Technology of Electronic Publishing in Geophysics

V. Nechitailenko

Geophysical Center, Russian Academy of Sciences
3 Molodezhnaya Str, Moscow 117296, Russia

Paper presented to the ICSU Press Workshop, Keble College, Oxford, UK, 31 March to 2 April 1998



This paper considers in brief some key elements of electronic publishing technology used in Geophysics, which were developed by the GC RAS under Grant Agreement with the American Geophysical Union - biggest publisher of geophysical journals and books. Currently used technology for producing POP camera ready copies is 100% computer based and become a basis for composing electronic online version of POP journal. More comprehensive technologies are developed for the online electronic journal Geomagnetism and Aeronomy International recently launched by the AGU.


Historically publications in Planetary Geophysics disciplines were not among those which opened electronic publishing era. The main problem is that many, if not most, of geophysical papers contain as heavy math as mathematical papers and as heavy graphics as an anthology of a painter. Nevertheless during last two years an essential progress was made in this field. In this study we will consider in brief some key elements of electronic publishing technologies used in Geophysics and their influence on most important elements of publishing process. Among the variety of forms and types of scientific publications the main subject of our interest is scientific peer-reviewed journals and serials. Three main types can be distinguished in this area:

electronic clone of printed-on-paper (POP) journal,

electronic journal with POP version, and

pure electronic journal.

Two samples

Our consideration below is based on the experience of publishing several electronic journals under Grant Agreement with the American Geophysical Union. A good sample of electronic clone of POP journal is online versions of five Russian geophysical journals. This database contains near 1500 papers (~6000 documents), and is freely accessible at ( Electronic clones of POP journals were generated on fly at the final step of preparation of POP version with the usage of 100% computer based technology.

Recently launched AGU journal Geomagnetism and Aeronomy International is a good sample of electronic online journal with POP version. It is freely accessible at This journal is primarily electronic one. The decision to accompany it with POP version follows the typical approach of many publishers of electronic journals.

Why do we need POP version of electronic journal?

There is a number of reasons why publishers of electronic journals are accompanying them with POP versions:

1. Author's preference. Many (if not most) of academic authors still prefer POP journal as a basic tool for dissemination of scientific results.

2. Archiving system. Existing publications depositories (archives, libraries) as well as indexing and refereeing systems are highly oriented towards traditional publications. Though we can see great activity in development of principles and concepts of electronic scientific archive by both international scientific bodies and intergovernmental organizations [Russon, 1997] , this system is far from being completed.

3. Copyright. While existing international and national legislation protect author's and publisher's rights, the latter can be easily destroyed in the case of electronic journal, because we have not reliable system for long-term saving of the original electronic paper which can be used as a basic reference item.

4. Subscription. This is another very important issue. Subscription income can provide full or partial coverage of production cost. Some estimates show that accumulated subscription income will be higher in the case of the per-paper or per-use subscription compare to the traditional per-journal subscription.

Author's and publisher's views on the technology issues

It become a common place to state that electronic publishing provides many advantages to authors and publishers, as it let us to pass over limitations of traditional printed-on-paper (POP) journals. At the same time some of the tasks, which are solved easily in traditional publications, can produce problems in electronic publishing, especially in the screen presentation of mathematical texts.

Author's and publisher's approaches to the technology of electronic publishing are rather different. Author's primary interest is to use those tools and technologies which could help him to present his scientific concept, analysis and conclusions in the best way. Economical aspects of scientific publications are out of the scientist's primary interest, while these are in the forefront of the publisher's interests.

While selecting tools and technologies for mentioned serial electronic publication, we taken into account the following:

compatibility of these tools with already used technology chain components,

necessity to have special training for both authors and technical staff,

production cost, if it increases what other advantage new tools give,

possibility to use this technology at the author's end,

dissemination and subscription issues, etc.

Technologies used for electronic clones of POP journals

While developing technology for producing camera ready copies under the Translated Journals project ( we followed the AGU standards and traditions. As many other learned societies, which are involved in publishing activities, AGU uses widely TeX publishing package and its subsets like LaTeX, AMSTeX, etc. and recommends to authors of AGU's journals to use the LaTeX package while preparing manuscripts. AGU provides authors with all necessary information on 'how-to' and style files (templates) developed for each AGU journal. As it was pointed out by the AGU Publications Committee [Editorial, 1998], '... we intend to stay with LaTeX as the first choice for electronic submission of journal articles until there is a well-accepted, international standard that easily and reliably can handle math across different platforms.' That is why we will not consider here in details all pros and cons of TeX package in its role of the format for initial typesetting and marking up texts, let us to mention only that (i) it is the best publishing package today for math presentation, (ii) the package is a public domain type and is easily acceptable, and (iii) it has a powerful tools for generating templates. The lack of graphics tools in the system is easily compensated by variety of extensions.

The power of TeX is very high. Along with standard macros, defined in its fixed subsets, author and publisher can create a lot of specified subsets for any purpose, and this is very important that all these extensions were matching, especially at the final step of converting texts, initially marked up with TeX, into the HTML format. The decision includes a recommendation to authors and all others, involved in initial marking up process, to use fixed subsets of particular typesetting system and developing special templates for author's use.

For the Translated Journals project we have developed special TeX templates (style files) which produced not only formatting camera ready copies according to POP format, but also extracting information from TeX based papers, necessary for preparation online versions of journals. The used technology reduced an extra cost of producing electronic clones to 5-7% from total cost of POP version. This estimate is based on producing online electronic journals database containing near 1500 papers with total volume over 9000 pages of POP equivalent.

The detailed description of the used technology chain is published on the Electronic Publishing Experimental Site ( and includes the full set of macro definitions, batch files and programs used in this chain.

Technologies used for EJ Geomagnetism and Aeronomy International (GMAI)

The technological chain developed for this electronic journal covers all stages of paper preparation including initial typesetting and peer-review process in online mode. This chain includes:

preparation of a paper's manuscript, accepted by the Editorial Board for consideration, and converting it to the LaTeX format. This is made either by the author or by the technical editor,

translation of the LaTeXed paper under the template developed for presentation a paper in the so-called 'review format,'

converting LaTeXed paper into HTML version using TeXWeb filter and putting it onto the WWW server. Only reviewers and editorial staff have privileges to access papers on this peer-review stage. Reviewers can copy papers for reviewing and write their reviews in online mode, using Peer-Review Online System (PROS) developed for this electronic journal [Nechitailenko, 1998]. The system gives great variety of tools to the Editorial staff and reviewers for managing review process and preparation of reviews and supports reasonable level of security.

preparation of online and POP versions of paper after peer-review stage.

Most difficult task is converting heavy math into the screen images. Well known packages for translation TeX to HTML , such as LaTeX2HTML [Drakos, 1997] or HTML template in the MS Word, replace formulas and separate math characters with generated images. The TtH filter [Hutchinson, 1998b] realizes quite different approach, presenting formulas as regular tables and filling in these tables with math characters which are supported by modern WWW browsers. Both packages are rather universal and produce converting to HTML a full set of LaTeX macro definitions (in case of LaTeX2HTML) or Plain TeX (in case of TtH). Nevertheless, due to some limitations of these packages we gave the preference to the TeXWeb filter, which is under development now with the beta version in use.

The TeXWeb filter is the Perl 5 script working under OS UNIX as well as under the Perl for Win32 interpreter. It was developed as an attempt to solve two-fold task: (i) to jump from direct interpretation of TeX instructions to installing 1-1 correspondence between TeX and HTML macros, and (ii) to have a mechanism of easy updating which could follow HTML evolution and transition it to the XML. The TeXWeb is not universal tool and solves rather local problem of converting LaTeX version of the paper, prepared under the fixed template, into HTML format, though it can be adapted to other styles following macro definitions in the attached configuration file.

For converting math to HTML it scans the LaTeX file, extracts simplest math macros and compares them with the predefined set of HTML macros. In a case when extracted element is not matching any of HTML macros it is converted to the image with the scaling defined by the default WWW browser settings. Converting to graphic files is made using the set of drivers from the standard emTeX package. We are using actually the emTeX version which supports Cyrillic fonts [Khimenko and Shen', 1996].

TeXWeb provides also on-fly composing of the paper's contents, generation of hyperlinks to the referenced items and to floating objects (figures and tables). Floating objects are generated as separate documents which are loaded to the main browser window or to the separate individual windows (default option). The latter is very convenient for readers giving them possibility to open and close floating components when necessary.

Though in the used technological chain POP version of the journal is secondary, it is prepared as a normal professional edition, according to the AGU standards. Total production cost of this journal is higher up to 20-25 % compare to an equivalent POP journal and is approximately the same for the journal with no POP version, mainly due to necessity to produce different graphics for the screen and paper presentation. This figure does not include funding for development of software used in this project.

The description of technologies and software used for GMAI, including description of the TeXWeb filter is published on the mentioned above server (


Though described above technologies were developed to solve some particular tasks they are laying in the main stream of electronic publishing technologies developments. The power provided by electronic publishing technology cannot be over estimated, and is likely to increase exponentially as new systems are developed. It is clear also that close cooperation between authors, editors and publishers is a vital necessity to keep under control both economical and technological issues.


This study is based on the experience gained by the Electronic Publishing Group of the Geophysical Center RAS which was closely involved in several publishing projects with the American Geophysical Union, with the Department of Geology, Geophysics, Geochemistry, and Mining Sciences RAS and a few other smaller projects.



N. Drakos, R. Moore, The LaTEX2HTML Translator. (URL

Editorial. AGU's Electronic Publishing Strategies, EOS, 79, No. 3, p. 29-30, Jan. 1998

I. Hutchinson, TtH: a TeX to HTML translator. Feb. 1998b, (URL

V. Khimenko and A. Shen', Vokrug TeX'a (Around the TeX), 1996, 60 pp.

V. Nechitailenko, PROS - Peer-Review Online System, 1998, (URL )

D. Russon, ICSTI takes action in the development of the electronic scientific archive, Science International, No. 66, 1997.

Last updated : 06 July 1998
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