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Overview of the contribution process

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This article is under construction.

Please do not rely on any information it contains.


Unicode has a page called "Where's my character?" The process to add a sequence to the OEIS is faster, but there is also a review process involved. This overview aims to describe the typical steps in the process from preliminary through initial approval and beyond. Your own particular experience will be different: some steps described here will occur multiple times, some not at all, and there may be atypical steps.

The preliminary stage

Searching is the focus of the preliminary stage. First of all, searching to make sure the sequence you want to add is not already in the OEIS. The Fibonacci numbers, for example, have been in the OEIS since the very beginning, yet some people still send them in as if they weren't. For other sequences, it's not as obvious that they're already in the OEIS until one actually does the searching.

And then there's searching the OEIS for related sequences for cross-references, and searching library catalogs and article databases for relevant books and papers. Let's say someone wants to add to the OEIS and they have verified it's not already in the OEIS. Presumably, is already in the OEIS, and would make a good cross-reference.

With these searches completed, one may move on to the next step, which requires you to be logged in to the OEIS. Once you start the form to contribute a new sequence, the system finds the next available A-number, changes the name to something like "allocated for David Smith," puts keyword:allocated in the Keywords field and sets status to approved.

The proposal stage

With the A-number allocated and faced with the blank entry form, there are two ways to go about the next step: either fill in the bare minimum (a title and two terms) and click "Save changes," or try to fill in as much as you can before saving. Once you first save, the status is changed to editing.

Either way, there is time to polish the entry, so take your time. Just don't let more than a week go by without any activity. Every field that you can think of something for should be filled in, except the Extensions field (that may be used in the next stage of the process, but there's no use for it at this point). For example, if you have Maple on your computer and you can write a Maple program to compute the sequence, you should put the Maple program in the Maple field. Although the system automatically fills in some of the keywords for the Keywords field, you might have to make changes to it; see clear-cut examples of keywords if you're not sure what should be done in that field.

We don't expect you to know everything there is to know about a sequence. But we do expect you to at least make an effort to answer the basic questions that pertain to the particular sequence. For example, for a very short sequence of small positive integers, some relevant questions might be: Is the sequence finite? Does the sequence contain negative terms? It's OK to say things like "I believe the sequence is finite" or "I have checked up to 1012 and found no more terms."

Theoretically, anyone can see what you're doing at this stage of the process. In practice, most of the time you will be the only one looking at the draft. Once you're ready to have the Editors look at it, click the button "These changes are ready for review by an OEIS Editor." This changes the status from editing to proposed. (Don't worry if you click that prematurely, you can always save another change to bring the status back to editing).

The suggested pre-submit checklist has advice on what to do before moving to the next stage.

The review stage

Depending on backlog, it may be anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of days after the change of status to proposed before an OEIS Editor looks at the entry draft. First of all, the Editors want to be sure they understand the sequence, and then they can get to the business of making sure that all the logic and arithmetic in the entry is correct, and that the entry conforms to the OEIS Style Sheet. In general, the more diligent you are in the proposal stage, the smoother the review stage goes (though not necessarily faster).

"Pink box comments" are an important tool at this stage. At the bottom of the draft entry page, there is a text box where Editors may type in questions about the sequence that will appear on the draft as pink boxes. You can use the same text box to answer those questions.

Pink box comments do not become part of the published sequence, but with some clicking around, anyone can find them and read them. For this and other reasons, some discretion is necessary for pink box comments.

Appropriate for pink box comments Inppropriate for pink box comments
Discussion of technical problems interfering with computation of the sequence Discussion of personal problems interfering with computation of the sequence
Material that may potentially be added to the sequence entry Duplication of material already in the sequence entry
Original language quotation of material directly relevant to the sequence Irrelevant comments in any language

In some cases, responding will also involve making changes to the sequence. If an Editor says something like "In the second formula, are you sure it shouldn't be greater than or equal to rather than just greater than?" an appropriate response might be to change the greater than to a greater than or equal to. But if no change is required, the appropriate response might be a pink box comment explaining the reason for that. Editors may also send a sequence back to editing status without making any changes of their own.

The Editors may make more straightforward changes without asking you about it, things like forgotten punctuation and minor stylistic discrepancies. They may also add things that fall within their own area of expertise. An Editor familiar with Mathematica may add a Mathematica program, for example. Depending on the nature of the things the Editors add, they may or may not take credit. This is where the Extensions field may come in: suppose an Editor adds the next term of a sequence and it's very large and it took a clever algorithm and lot of computer time to get it; there isn't room for people's names in the Data field, so the Editor will write something like "a(12) added by John Lopez, Dec 21 2012" in the Extensions field.

At this stage you can also add things to the entry, whether or not the addition is motivated by something an Editor says. Such changes don't rate a remark under the Extensions field because they still fall under the umbrella of your "original" authorship (by "original" we mean chronologically to the OEIS). Later additions will be mentioned in that field as needed.

As you and the Editors make changes to the draft, the status changes back to editing. Don't change the status back to proposed until the Editors' questions are satisfactorily answered. The Editors may make changes in increments: touch up some small details, then add a generating function, think for a little bit more and then add a Maple program, etc. An Editor will then change the status back to proposed.

Once the Editor is satisfied that the sequence entry is ready to be published, they will click the button "I have reviewed these changes. Mark them ready for approval." Either an Associate Editor or an Editor-in-Chief may do this.

The approval stage

An Editor-in-Chief gives the entry one final once-over. If the sequence is appropriate and ready for publication, they approve the sequence and it appears immediately. If not, they can return the sequence for more editing, usually with a pink-box comment.

The live stage

Once approved, the new sequence entry will come up in the appropriate search results. Anyone with an OEIS account may suggest changes to the entry. These changes go through a miniature version of the process described above (but usually faster unless the changes are major).

It is important to remember that adding a sequence entry to the OEIS is different from writing a poem or a novel. Exhibiting a unique literary voice is not the point at all. Besides, advancements will be made in science and mathematics that may require changes to the sequence entry. And if the sequence does get changes, that is a good thing: it means people are genuinely interested in the concept, interested enough to scrutinize the entry and add things to it.