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View Full Version : Dollars, Europe, Reviewing (fees), and Email



Herman J. Woltring
06-10-1991, 04:23 AM
Dear Biomch-L readers/posters,

With great interest I have read Piotr Wojcierowski's posting last week on ABC
- Applied Biology Communications - and I wish him and his colleagues success
with this proposedly fast, traditional publication channel. As mentioned in
previous postings to this list, the pro's and con's of email versus classical
publication channels are, a.o., affected by the speed of publication, and the
short `turn around' time of ABC looks most promising *if* the reviewing board
is of high standard (as I am happy to believe that it is).

Nevertheless, I have some problems with his posting. In the first place, it
is peculiar that a journal from a European country -- especially in the cur-
rent, political Renaissance of a drawn Iron Curtain, should charge its fees
in US Dollars to be drawn on a European bank in the case of personal checks;
I would suggest that the ECU (European Currency Unit) is a more appropriate
vehicle.

Secondly, the notion of a `reviewing fee' is a novelty in Academia, and I am
most concerned that this kind of approach will lead the way to commerciali-
sing the peer reviewing process. While I understand the problems of postal
costs, photocopying, and other expenses in reviewing, I am quite opposed to
the idea that a reviewing fee should be imposed. Rather, such costs should
be absorbed in the reprint costs or, *perhaps*, in a (voluntary) page charge
once a manuscript has been accepted for publication.

This note is, therefore, an invitation to the Editorial Board and Publishers
of Applied Biology Communications to reconsider their policy, and I hope that
the following thoughts may be helpful in this respect.


+----------------------------+
| Musing on about networking |
+----------------------------+

I should like to remark the following on combining electronic mail with
traditional publication channels, in reminiscence of Stevan Harnad's `Sky-
writing' article discussed and summarized on this list earlier this year.

Electronic publishing may increasingly replace paper printing as a communi-
cation tool -- at least as regards the distribution component. With desk-
top publishing tools becoming increasingly available, including colour
printing hard-copy units, it seems resonable to assume that newspapers and
journals, even archive journals such as the Journal of Biomechanics may,
within a few years, be available from fileservers, on diskettes, and/or on
ROM devices, to be read by human consumers through local conversion systems
(?only?). The amount of paper waste might be reduced in this manner, with
considerable environmental advantages.

These developments will, in all likelihood, be a second revolution of much
larger scale than the invention of the printing press, and the way that such
publication vehicles are to be financed is a matter of keen concern for many
in the classical printing field, considering the ease of copying across wide-
area networks. Furthermore, efficient database searches of much more advanced
nature than, e.g., the LDBASE facility for LISTSERVers will help authors to
scan the litterature much more carefully than has been feasible up to now.
[N.B.: Ian Stokes' impressive work of having studied some 1483 JoB papers for
his 1986 Montreal poster would, in this manner, have been a truism, not worth
even to be thought!]

Not only the final publication phase will become `depaperised', but the whole
process preceding the end result is being accelerated in a similar way. Sub-
mission and reviewing of manuscripts is increasingly taking place via network-
ing, and even graphs may be transmitted in this manner (there are currently
some s/w packages that allow coding graphs as straight ASCII files to be
transmitted across internetwork gateways between, e.g., BITNET, the Internet,
and EuNet/EurOpen/UUCP, while UUENCODEd/UUDECODEd binary files may be reliably
transmitted across gateways, too). In a recent posting about email addressing
problems on LSTSRV-L it was said that the major part of failing email letters
are manuscripts in the review phase.

With EARN/BITNET (and many other networks') communication free of charge for
individual end-users, I should think that the reviewing phase of traditional
manuscripts can be sped up considerably, particularly for countries whose
regular mail services are slow. And as regards the phase prior to submission
for formal review, collaborative projects between persons who never meet eye
to eye are becoming the rule rather than the exception. Enetworking may
replace rather than complement traditional channels of academic intercourse?
What effect will this have on the sociology of scientific communication and
of those committed to it? Will it make us more honest because of apparent
objectivity, lacking the rhetorics of oral presentation with its non-verbal
components, and the frills of glossy-looking journals?

Questions of this nature are addressed in the book `Computerization and Con-
troversy' posted onto this list some time ago; I have been reading it with
increasing fascination. An important factor that will affect future use of
these communication tools is the user-friendliness of the soft- and hardware
systems available for these activities; certainly, today's email with its
abominable RFC822 headers and the lack of email software allowing one to skip
over them do not qualify for a prize on man-machine-inferfacing.


Herman J. Woltring, Eindhoven/NL
Biomch-L co-moderator

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