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Ton Van Den Bogert
07-20-1995, 01:57 PM
Dear Biomch-L subscribers,

Gerald Smith raised an interesting question:

> Is it time for the ISB to move to other media for
> "publication" of papers of general interest to the
> biomechanics community?

My answer is yes. The question is: which material should be
distributed through the net? The ISB is, in fact, looking for
possibilities to start using the Internet. I don't expect that
this will include publication of review papers, but who knows...

The general question of electronic publishing and to which extent
it will replace traditional journals is of much wider interest.
Some discussions have, apparently, been held on other E-mail
groups. Some of this (well-written) material was collected by
Stevan Harnad and placed on the web:

http://cogsci.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/intpub.html

The following points are relevant (some were already mentioned by
Gerald Smith):

advantages
- multimedia (photographs, video, sound)
- speed of publication
- easy access - no more trips to library or photocopier
- lower cost - about 75% less than paper publishing
problems
- peer review is necessary to ensure quality control
- electronic publications do not have the same 'status' as
journals

Of course, anyone can distribute material through the web. In
physics, there is a web site (http://xxx.lanl.gov/) where
preprints are distributed. As explained by Paul Ginsparg (the
organizer of this site):

"The rapid acceptance of electronic communication of research
information in my own community of high energy theoretical
physics was facilitated by a pre-existing 'preprint culture,'
in which the irrelevance of refereed journals to ongoing
research has long been recognized. At least since the
mid-1970's, the primary means of communication of new research
ideas and results had been a preprint distribution system in
which printed copies of papers were sent via ordinary mail to
large distribution lists at the same time that they were
submitted to journals for publication. (...) These papers
could then take typically take six months or a year to appear in
a journal. (...) The small amount of filtering provided by
refereed journals plays no effective role in our research."

(see http://xxx.lanl.gov/blurb/ for full text). From this
description, I get the impression that they still publish these
papers in conventional journals, perhaps only to get the
recognition that electronic media don't provide.

Once proper peer review is implemented, recognition of electronic
publishing may grow. Until then, I don't think many authors
would want to spend time preparing hypertext material. But
preprints could be efficiently distributed through the web, as
I've done through my own web page. Analogous to the physics
site, the ISB could, maybe, organize a web site where authors can
submit their preprints. With sufficient participation, that
would make it easy to find out about recent developments.
Imagine how this would speed up the progress in our field! But
note that the physics site is funded by NSF; it is no trivial
task.

Electronic publishing could actually replace journals, if done
professionally. Volunteer work will not do, IMO. Perhaps the
existing publishing companies will start such a development
whenever they feel that the technology is sufficiently mature.
Maybe their problem is the lack of a mechanism by which
publishers can get paid for their work.

-- Ton van den Bogert
Human Performance Laboratory
University of Calgary
E-mail: bogert@acs.ucalgary.ca
Phone: (403) 220-7028
http://www.ucalgary.ca/~bogert