Google Launches New Machine Learning Journal

By John Russell

March 22, 2017

On Monday, Google announced plans to launch a new peer review journal and “ecosystem” for machine learning. Writing on the Google Research Blog, Shan Carter and Chris Olah described the project as follows:

“Science isn’t just about discovering new results. It’s also about human understanding. Scientists need to develop notations, analogies, visualizations, and explanations of ideas. This human dimension of science isn’t a minor side project. It’s deeply tied to the heart of science.

“That’s why, in collaboration with OpenAI, DeepMind, YC Research, and others, we’re excited to announce the launch of Distill, a new open science journal and ecosystem supporting human understanding of machine learning. Distill is an independent organization, dedicated to fostering a new segment of the research community.

“Modern web technology gives us powerful new tools for expressing this human dimension of science. We can create interactive diagrams and user interfaces the enable intuitive exploration of research ideas. Over the last few years we’ve seen many incredible demonstrations of this kind of work.

“Unfortunately, while there are a plethora of conferences and journals in machine learning, there aren’t any research venues that are dedicated to publishing this kind of work. This is partly an issue of focus, and partly because traditional publication venues can’t, by virtue of their medium, support interactive visualizations. Without a venue to publish in, many significant contributions don’t count as “real academic contributions” and their authors can’t access the academic support structure.”

According to Carter and Olah, “Distill aims to build an ecosystem to support this kind of work, starting with three pieces: a research journal, prizes recognizing outstanding work, and tools to facilitate the creation of interactive articles.

Here’s a snapshot of guidelines for working with the new Journal:

  • “Distill articles are prepared in HTML using the Distill infrastructure — see the getting started guide for details. The infrastructure provides nice default styling and standard academic features while preserving the flexibility of the web.
  • Distill articles must be released under the Creative Commons Attribution license. Distill is a primary publication and will not publish content which is identical or substantially similar to content published elsewhere.
  • To submit an article, first create a GitHub repository for your article. You can keep it private during the review process if you would like — just share it with @colah and @shancarter. Then email [email protected] to begin the process.

Distill handles all reviews and editing through GitHub issues. Upon publication, the repository is made public and transferred to the @distillpub organization for preservation. This means that reviews of published work are always public. It is at the author’s discretion whether they share reviews of unpublished work.”

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