ICSU Press Workshop 31 March to 2 April

Report from Working Group 3

Chair : Ian Butterworth ; Rapporteur : Anne Dixon

 

GENERAL

The group recognized that disciplines differ in many ways, but particularly in respect of Electronic Publishing (EP). In some subject areas the importance of priority, and of patents, can certainly affect how EP is managed, whilst in other areas timeliness is of greater importance and thus speedier systems , such as preprints, can play a vital role. Furthermore we recognized that scientists’ needs vary dependent upon their role at any one moment - whether it be author, user, student etc. There was complete agreement that peer review is absolutely essential for electronic publications.

 

ELECTRONIC JOURNALS

We were generally agreed that there will be a time when Electronic Journals (EJ’s) become the dominant format. What we did not agree was when that time will come, although estimates ranged from 5 to 15 years hence. Overall it was felt that a purely electronic journal is probably cheaper to produce than a print equivalent. However, where parallel systems exist, of both print and electronic, then costs are almost certain to be increased. There was a recognition that the costs of printing in a purely electronic environment will migrate to the end user, and indeed training of users is another cost item. It was suggested that there could be some cost savings if print journals were made available on an annual, bound basis (rather than by issue), along with an electronic version, as compared with the costs of print and electronic together. This would enable a formal print record to be retained, whilst taking advantage of the EJ and its speed of publication. It was stated that major publishers do face very substantial costs to offer large-scale services; scale of growth in costs is not linear in EP. Indeed many small EP operations and journals are directly or indirectly funded by grants or other sources.

 

ELECTRONIC PAGE CHARGES

This was of interest to the group and it is recommended that experiments in this area are pursued. Indeed it was noted that some learned societies are about to do so. There was some debate about the merits of charging for submission, as well as for accepted papers.

 

QUALITY

There was an overall recognition that all material available electronically in science should be of stated quality . There were suggestions that data should have qualifying metatags (or similar) which describe whether a piece of information was peer reviewed, or a conference proceeding etc. There was also the suggestion that good quality abstracts can help a user decide whether to go for a pay-per-view option. It was felt that Service Level Agreements concerning the quality of EP services should be encouraged (e.g. guaranteed access 99% of the time for any given service). It was also suggested that communities should be consulted as to the value, from their perspective, of certain aspects of EP services.

 

TENURE AND REWARD

EP will not become a dominant force however, until recognition of EJ’s is woven into the tenure and reward systems. Therefore we would recommend that ICSU work towards persuading those in a position to do so to accept EJ’s as viable indicators of good work.

 

SEPARATING PEER REVIEW AND DISTRIBUTION

As to separating peer review and distribution there was not unanimity in our group. There were concerns about a number of issues e.g. a journal is not just a collection of articles but can be a framework to establish new areas of research. However, some Learned Societies are experimenting with linking to and from their refereed electronic publications to unrefereed material.

 

LEARNED SOCIETIES

Learned Societies are already leading the EP revolution, and indeed have been very innovative. Electronic communication enables Learned Societies to offer extended services in their subject areas, and to pursue new opportunities such as personalized services. However, we were agreed that it would be unethical to monitor users’ behavior , (in an attempt to create personalised services) without their knowledge. There was great enthusiasm from some of the group for pay-per-view (as an alternative to document delivery) and there was belief that scientists would pay for small chunks of information. This therefore could be a modest source of income, and it could replace electronic library loan We believe there are problems for small learned societies entering the EP arena (due to costs, and lack of manpower and skills). It was felt that they should band together, or operate their EP programmes under the umbrella of bigger societies or associations in order to better serve their communities.

 

FUNDING

We recommend that ICSU take up the issue of persuading funding bodies to ensure there is an allocation in all research grants for the acquisition of information services.

 

DOMINATION

It was felt that domination by any one group or company in a given subject area in EP is very undesirable. Diversity in publishing is preferable.

 

ARCHIVES

There was a lot of discussion on archives and archiving. It was recognized that there are problems concerning what is or should be deposited, and then where data should be deposited. Some Learned Societies said they were creating electronic archives, because they didn’t trust anyone else to do it. There was a feeling that commercial publishers were not the best guardians of archives since they may not have the longevity or desire to guarantee long-term access.

 

At some point therefore it was suggested that the Learned Societies might want to set guidelines on disposal. In some territories National Libraries are attempting electronic archive programmes, and these are welcomed. In geographical and volume terms it was felt that the USA was the most worrying part of the archive scene. It should be noted that the law has just changed in Canada so that all versions of publications must be deposited in National Libraries; however they have not agreed what a publication is. There is also some concern that National Deposit Libraries are rapidly becoming privatized, and that publishers currently creating (often added-value) electronic archives will be very likely to charge for them.

 

NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGES

On the subject of non-English languages there was much concern about the current EP situation in the developing world. Authors whose native language is not English often publish in mainstream journals in order to establish their careers, and, once established, publish in the vernacular for teaching purposes; this we applaud. However, we were nervous that resources were being spent, from limited funds, on developing English language journals in these territories. A possible solution is to encourage certain territories not to attempt to create English language mainstream journals.

There was some hope that translation on-the-fly software will improve; though for popular languages it already is quite effective. There was some discussion on the ethics of dual publishing (between an English language and vernacular journal). Of course translation journals are already well established. It was felt that territories in the third world could be awarded some latitude in dual publishing.

 

NETWORK ISSUES

We strongly recommend that ICSU continue to put pressure on Governments everywhere to ensure that academic networks remain centrally funded and that they are, indeed, improved. A specific issue in Europe would be the continued funding of the TEN-34 and its successor by the European Commission.

 

CHINA

There were some serious concerns about attitudes to intellectual property in China. It is not respecting copyright and we find this unacceptable. Pressure should be made at the highest political level to stop the theft of intellectual property.

 

STATEMENTS

Peer review is absolutely essential for electronic publications.

There will be a time when Electronic Journals (EJ’s) become the dominant format.

A purely electronic journal is probably cheaper to produce than a print equivalent.

Where parallel systems exist, of both print and electronic, then costs are almost certain to be increased.

Experiments in the area of electronic page charges should be pursued.

All material available electronically in science should be of stated quality .

ICSU should work towards persuading those in a position to do so to accept EJ’s as viable indicators of good work, with regard to tenure and reward.

Learned Societies are already leading the EP revolution.

There was great enthusiasm from some of the group for pay-per-view.

There are problems for small learned societies which could be solved by banding together, or operating their EP programmes under the umbrella of bigger societies or associations, in order to better serve their communities.

ICSU should take up the issue of persuading funding bodies to ensure there is an allocation in all research grants for the acquisition of information services.

Domination by any one group or company in a given subject area in EP is very undesirable.

There are problems with electronic archives concerning what is or should be deposited, and then where data should be deposited.

National Libraries are attempting electronic archive programmes, and these are welcomed.

This group was nervous that resources were being spent, from limited funds, on developing English language journals in third world territories.

We would like ICSU to continue to put pressure on Governments everywhere to ensure that academic networks remain centrally funded.

We want ICSU to press for the continued funding of the TEN-34 network and its successor by the European Commission.

Pressure should be made at the highest political level to stop the theft of intellectual property in China.

 


Last updated : 06 July 1998
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