ebarak at NSF.GOV
ebarak at NSF.GOV
Fri Jun 24 20:00:58 EST 1994
Author: "Mark R. Andrachek Jr." <bio4mra at cabell.vcu.edu> at NOTE
Date: 6/1/94 5:28 PM
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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 cabell.vcu.edu
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!
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