TERENA Networking Conference 2000    

Electronic Meets the Quill: Changes in Scientific Publication

Frank Gannon, European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO)

Researchers active in the Life Sciences have communicated their results in a relatively unchanged manner for several decades. In addition to seminars and workshops, the predominant currency of publication has been the article in a printed journal. The perceived quality of the article was usually reflected in the impact factor of the journal and career progression depended largely on the number and citation of the papers which were published. The advent of electronic publishing changed very little of this process; the electronic merely became a new medium through which the same information could be presented. In the very recent past however, the powerful capabilities of electronic publication have been widely recognized. These include the provision of accompanying material (videos, primary data sets, more extensive descriptions of methodology etc.), the gain of speed, wider dissemination and perhaps most significantly the possibility of ceasing to use the well established journal system. The latter point is ideologically and practically attractive to many, as the costs of journals are very high and the analysis which shows that science is paid for by the funding agency, the cost of publication of the data is covered by the funding agency and the funding agency then has to buy the resulting journal, is one which seems untenable in the long-term. The move towards free access to information has therefore gathered momentum and currently there are different models which could give rise to this end point. While beneficial to many, these must also be balanced against the disarray which a sudden cause in terms of the stratification of publications of different quality standards, the requirement or otherwise of a standard system of peer review and the financial benefits which accrue to scientific societies from their involvement in journals. We are therefore at a point of major change in this area, which presents novel opportunities and problems and which arise from the increase use of electronic means of communications.

Slides (57KB)



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