close this bookVolume 4: No. 04
View the document Funding news
View the document Copyright law
View the document Scholarly publishing
View the document Electronic reporting
View the document Information retrieval
View the document Document delivery
View the document Projects and urgent news
View the document Job opportunities
View the document Linguistics
View the documentSoftware development
View the documentComputists' news

The USPS has proposed restricting third-class nonprofit mail privileges for periodicals that carry non-mission-related space advertising. Several rate changes are also proposed. Comments are due by 2/9/94. Contact Ernest Collins, (202) 268-5316. [ALAWON (, 2/22/93. net-hap.]

Project Gutenberg is publishing The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [LOF], as well as two Bible editions, the NAFTA treaty, The Hackers' Dictionary of Computer Jargon, The 1990 US Census, and 94 other texts. Another 100 are planned by next Thanksgiving. FTP from /etext/etext93 (evening hours) or several mirrors. [Michael S. Hart (, GUTNBERG, 12/11/93. net-hap.]

Frank Quinn is circulating a proposal to have academic libraries assume all responsibility for scholarly electronic publishing. He believes they could cut costs by 80% and yet maintain quality to their own exacting standards. The savings might support previous levels of monograph publishing. Write to for the call to action. [quinnlist, 1/19/94.]

(This could work if universities get behind the idea, but I can't see it happening. It's too easy for scholars and departments to publish their own work, without risk of rejection or of frustrating editing cycles. I favor a review system where anyone can publish comments about the papers that they read in the course of their research. This could be formalized via annotated bibliographies, perhaps with four-star ratings, on any subject you could name. Libraries could supply that service, but it is easy for anyone to set up an information server for the purpose. We are seeing the start of this in the Usenet FAQ postings and various guides to Internet services. Either greater democracy and automation (as in the Xanadu concept) or paid professional editors will produce "restaurant guides" to the technical literature that are far more useful than our current scholarly publishing system. Authors will clip their best reviews and "post them in the window" to impress review committees and potential readers; pride and self-interest will keep quality high.)

The Chicago Journal of Theoretical Computer Science from MIT Press will be an experiment in electronic publication, beginning about 4/94. Peer review, editorial quality, indexing, abstracting, and subscription procedures will be the same as for other journals. Online articles will have an unrefereed comments file and updated forward pointers to subsequent papers, results, improvements, etc. LaTeX and PostScript, plus hardcopy from the MIT Libraries Document Services Department. 15 articles the first year (as in a tri-annual publication). The editors are Janos Simon, Michael J. O'Donnell, and Stuart Kurtz from UChicago/CS. $125 for institutions, $30 individual, plus a fee for access to back years. No page charges to authors; liberal copyright policy. [Janet Fisher (fisher@mitvma.bitnet), EPIEJ-L, 1/23/94.]

"Science is like a tree: only the leaves and a thin layer on the outside are actually 'alive,' but they are supported by a literature of published wood. If too much rotten wood is incorporated then the branch falls off and the tree starts over. It would be better to have quality control over the wood laid down." -- Frank Quinn (, 11/30/93. (Unless, of course, certain branches were prevented from developing. Besides, sometimes science is like a grass fire.)

"The published mathematical literature is, by and large, reliable. Mathematical papers may be boring or useless, but they are usually correct. ... [Mathematics also has] less tradition of review articles: secondary literature which sifts and consolidates the primary literature. ... When a literature is unreliable there is less benefit to knowing it: it is often easier to rediscover material than sort through and check publications. There is a greater tendency to work only from preprints, and depend on word of mouth to identify the good ones. ... Ignorance or distrust of the literature also leads to duplication of effort and repetitive publication. It is sometimes even comforting: like duplication of an experiment it seems to increase the probability that the conclusion is correct. ... 'In groups' develop private folklore about the hazards of their local literatures. This places outsiders at a disadvantage, but probably most advances are made by insiders. ... The best mathematicians often internalize their subjects (develop intuition) and expand it to such an extent that they do not use the literature. They are also able to rapidly assess the plausibility of new work, so often do not see reliability as a key issue. It is the rank-and-file mathematician who tends to know and depend on the literature. Reliability of the literature enables such people to contribute significantly to the mathematical enterprise rather than simply being camp followers of the great." -- Frank Quinn (, by permission. [VPIEJ-L, 11/20/93.]