Being in Paris reminds me of the very origins of journal publishing. It was here, and in London, in 1665 that the first two journals were published:
LE JOURNAL DES SCAVANS and the PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS respectively.Today there exist well over 90,000 journals and far more serial publications. There is no library in the world that can claim to have them all. In spite of mergers, marriages, etc. the number of new titles is still on the increase and we have done little for their accessibility and retrievability. Every 15 years the total paper output doubles. Even the abstracting and indexing services are not able to help very much any more. Little wonder, then, that in these days of information technology (IT) and electronic publishing (EP), more and more people are hoping that we can solve these problems digitally.
But do we realize that we are creating a media gap? A gap between the words of conversation and conservation itself? This calls for action and coordination and we should try to optimize all the new challenges and not block any new means of information, communication and documentation. Publishing has always been a documentation activity: producing, as we call it nowadays, "frozen information". In the foreseeable future we will deal with frozen, or static, as well as dynamic information and we have to find ways to cope with a new and hybrid information environment.
This list looks very negative. Perhaps it is, but we should now concentrate on everything that we have gained from this conference, and that is a good deal.
Summarizing, I would say that we have been discussing the publishing activities around unsolicited papers offered for publication in scientific journals and their electronic equivalents and some primary repositories by a rapidly growing scientific community to a wide variety of publishers. Publishers can be learned societies, university presses, institutions, governments, and privately and publicly owned companies. They all are part of the communication process, a process which involves many specialists and is time- and cost-intensive. It may look old-fashioned to some, but it is well organized thanks to a long tradition, high commitment and quality control. In my company, Springer-Verlag of Berlin and Heidelberg, we commission many works and we publish lots of monographs, handbooks, reference works, loose-leaf collections, magazines, and so on. I imagine that we will continue to commission useful works.
I should like to praise Dr. Harry Lustig (APS) for sharing with us the basic financial data of his society. He certainly did stimulate discussions of real costs involved in publishing. Working Group I discussed the economics of publishing extensively and we heard its recommendations a few minutes ago.
The Conference is supposed to come up with a comprehensive statement of all identified problems and these are manifold.
Mr Federico Mayor, Director-General of UNESCO , in welcoming the conference participants, underlined the timeliness of the event since a new six-year strategic period of his Organization is to start this year. He also mentioned that Prof. J. Lederberg will chair an international advisory council that he recently set up on modern communication technologies in science.
The Director-General's statement:
"Science is nothing if not communicated to others"
was taken up many times during the course of the Conference. The transmission of ideas, the transfer but also sharing of knowledge are key factors for UNESCO. Main issues to concentrate on, according to Mr Mayor, are copyright, security, long-tern storage and peer review.
I would like to quote here Prof. Bryan Coles, who gave me a little poem:
Prof. Coles, being the first keynote speaker, pleaded for a code of practice covering peer review, dating of documents, independent electronic archives and the introduction of a system of universal identifiers. He also stated that less than 20% of academic scientists make frequent use of current awareness services, as opposed to more than 40% in industry. One great area of uncertainty concerns the nature and management of the ultimate electronic archive.
I would like to quote Umberto Eco, who recently said in an interview that our computers are suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. Asked to say something about the upcoming Information Society, he replied that there are more specialized databases and collections of raw data available nowadays than any normal human being could possibly access. In addition, more and more disciplines seem to have developed their own "language" and codes. This means that we are deviating from an universal information society and are entering a period of collective forgetting, like we had in Antiquity. Who knows now what will be important in the future?
The second speaker, Mr. F. Mastroddi of DG XIII of the European Commission delivered an excellent research paper. He cited the European Council of Ministers: "The information content sector will be very important for the future information society." He was the first of several speakers to mention the fact that computer screens are not ideal for reading. The trend from "scribe to screen", however, is there.
Dr. V. Canhos presented a very good paper on the "invisibility of scientists in developing countries". Internet or WWW might help here to stimulate the reading of relevant documents, both originating in the developing countries and coming from the industrialized countries. Already Internet connects some 160 countries and the developing countries are showing highest growth rates.
Dr. Derek Law concentrated on preservation, which is much more than electronic archives or repositories. He pointed out that legal deposit only exists for the printed word. Access should be created now and not when copyright runs out. Age is counted in days or months, not in years. EP casts a longer shadow than it deserves. We should be able to do more with raw data. (This point was also made by other speakers, and also came up during the working group discussions.)
Prof. R. Wedgeworth presented an overview of some important digital library projects in the USA, including his own at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Currently some 30 journals are supplied in SGML and a test-bed for scientists and students is being created. "The devil is with the detail", Prof. Wedgeworth said, referring to many implementation problems.
I made many more notes and these will be made available on the ICSU Server.
Some interesting statements from other presentations were:
2. The funding agencies/governments, etc. have spent far
more money on research but have neglected the concomitant
costs of running/upgrading information systems. In some
countries libraries are not funded by central agencies, but
have to acquire funding themselves.
Option: Proactive policies at national and regional levels.
3. Publishers are part of the science community. They
invest a lot in staff, training and infrastructure and
employ many scientists. Publishers have always been an
active part of the scientific information system. STM, the
International Association of Scientific, Technical and
Medical Publishers, registered in The Netherlands,
represents some 80% of all activities in this area. STM
publishers are not media, broadcasting, software or telecom
Option: We feel that a clarification of the publishing process is needed. This covers: research, editorial work, peer reviewing, in-house work, composition and lay-out, distribution up to collection management in libraries and documentation centers.
4. The Information Society needs standards or
well-defined formats. These may vary with the nature of the
content and the requirements of scientists and librarians.
Option: It is very important to channel the many individual developments.
5. In order to guarantee global accessibility and
retrievability, which is particularly important to
developing countries, it is very important to build
prototypes of repositories and test these.
Option: ICSU-Press and UNESCO stimulate such developments.
6. The annual subscription seems the most practical
model for licensing unlimited access within a controlled
environment. Meta-information should be available for
Recommendation: Stimulation of cost, pricing and user awareness.
7. The whole area of information usage (with
fingerprinting, tattooing, water-marking, etc.) should offer
an efficient control of the impact of the scientific
communication process. It should help to improve the
awareness and use of scientific information and to avoid
redundancies and overlap.
Recommendation: Start some good projects.
8. Peer reviewing is the best principle of scientific
publishing. Peer reviewing has its own investments and
these should be recognized and respected.
Recommendation: To earmark all works in the future with codes, e.g. communication (preprint or e-print); offered for publication with a date; accepted for publication with a date and the journal title; published with the meta-information and a document identifier, which should be included in the abstract.
This should become a Code of Practice. It was suggested to add an (R) to the title to indicate a peer reviewed article. A (P) would probably be better.
9. All scientists should receive formal training in
using electronic information, the preparation of
electronic manuscripts as well as in efficient
dissemination. This ideally should start at undergraduate
Recommendation: To set up an international programme for training.
10. Last but not least scientists/authors have moral
rights: the right of your name linked to your work and the
right of integrity, protection against intellectual theft
Recommendation: ICSU Press and UNESCO should stimulate the awareness of copyright and moral rights in general.
NB: Developing countries may require an easier-to-handle level of communication, e.g. flat ASCII and no illustrations. This is a very difficult area with high additional costs involved, if it is at all possible.
Go to the top