publication of EGC-1 papers?

Jerry Thomas jerry at boc.chem.ruu.nl
Mon Mar 20 10:14:46 EST 1995

In article <3kejgh$fhq at mserv1.dl.ac.uk>, "Iain Wilson" <WILSON at edv1.boku.ac.at> writes:
|> Jerry Thomas (jerry at ruucj1.chem.ruu.nl) wrote:
|> > Is EGC-1 going to be a meeting in the conventional sense, and if so, why
|> > must submissions be 'refereed'?
|> I would say that EGC-1 will be a meeting (due to the Virtual 
|> Conference Centre) and a prelude for an 'acceptable' form of 
|> publication. The papers will not be refereed until the conference has 
|> begun - thus they can be discussed freely, before referees write 
|> their reports and authors submit final papers. The publication of 
|> final papers in a refereed form should result in a conference 
|> book/CD-ROM which will be seen to be of a quality that would be 
|> expected from a normal journal. We are also considering whether 
|> posters should form part of the conference as well.

'Normal' conferences have only posters (and talks), with abstracts
published either as a book or by a journal.  If we just want to 
have a virtual conference, then we need only do the same.  

On the other hand, the presentation of full-length, refereed papers 
gets us into the realm of publishing.  If this is the goal, then
of course we should strive for the 'quality that would be expected 
from a normal journal'.  But whether we have to legitimize ourselves
by publishing in a 'normal' journal or in book/CD-ROM as well is an 
open question.
What is an 'acceptable' form of publication?  This is one of the 
central issues I think we should address.  The opportunity now exists 
to redefine the concept.  Publishing itself, not just conferences, can 
now be electronic.  The advantages include speed, more direct 
participation, lower costs, and greater accessibility. Perhaps we can 
consider a radical new approach, rather than being simply a 'prelude'
to publication in a paper journal.

|> > Who are these referees and how will they be chosen?
|> Section conveners will be best placed to select referees from among 
|> the contributors to the conference. Barry and I have discussed the 
|> possibility that one 'senior' referee and one 'unknown' (postdoc or 
|> postgrad) referee should be selected per paper. Such a scheme would 
|> 1) be seen to 'guarantee' the legitmacy of the refereeing process, 
|> yet 2) involve new people.  
|> > Can we consider alternatives to conventional peer review, e.g. 
|> > non-anonymous reviews, published reviews, etc.
|> We certainly could. At least a note to indicate who had refereed a 
|> certain paper may make the process more transparent. The mailing list 
|> and conference centre discussions should be seen as being important 
|> forums during the conference - the idea is that papers will be 
|> discussed in public and that transcripts will be archived.

IMHO the more transparent the better.  I know the arguments for 
anonymous reviews.  One of the most powerful is the protection of 
those without power from the revenge of those with power.  But I think 
the advantages are outweighed by the disadvantages.  We all know of 
horror stories involving abuse of the present system.  

Why not publish the reviewer's comments, as well as their names?  Why
not allow all papers to be 'published', i.e. made electronically 
accessible, but also include *all* public discussion of it.  Let the
reader make up his of her own mind about the paper after reading it
and everyone's comments.  Peer review by public discussion, made
possible by the Internet.

|> > What is the purpose of publishing the submissions in a paper journal?
|> Accessibility. With significant but decreasing numbers not with 
|> access to 1) World Wide Web or 2) CD-ROM, we still have to take into 
|> account the widest possible dissemination of the final papers.

Accessibility is not necessarily increased by creating yet another 
book orCD-ROM that libraries, expecially those in poorer universities 
orcoutries, must buy.  Wider dissemination is made more, not less, 
possible by introducing the electronic format.  Those without Internet 
access could still obtain copies, just as those without a book or 
journal in their library currently obtain reprints or photocopies.  
Papers can be archived just as they already are in physics and chemistry
We do not have to continue to participate in the publishing company's 
game of creating more and more new titles for them to sell.  There is 
a new game in town now, and we have total control over it.  We can 
produce and disseminate scientific articles without the paper publishers.

(BTW, the Web can be accessed by e-mail.  A sophisticated browser is not
necessary, although viewing graphics may be a problem. Will we cater to
those who have Internet, but not WWW, access?)

|> EGC-1 is an experiment in terms of using the Internet as an integral 
|> part of the normal process of scientific conferencing and publishing. 

The Internet does not have to be simply a 'part of the normal process' of scientific publishing.  It can be a completely independent *alternative*.  
All it takes is our willingness to accept the new electronic publishing 
format as being as legitimate as the old paper one.  

Maybe it is too soon.  Maybe not.  
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