Current Realities

Barry Hardy bhardy at convex.ox.ac.uk
Sat Mar 25 08:50:36 EST 1995

Now some current realities and near-term practicalities:

     The very fact that only a very small number of
the group have joined in this discussion reflects that many people
are still taking a breath and digesting this Brave New Net.
While I myself am up on many of these issues and have the knowledge,
equipment and help here for electronic publishing and conferencing,
my impression of working with people who have been joining the GIG 
group over the past few months is that many people are not.  There is
a broad range of experience and capabilities.  Many people are
participating to learn; in fact we all our learning but at 
different parts of the curve.  We have people who are just getting to 
grips with email.  For example, a question I might receive could
be something like:         

I can't read all of the last GIG announcement you sent out.  Do you
know how I can read behond the 20th line of the message?
Is their a way that I can print out GIG email on my computer?

We have to keep this early learning period of many in mind.

     Although the refereeing system could do with reform
I don't see there being strong support or good reason for 
completely abolishing refereeing.  Where is the quality control
going to come from?  When I referee a paper I take the job quite
seriously, I try to critique the science deeply, and make useful
and helpful comments and suggestions.  Good refereeing is good for
science.  Whereas open discussions on a paper are also very good 
for science they do not replace in-depth review.  Unfortunately
the refereeing process does at times deteriorate into all sorts
of nastiness.  It involves real people.  Life can get messy.  In EGC-1
we will be attaching ongoing discussions to papers and posters.
I have another proposal though to think about that may aid reform:
we attach referee comments and author replies to EGC-1 papers
if the author wishes to do so.  Also, the author can choose to
keep a rejected paper on the Web for further discussion of contents and 
comments, and if necessary a further iteration.  Finally,
if the paper is still rejected it still can be served if the author 
chooses to do so.  A few unpopular radical ideas do turn out
in hindsight to be absolutely brilliant!

     An EGC-1 paper can be a 'poster' or a 'paper'.
The poster will be the same as a paper except it will not 
immediately continue to the final refereeing and publishing stage.
I think the ability to move quickly from presentation to
discussion to publication is a very attractive choice for 
many people.

     My opinion remains that we benefit from having paper and CD
as well as electronic publication.  Paper is often better
for reading (try and concentrate on a paper in our computer lab, :) )
A paper publication related to EGC-1 will publicize the group
and the conference to people not yet involved in the group.
     An issue raised is: do we continue to use the services of
traditional publishers or do we take care of the publishing ourselves?
If we do the latter we must realise that it takes funding, resources
and people. I don't see us easily or quickly replacing what 
publishers do in traditional format.  So I still take the stance 
that we can benefit by using their services to complement what
we do electronically in EGC-1.

     Finally, some comments on where GIG might be going.  Iain and I 
have already put in hundreds of hours getting the group to where it is 
now.  The work is time consuming, but worthwhile, and as we
expand what we do as a group we are going to need increasing amounts of
support and resources.  One possibility we consider is the 
formation of a non-profit Glycoscience organization or society.
Another is adopting umbrellas of current societies.  Another
is grant writing.  Another is distributed group effort.
It is already obvious to me that establishing comprehensive 
GIG resources and services could quickly outgrow the volunteer 
efforts of a few people.  There does seem to be
good demand for such an effort though!


Barry J. Hardy
An Oxford_Attraction: http://alcyone.pcl.ox.ac.uk/people/barry.html

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