for the Hosts and the Captain to do a good job?
  • How may such a journal club benefit fellow mechanicians?

1. It is fine with JClub, but if there is better title, then we may think about it.

2. Instead of "Host", I think, we may say "Guest Editor" for a given issue.

3. Instead of "Captain", we may use "Editor" for JClub.


Zhigang Suo's picture

Dear Kilho and John:

If I understand Pradeep's original proposal, the Journal Club is a discussion club, not a journal.

According to Ravi, 6000+ papers are published in journals every year on some aspects of mechanics. Using a loose analogy, we might say that papers have become commodities like optical fibers and potatoes. They are indispensable part of our lives, but they are in great abundance, or put it not so subtly, dirt cheap. It seems to be a poor investment of iMechanicians's time, which is the most scarce resource now, to run yet another journal.

If the Journal Club is not a journal, then it seems that we should avoid the trappings of a journal. If Michelle's function is to articulate a theme, select a very short list of papers, and motivate discussions, she does more than just being a guest editor. She will probably be more like a leader in a book club, or a host of a discussion group. To me, her service is far more interesting and valuable and creative than a guest editor of a journal.

Similarly, if Pradeep's function is to guide the development and maintain smooth operation of this discussion group, by selecting the hosts and making up procedures on the fly, his function is quite different from an editor of a journal. OK, I suppose we can call the leader of a book club the Editor of the club.

Here I'm not arguing for the names like Host and Captain, but I do argue that we should avoid becoming yet another journal, or anything like a journal. To add values to the users, the Journal Club will probably function more like an offline journal club, by bringing people together to discuss an interesting theme, using a few illuminating papers as a means to the end.

What would an offline journal club or a book club or any discussion club call people like Michelle and Pradeep?

  • Host, Discussion Leader, Moderator...
  • Captain, Chair, President, Manager...

Any more ideas?

And Michelle and Pradeep: At this point, you probably care more about how to make the Journal Club absolutly fabulous and valuable than what you will be called. As the founding Host (a placeholder) and the founding Captain (another placeholder), however, would you be willing to tell us what you wish to be called, for the fun of it, and for the record? If your wishes are not too extravagant, we fellow iMechnicians might as well honor your wishes.  Why not?  Founding the Club is your idea.

Pradeep Sharma's picture


I agree; our role is not that of a journal editor and your analogy to a "book club" is quite apt. As long as the J-club functions as a discussion group I certainly don't care what our roles are called. I cannot think of anything clever at this point but no doubt our readers will give us enough feedback that we should be able to evolve it as we go along. Among the many roles of the "captain/editor...", one that I see to be important is that he/she, at the end of the yearly term initiate a dedicated discussion on lessons learned from the past year and guidelines for the incoming "captain" to consider.


  I agree - it's definitely meant to be for discussion of existing works, not to publish new ones.  

   I don't think the titles are important to the functioning of jClub, so long as people understand what the roles are.

   However, I do think that for young people - it might be best if the title is one that is recognized by our colleagues.  Ostensibly they may place this item somewhere on their resume/CV.  So I think Editor and Guest Editor (even though it is not a journal - I realize that) work quite well.

    Otherwise, I am open to Chair or Director for the annual position (Pradeep's) and Co-Chair or Moderator for the monthly position (Michelle's). 

Zhigang Suo's picture

John:  Thank you very much for bringing this extra dimension.  That is, what is important to people who will do the work - mostly young mechanicians.  We'll let them decide what is the best title for them.

MichelleLOyen's picture

I think since the term "moderator" is already used for a specific context in iMech, it should not be used here but it does have sort of the right context.  Thus I support "discussion leader" for those in charge of the topic for a specific month and "facilitator" for the overall lead.   

Hello, Prof Suo.

I agree with you that we are not in the same boat to journal. If the term "Editor" and "Guest Editor" is confusing people, then it might be much better to use other terminology for indicating the role of "Captain" and "Host". I would prefer "Chair" and "Moderator" to "Captain" and "Host". But I am very fine with any name for that as long as their role is kept in mind. I am very looking forward to 1st issue of jClub.


Ravi-Chandar's picture

Hi folks,

As you start your jClub, here are some points to ponder in no particular order.

1. Access to journals today is pretty easy, if a bit clumsy with proxies, redirects etc. Virtually everyone who reads about an article in jClub or iMechnica will already have access through his/her own library subscritpion and also be savvy enough to access this from anywhere in the world. So, I would suggest that you not request authors to post pdfs on their own website or arXiv or anywhere else. In a few short years, perhaps sooner, publishers will begin providing open access to all articles; this is already the case for NIH supported research. I don't see why NSF and DoD agencies should not pursue the same tactic as NIH.

2. Why the jClub? What role could it play? At present there are two main filters in the intellectual marketplace. First, there is the peer-review process that selects papers suitable for publication. Rejection rates for many of the top journals is at or above 50%, but unfortunately many rejected articles still find a journal suitable to their level! Second, there is the readership that votes with citations. This is an imprecise measure of 'goodness' of a manuscript, but the best one we have right now. It also has a significant time delay - at least two years, and perhaps longer. Perhaps, the jClub can be an intermediate level filter that identifies the diamonds in the rough within the two year window.

3. Mechanics is a broad subject and therefore, the selection process is going to be quite difficult. Let me describe the magnitude of the problem. In the last few years about 6000+ papers have been published every year that deal with some aspect of mechanics; this is a crude lower-bound estimate and certainly does not inculde a large number of papers in materials science, geosciences, biology etc that also deal with the subject. Furthermore, published literature in mechanics is so fragmented (Eli Sternberg's comment about the Journal of Shear Stress comes to mind!) that it is difficult to cull through all of it. In this atmosphere, relevance, importance, impact etc will also depend on who does the selection, his/her domain of interest, etc. So, perhaps another major role for jClub is to sort through this and identify the good papers that would interest a broad range of mechanicians quickly - a difficult task, but worthy of attempt.

4. I gave up routine tracking of journal publications a long time ago; now I do an ISI/Engineering Village search on specific topics, authors as the need arises. These databases simply indicate existence of manuscripts and in the case of older ones some idea of its usefulness (citation history). If jClub is to be successful, it would have to augment the capabilities of such dBase searches by providing a qualitative assessment of uniqueness (quality) of the manuscript and be correct in this pronouncement consistently!

5. Pradeep's latest post laid out some good ground rules, but didn't really specify how the managers would sort through the literature to identify the ones to include in the jClub list (item #6 in his list). Here is my suggestion: Let readers - consumers - submit articles that they think are cutting edge, revolutionary, earthshaking, whatever in any area of mechanics. I think we should preculde authors from nominating their own articles. So, request nominations by the middle of the month and post the jClub selections by the end of the month. Then the task of the managers is a bit more managable! Still, the manager leaves his imprint in the selection process and has a significant role to play.

6. If fragmentation is inevitable in the era of specialization, then perhaps jClub will fragment in the future spawning jClublets devoted to specific topics.

7. There should be a polling option. After articles are listed in jClub customers should be able to express their impression simply by clicking a button;   "Do you agree that this article makes a major impact on mechanics: YES or No or Maybe"  I am sure someone has written an applet to do this.

8. Happy clubbing!


First: apologies for coming into the discussion late.  Second, if the shear amount of discussion jClub is generating before it even begins is any indicator, I can't imagine it won't be successful!  Some thoughts on Pradeep's list:

1) Two is fine with me, but I suspect we may need one more down the road in case we get into the practice of voting on things.  

2) Two months seems reasonable.

3) I'm also fine with letting anyone manage.

4) It may also be a good idea to solicit volunteers at the end of the month.

5) I agree that the only rule is that it should involve mechanics or be applicable to the field of mechanics.  Managers should feel free to go beyond the usual suspects (i.e. the journals we're all likely to read on some basis) as they see fit.  This would be my preference.  Frankly, I think it would be great if through jClub I found out about work I wouldn't normally have discovered otherwise. 

6) I think it might be reasonable to have a post where papers can be nominated by the community.  The managers could select one or more of these, but they might also choose to select something independently.  

I don't think we can reasonably expect managers to sample the literature extensively.  What I'd suggest is that they select a paper they've stumbled upon recently (perhaps in the course of writing a paper or proposal) that they found interesting/excellent.  As such, it may not be even among the BEST papers in mechanics from that year or even that particular journal.  We all have different opinions about what BEST means, and we shouldn't necessarily view jClub as a means to identify such.   I would hope that on average we all simply find the papers in jClub to be interesting and accessible to mechanicians.  

MichelleLOyen's picture

A few comments:
(1) Number of papers:  If the J-club is going to run monthly, I support the restriction to 3 papers on a similar topic.  
(2) "Age" of the papers: I do strongly support the idea of there being no restriction to current papers; we can require one of the three to be "hot off the presses" but especially for discipline-hopping and promoting involvement across topics within mechanics, it is likely to be necessary for a "hot topics" paper to accompany an older paper with some background.  I also think it's good to involve papers that have stood the test of time and are well-regarded within certain sub-fields of mechanics; these will make for useful reading across disciplines.
(3) Selection of papers: I am not in favor of restricting papers to those nominated by members of the group; if that is the case then there need be no leaders or moderators to guide the content.  Especially in the early phases, I think it's important that the papers studied include those that come from outside the core group of persons involved with iMechanica; this also allows for a mechanism of "spreading the word" by contacting authors of J-club papers to tell them that we are reading their work and invite them to join the discussion, answer questions, etc.
(4) I strongly support the idea of student involvement and suggest that once we are up and running a team of 2 "hosts" can involve one student and one senior person.
(5) I am interested in the polling option but suspect the question posed above by Ravi is too general and that open-ended questions will be more informative.  Perhaps something more like, "In what area of mechanics is the paper's major contribution made?" (experimental, analytical, computational, etc.) "Is this paper likely to be of interest outside its core topic?" (i.e. does the information thus contained cross disciplinary boundaries within mechanics) ... 

Ning Wang's picture

Many of you may be aware of an online paid subscription program of Faculty of 1000 in biology and in medicine. (  It appears what has been proposed here is similar in some way but is free to access.  

Rui Huang's picture

Dear All:

I have been reading all the thoughtful comments here about JClub. I share many points raised in the previous comments by Ravi, Zhigang, Teng, etc. I was actually over-concerned by two issues:

1. Why do we need such a JClub? Given that we already have many good journals to select good papers and now we also have iMechanica to discuss online. What more can the JClub offer?

2.  What kind of paper should JClub select? Words like "the bests", "cutting edge", "earthshaking" could be contraversial and highly depend on who and how are the selections  being conducted.

After a long discussion with Zhigang, I am now freed from these concerns and start to see the benefits of the JClub.

1. Both of my previous concerns will be lifted if the JClub runs like a "mini-conference". The "host" of each month selects whatever she likes, not necessarily "the bests" or "earthshaking". She does a good job if she selects good papers and invoke good discussions. She benefits from doing this because the topics of the selected papers and discussion are most likely related to her own work. 

2. By focusing on a specific topic each month, the JClub operates in a similar fashion as MRS Bulletin, but even better because of the online discussions. For one, this greatly benefits those who are entering a new field (e.g., biomaterials) to have a jump start.

3. Another "hidden" benefit is that, by selecting and discussing works from established leaders in the field (if we dare), JClub may help motivate more leaders to participate iMechanica in the long run. This would greatly benefit us (mostly the young mechanicians). While we can get all this started without worrying too much about our senior colleagues, their experience and opinions would be precious.

With no further concerns, I look forward to the first issue of JClub.



MichelleLOyen's picture

Rui raises some fair concerns and I thought, as a passionate advocate of the J-club as a mechanism for promoting cross-disciplinary dialog, that it was worth commenting.  

I had the opportunity to participate in a molecular biology J-club a number of years ago, and while I doubt that many of the papers we read were earth-shattering or even particularly memorable, the experience of learning to read and interpret the literature of different topics was invaluable.  Someone working in a specified field will inevitably come across the "classic papers" on that topic, but the opportunity to cross boundaries brings the opportunity for revolutionary, instead of evolutionary, breakthroughs in mechanics. 

That said, the best thing that can happen for the J-club here is for a variety of mechanicians--united by the common bond of mechanics but working in a wide range of subtopics--to participate in the club to make it a success.   

Zhigang Suo's picture

Dear Michellel: Following the suggestion in Pradeep's recent comments, I took the liberty to volunteer you as the host of the Founding theme of the month. Check this out. Please let Pradeep know if you have enough time to bring out the first issue.

N. Sukumar's picture

A suggestion/thought. If the topic of the month is known a week or more in advance (viz. by the 3rd week of Dec for the Jan 2007 issue), then would it be beneficial if high-quality papers that are deemed suitable for the issue are brought to the attention (by anyone on iMechanica) of the managers via e-mail? I thought this might ease the job of the managers since they can not be expected to cover all possible journals/articles within the specialized topic. This would just provide them with more information; the final decision on the inclusion/exclusion of any paper in the issue would be with the managers.

Teng Li's picture

I agree with Sukumar's suggestion. The manager for the following month can initiate an entry in the last week of the present month, to publicize the JClub theme of the coming month and solicit papers of interest from fellow iMechanicians. This way, the manager can make choice from a larger pool and will also be powered by collected wisdom.

Zhigang Suo's picture

I've just started a forum topic called Operating Notes of the Journal Club.  You are all welcome to help to write this document.

I suggest the term "Editor" instead of "Captain", and have made this change.  

I like the idea very much! A suggestion if it is not yet too late:

Maybe this will put extra burden on the topic coordinator -- after one or two months of highly intellectual discussion on the topic, if the editor/coordinator can summarize the discussions in the form of a publishable paper form and submit to a journal in the form of review paper or communication, WITH imechanica and the participants rightfully cited/acknowledged.

This could serve at least two purposes: 1)increase the visibility of imechanica; and 2)benefit the society of the chosen topic.

Not sure if there is any legal issues though ...

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