5

And, would there be an appropriate way to do this?

Basically, I have a paper in a mathematical field that has gone back and forth a few times with a reviewer. Since the document is in TeX, it is extra hard to keep track of changes and make sure things are addressed. I believe seeing something like a github history, with edits separated into a few meaningful commits, would help my reviewer check how their comments were addressed, as well as helping me keep track of the changes and preventing more mistakes from popping up. Would it be strange to give a github link to the paper along with the pdf version when resubmitting it?

Edit note:. The paper itself is on the ArXiV already.

7

Weird? I don't know. Unusual? Certainly. I have never heard of this, and I would be rather unsettled if it happened to me as a reviewer.

Useful? There lies the rub.

  • First of all, this is only useful if the reviewer understands how revision control systems work. You can only be sure of that in very computer-centered fields, and even then, there's no absolute guarantee. Since you said "a mathematical field", I can assure you, based on my experience most people don't know or even care about RCSs. So you need to write an accompanying letter outlining the changes which can stand on its own. And if you do, there's little point in including a link to the github repo.
  • Second of all, I really doubt that seeing a diff of a source file written by someone else is really useful. Especially if it involves crazy diagrams or things like this. Reading a long source tex file from start to finish is not comfortable (ask yourself: when you reread your own papers, do you read the source or the PDF?). This introduces a high cognitive load of mentally parsing all the macros, either standard or your own, and turning it into math. It's definitely not something that you want to bother to do when you're doing volunteer work.
  • The diffs will also be polluted by fixing the inevitable typos, whitespace changes, and so on. If you do a big reorganization of the paper such as moving paragraphs, the diffs will also not really be useful.

Consider using other tools, such as latexdiff. And before you complain that the output of latexdiff is not good enough in some cases: in those cases, the git diff would not be good enough either.

1

This happened to my postdoc supervisor as a reviewer. I don't know the detail, but once he complained over dinner that an author sent back git-diff output together with latexdiff produced PDF to highlight changes. He said that was "super strange". He had decades of experience as reviewers for major pure and applied math journals, so if it is strange for him, it must be highly unusual.

At the end, the handling editor told the reviewers to "feel free to ignore" the git-diff and latexdiff output.

1

It would be weird for old reviewers not used to modern tech collaboration tools; more so, tools or environments that can keep track of way they said and demanded, and present evidence of their possible faults, which would be in your favor against arbitrary demands.

Personally, I have used Google Docs, both for collaboration on projects and for revisions of homeworks at my MBA and PHD, which also has comments options and a nice history log for changes. As an anecdote, once a teacher was adamant about a file not having any changes, and then on the projector and on his own machine it was proven that the changes had indeed been done thanks to the changes log.

As for Github... it would work too, but I see it more valuable for branching. A consideration though is that github requires a bit more expertise from the users and most reviewers are old men that are not used to dynamic exchanges and feedback, so consider you may have to first sell the idea to them and probably teach them how to use the tool too.

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