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Science Article on Electronic Publishing among Physicists

John Reinitz reinitz-john at cs.yale.edu
Thu Mar 11 11:53:38 EST 1993

In article <Mar. at net.bio.net> kristoff at net.bio.net (David Kristofferson) writes:
>francis at monod.Biol.McGill.CA (Francis Ouellette) writes:
>>>mentioned that the physicists are all using the TeX word processing
>>this is a problem.  Unlike other people in this group, _I_ do not use
>>LaTex, or any other bouncy material =:-) ... seriously, I would learn
>>it if it became the standard ... I have managed without so far ...
>>maybe I am missing the boat, but from my limited experience on bionet,
>>I can see that getting most biologist to use LaTex would be a
>>challange, to say the least.  BUT ... as a follow up to my example a
>>few lines ago ... there are a lot of C. elegans people learning to use
>>a Unix box, so they can use ACeDB ... so I guess the lesson here is to
>>not underestimate the users!
>Your attitude is more representative than Tom Schneider's I believe.
>Having run BIONET and GOS previously and having trained many bench
>scientists in the use of IG's software and even the Emacs editor, I
>just don't see anything that is not WYSIWYG catching on in a big way.
>I liked Don's RTF suggestion much better, but even here I would bet
>that most MS Word users never knew that (1) this was an option and (2)
>what it is used for.

Having just circulated a preprint on this very network, I have some comments
about this. There are two excellent reasons for using TeX/LaTeX/AMSTeX.
One is that files are plain ASCIII, and hence very easy to circulate
on the net. The other is that it is *free*.. that's right, you don't have
to pay for it!  Now, it's disadvantage is that that the usual formats
are not quite right for for biology journals and grant applications.
This is fixable, though, since it is readily programmed. If a very *small*
number of biology people were to start using it and share their modifications
of the standard style files (e.g. I have kludges of 'phs398.sty'  and
nature.bst.... with a little work they'd be publicly distributable.
I'd be motivated to do that if others were also doing it.), it would rapidly
become *very* useful. TeX etc. documents can also have included postscript.
Free ports exist to to both the Mac & MS-DOS. 

I realize that so-called WYSIWYG (i.e. they really never are) editors
are very popular, but I think that as biologists become more tecnically
aware, they will find, as I have, that ASCII source files give much
better control over the final output.

In the final analysis, bionet will not catch on until and unless
biologists use the full power of modern computation as part of their work.
There is only so much that babying people will accomplish. If you need to
make DNA, you need to know how to extract with phenol/pull the CsCl band,
and whatever. I did not start out to be a computer weenie...I'm just
a fly biologist who needed a computer to get some work done. When
enough people are in a similar position and take proper responsibilty
for being  in command of their tools, bionet will become indispensible.

>>>mention of what other scientists outside of physics are doing on the
>>>net 8-(.
>>Maybe this is your chance David to write a letter to Science and point
>>this out to them?   
>They didn't print our last attempt but I think that you are right
>here.  I'll put together a letter.  Maybe if several people do this at
>least one of them will get in print 8-)!!

I collaborate with a physicist. There is no comparison with the level
of use of the net between biology and physics. I wish it were otherwise,
but Science probably made the right journalistic choice. They *use* it.
*We* are still wannabees.


John Reinitz
"Mark what ills the scholar's life assail:
Toil, envy, want, the Patron, and the jail"
	--Samuel Johnson, Vanity of Human Wishes.

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