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For paper submission, I have recently spent some time struggling to find appropriate classification. The main question is: who needs this information and why?

At first I thought that they could be used by the editor to find an appropriate editor or referees, but I have had two experiences contradicting this hypothesis. In the first one, I was only asked to provide classification AFTER the review process. In the second, I was requested to point myself to appropriate editors and referees.

In my experience, I do not look at those numbers, and that is true for other colleagues. The only exception is when I am trying to find appropriate classification and look at other related papers for inspiration. In such occasion, I sometimes found classifications which did not seem to match the content of the paper. Apparently people do not care much for this. Another aspect of the question is: how bad is it to have a bad classification?

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    "who needs this information and why?" This is a question I also ask myself whenever I have to provide classification terms. After 6+ years in research I am still devoid of a good answer. – xLeitix Mar 4 '14 at 13:25
  • Sorry I did not get what do you mean by this question. Do you mean why one prefers publishing in ACM and not in AMS? in what field? – seteropere Mar 4 '14 at 16:48
  • No, I wonder about the use of any of these classification systems. Namely, who needs them on a regular basis and in order to do what? I merely gave these three examples (which are the ones I know about) to not restrict the discussion to one field. – Ri49 Mar 4 '14 at 16:53
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From the ACM page "How to use the Computing Classification System":

An important aspect of preparing your paper for publication by ACM Press is to provide the proper indexing and retrieval information from the ACM Computing Classification System (CCS). This is beneficial to you because accurate categorization provides the reader with quick content reference, facilitating the search for related literature, as well as searches for your work in ACM’s Digital Library and on other online resources. It also ensures correct placement when a review appears in Computing Reviews.

There's similar verbiage for the AMS MSC.

In other words, the institution needs it for their own databases and search mechanisms. The AMS probably needs it for something similar. So your use for the classification system depends on how much you expect people to search for your work using the classification structure provided by the institution. For math, I'd expect it to be used a lot: for CS, not so much.

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    I've been doing applied math research for 6 years now and I've never searched papers by MSC classification code. I suspect I'm not the only one. – Federico Poloni Mar 5 '14 at 10:40
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    I'd expect it to be used about 100 times as much in math as in CS, which is to say, not at all. – JeffE Mar 5 '14 at 13:24
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This classification would normally be used by librarians to catalog the books/journals/proceedings accordingly. There is more than ACM and AMS - there are at least other 10-15 frequently used systems, each meeting needs of a specific customer - be it a library or consortia of academic institutions. Almost any publisher, beyond ACM, would use one or several classification schemes. In theory, the classification of proceedings should depend on terms you provide for the article, in practice, it is not necessarily the case, as you say. There are a lot of things to be improved in classification, also using semi-automated approaches for finding right keywords for papers.

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It's for classification purpose.

From practical side, I've heard that they use it for matching referees or seeing for what you can be a referee.

I've never met any scientist searching according to such classification. (Except for scientometrics or similar purposes.)

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