ebarak at NSF.GOV ebarak at NSF.GOV
Fri Jun 24 20:00:58 EST 1994

 Subject: Information
Author:  "Mark R. Andrachek Jr." <bio4mra at> at NOTE 
Date:    6/1/94 5:28 PM
------------------------------- Message Contents -------------------------------

Mark Andrachek Jr. writes:

     Hello. I am a sophomore biology student at Virginia Commonwealth
University in Richmond, VA, USA.....  What I want to know is where is 
the information? Doesn't anybody upload primary research articals? 
Not just to the newsgroups, I mean even ftp seems to have little or 
nothing to offer.... This is supposed to be the information age and 
this the information super highway... so WHERE IS IT?
     I am taking cell bio for the first time ....

.. why are we so behind in the free exchange of this information? 
Please e-mail me with comments, suggestions, and interests in the ftp 

Mark R. Andrachek, Jr.
bio4mra at

REPLY:  Mark, first of all let me say that I am delighted with your 
question, and want to encourage you to continue to be interested in 
these issues (and in cell biology!).  The last thing I want to have 
happen is that you become disillusioned because of the answers you 
receive.  Please remember that the information superhighway isn't 
really here yet ... and it has enormous cultural hurdles to overcome.

Having said that, I have heard that some folks in the area of Physics 
are freely exchanging scientific information in the form of papers on 
electronic bulletin boards.  However, I don't think anyone in the 
Biology community is doing so at the present time.  I think one of the 
reasons why not is because there is a strong cultural "thing" about 
so-called "peer review."  What this means is, articles are only 
published in scientific journals after they have been reviewed by other 
scientists.  There are some journals which publish articles with little 
or no peer review, and these are considered "non-refereed" journals --- 
distinctly lesser class.  And once an experimental result is published 
anywhere, no "refereed" journal would consider publishing it anew.  
When faculty members are being considered for promotion or tenure, only 
"refereed" articles count.  Ditto when scientists apply for research 
funding --- the community really cleaves strongly to the notion of 
validation by peer review.  As Dr. Mahaffy pointed out in his response 
to you, as things have developed over the years, the publishers of 
these journals are in it at least in part for the money.  Even the 
not-for-profit publishers have to pay their expenses.  And many 
publishers are for-profit!  This is the status quo for the community, 
the "old paradigm," the cultural starting point which needs to be dealt 
with or become somehow adapted for the new paradigm, the information 

Of course, it is possible for the peer-reviewed journals to publish 
electronically.  In fact, journal publishers are well aware that the 
future lies in that direction, and are currently grappling with ways 
of doing so without losing their income stream.  There are copyright 
issues, etc. all of which really boil down to profitability.  Some 
publishers, for example, are now producing CD-ROM versions of their 

Finally, these discussion lists like "cell-biology" are intended from 
inception to be nothing more than discussion lists.  I have seen some 
exchange of information on the net, but of a narrow-focus technical 
sort, and usually initiated in the form of a question from a reader 
rather than an announcement of something new.  However, it is true 
that most of the discussion traffic is, well, in the grand scheme of 
things, really rather trivial.  

Again, I don't want to discourage you.  The future will come --- it's 
inevitable.  It's just not here yet!  

And I hope you enjoy your cell biology class.  As far as I'm 
concerned, that's where the hot action is in biology these days!


Eve Barak

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