ISI response to Harper's citations

Rob Harper harper at
Thu Jun 30 04:38:38 EST 1994

In <94176.173733FORSDYKE at QUCDN.QueensU.CA> <FORSDYKE at QUCDN.QueensU.CA> writes:
>          Your query regarding ISI's handling of R. Harper's recent
>          paper in CURRENT OPINIONS IN BIOTECHNOLOGY has been passed
>          along to us.  Yes, his electronic reference section
>          held great interest for us.  It provided our internal
>          committee with some very specific examples to refer to in
>          meetings.

Well I guess I have a confession to make. I have to admit that most of
my knowledge about what is available on the Internet has been gained
not from books, but from direct interaction with the network.  I find
that I read about new developments first of all on the network, and in
some cases, the net is the only place where that type of information
gets published.

I recently gave a talk to some publishers in Holland and they were
debating the importance of being published in a paper journal, for as
you know when it comes to securing jobs, or winning grant proposals
then often the thing that is taken into consideration is how many
articles you have published in learned journals. Electronic
publications don't count.

They made a very strong case for peer review and quality. It was argued 
that no matter how many articles you published on the net, funding bodies
would not take them seriously. Whereas publishing in an established 
journal has much more weight than publishing on the network, when it 
comes to persuasive power.

At one point in the debate I stated that I had received more requests
for reprints via e-mail that through the regular mail, which would
seem to suggest that there are two audiences out there. One online
and the other offline.

>          1) setting evaluation guidelines
>          for electronic literature; 

As I see it there are going to be two types of publishing on the
network. The confessional and the professional. Most of the publishing
done on the Bionet newsgroups is confessional by nature, by that I
mean it is rather free form, and does not follow the stiff standards
for language set down in learned journals. It is relaxed. Publishers
view this as sloppiness, and much of the writing that appears on
Bionet would never see the light of day in a respected journal.

Publishers believe that their ace card is quality control. That the
net is too anarchistic, but I did not agree, for if something that is
wrong is published in a journal then it may be months or years before
a retraction is made and matters are set to right. However if you make
a statement that is wrong on the net, then you will get it in the back
of the neck almost instantaneously. Everyone on the net is a peer

The second type of publishing on the net is decidedly professional in
nature, and involves access to databases and carefully prepared
manuscripts. With the advent of the World Wide Web, more and more
documentation is coming online in the form of hypertext. 

As a simple example I wrote BioBit 23 in HTML. The document itself was
only about 23K in size but with all the built in hypertext links to
different places in the world, and what with pictures and sounds (I am
eagerly waiting a publisher to produce a book that will play me a song
when I turn a page) that edition of BioBit must have contained more
than half a mega of infornmation. Hypertext is powerful. It links
independant publishers.

The old arguments that electronic publishing would never replace paper
publishing are no longer true, for now the display of graphics and
pictures via mosaic and WWW have become a reality. In the near future
we will see more and more high-class multi-media documents coming
online, and we will reference them by their URL's

>          2) identifying how to
>          systematically integrate the indexing of electronic
>          literature with current processes; 

Most of the references in my article were drawn from the biosci.src If
that resource disappears then the references are meaningless. So I
would consider it essential that archives are properly financed and
maintained. If this is not done, then alot of essential knowledge will
be lost for ever.

I see the possibility of mining the biosci.src and drawing out certain
documents to make a FAQ on a certain subjects and storing the FAQ on a
Web server. There are names to be made by becoming a biological
information broker. For example there are FAQ's for Software lists,
ftp sites, PCR M&M, Email servers, that have all been mined from the

           3) creating a unified
>          format for citations to electronic literature; 

If the reference is of the "confessional" type then the format
suggested by Dave Kristofferson would seem to be adequate. If it is
professional then the URL (Unique Resouce Locator) as used on the Web
would be a good starting point.

	   and 4)
>          recommending a preferred citation format to publishers and
>          authors of electronic literature.

I would welcome discussions between people who are online and those who
are offline. It appears that we inhabit two different worlds, and to
understand each other better requires better communication.

Rob "hey it feels like 87 again" Harper

 R. Andrew Harper                  E-mail:          harper at    
 Center for Scientific Computing   Molbio/software: harper at
 Tietotie 6, P.O. Box 405          Telephone:       +358 0 457 2076
 SF-02101 Espoo Finland            Fax:             +358 0 457 2302

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