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An analysis of astro-ph submit times

Recently I submitted another paper to astro-ph and I wanted to play the “first” game and try to get my paper on top of the daily listing. Now, it is well documented that the deadline for the daily submissions is 16.00 EST meaning that if you submit just after that deadline you’re paper is likely to appear on top of the next day’s mailing. (NB: the announcement is inverse on the web page)

But how likely do you get your paper on top if you submit right in time? For the above mentioned paper I had prepared everything before hand. This took a bit of time since arxiv.org didn’t accept a


after the abstract but only spewed out weird errors about lines that aren’t ending etc. So I had prepared everything, even submitted the paper and un-submitted it again.

Then, at 20.59.59 GMT and a split second I hit the submit button. It took more than three minutes for the server to handle this request. Still, I was quite amazed that the paper appeared only as #6 (#19 if counting also the cross-lists) from the bottom of the webpage (i.e. top of presumably more important mailing), despite having been registered by the server at 21.00.04 GMT. So I used my much-loved bash tools curl, awk and grep and extracted the submission times of all astro-ph submissions this year until October and found this:


There is a clear spike at 20.00 UT (which is 16.00 EDT = UTC-4) and a smaller one at 21.00 UT (corresponding to 16.00 EST = UTC-5) — most of the year so far has had (Northern hemisphere) summer time. I don’t have an explanation for the smaller and wider peaks at about 9.00 and 16.00 UT. Now we can also zoom in to the region around 20 / 21:


We see that the peak submission time (which is when the submission is registered by the server) is at about 12 seconds after the deadline. Going back to my case — submitting right at the deadline, registered 4 seconds after the deadline (despite server only replying 3 minutes later) — we can ask: what are the chances of getting on top if you submit within 4 seconds? Over these 10 months (ca. 200 submission days), there have been 26 submissions in this timeframe, i.e. your chances of getting on top if submitting so close in time should be almost 100%. It just so turns out, however, that on the particular day when I submitted, there were five papers submitted even closer to the deadline. Tough luck. 😉 Hopefully, however, this will play less of a role in the future as more and more people read their daily astro-ph through voxcharta or similar services where the announcement order is either randomized or sorted according to your preferences.

Useful tool: ADS to BibDesk

In order to keep an overview of my references and also to quickly add them to publications, I add references that I find useful to the bibliography manager BibDesk. To add a paper, I would copy the BibTeX code on ADS into BibDesk and then link the PDF so that it can be easily retrieved later. I have set up BibDesk such that it uses simple cite codes (such as burtscher2015) and uses these codes also as the file name of the PDF. This way I can easily open the PDF from any application by activating Spotlight and typing in the cite code.

This “workflow” has served me well so far, but now I found a tool that makes this even more streamlined. The “Service” (i.e. a context-menu extension for Mac OS X) ADS to BibDesk allows to add a paper to BibDesk by simply right clicking on the bib code (among many other ways of ingesting references). It is essentially a Python script with a Workflow wrapper and works fine on my Mac with OS X 10.10.3. Thanks to Jonathan Sick and contributors for providing and maintaining such a useful tool!

Making ESO’s P2PP work with a modern OS X

The most recent ESO observation preparation software P2PP 3.3.2 requires an outdated Java version (1.6). Should you have a more modern version (1.7.0_11 is the most recent one), the easiest way to make it run on a Mac is to create this path /Applications/jre/bin/ and link /System/Library/Frameworks/JavaVM.framework/Versions/1.6/Commands/java to there, if you have it (otherwise install the old Java version). Then open the p2pp shell script and comment lines 178-209 except lines 182-183 and it should work.

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