Annual Meeting Reports

Conquering the Production of Mathematical Content

This session presented possible solutions to the problem of typesetting math set in LaTeX. It also delved into accessibility of mathematical content for the visually impaired.

Mathematicians, many scientists, and engineers prefer to create their mathematical content in LaTeX. However, this program poses some problems for journal production processes because LaTeX, in its native form, does not work well with most types of article-composition software because LaTeX is accessible only by reading the source language. Converting LaTeX to XML for it to work with such software is challenging. Having good XML is important, as it is the version of record in most cases. Whereas the PDF created during the pagination process could contain errors, the XML should be sound. Therefore, a reliable program is needed that can accurately make that conversion. The American Meteorological Society and the American Mathematical Society are both using new software for this purpose, which their representatives presented during their talks at this session.

Michael Friedman, journal production manager for the American Meteorological Society, gave a presentation on their approach to typesetting mathematical content.

The American Meteorological Society publishes roughly 34,000 pages per year in ten technical journals. About 33% of their submissions are supplied in LaTeX. For those authors who do not use LaTeX, detailed instructions are provided regarding the use of MathType or Word’s Equation Editor. And for those who use LaTeX, a template is available that authors can use to format their submissions.

The American Meteorological Society compositor converts the LaTeX files to Word so their in-house copy editors can edit the files. When the edited file is typeset, the article is exported to XML. The final mathematical output is sent to their online host as bitmapped images. When the articles are viewed online, the math does not resize with the text, the images are often larger than the surrounding text, and the math cannot be read by accessibility software.

Starting in 2015, the American Meteorological Society will begin to use a software called MathJax ( MathJax is an open-source math display engine designed to show math accurately online. It is server based, works with all browsers, and does not require Flash to run. MathJax will be used to convert all MathML coming from XML into MathJax objects. However, the technical editors must ensure that all math is formulated correctly in MathType or MathJax will not display the math properly.

Gil Poulin, production editor for the American Mathematical Society, discussed his organization’s approach to mathematical content.

For the American Mathematical Society, LaTeX rules. Ninety-seven percent (97%) of the content in their books and 100% of their journal content is provided as LaTeX files from the authors. Once a paper is accepted, the Society formats, links, and tags the content. For the most part, they use XML when appropriate but generally feel that converting to XML takes away from what the authors are doing in LaTeX. Because mathematicians are still print oriented, this workflow is fine for them because the output is a PDF that can be printed. However, for their online content, the Society is also working with MathJax.

Another project at the American Mathematical Society is the Lens eReader. Lens is a new online reading experience for research mathematicians that offers a more dynamic experience than reading PDFs.

The last presentation for the session was given by John Gardner, president of ViewPlus Technologies. He offered a solution to the problem of accessibility of math content for the visually impaired. Recent screen reader advances now make it possible for MathType equations in Word to be read in audio. Gardner has created LEAN, an app that makes MathType equations and other equations expressible in MathML readable in both audio and braille. LEAN also permits MathType and other MathML equations to be edited or created.