Issue #8 December 4, 2001

Think We Need An Alternative Peer Review System?

Some scholarly communication specialists have proposed "decoupling" the peer review process from the usual publication process. There’s now a new alternative to traditional peer review systems that could serve as a model, at least in part. The Best of Science is a free-access worldwide scientific online publication that chooses internationally recognized experts to review articles in five broad scientific disciplines: exact sciences, technologies, biological sciences, medical sciences, and human sciences. Authors pay for the reviewing and publishing process (about $10/1000 words for reviews within 1-2 months; $200/1000 words for express reviewing and publishing within 4 weeks). As soon as publisher and authors accept the experts’ conclusions and ratings, the paper can be published; referees’ conclusions and ratings are included with the paper. Access to the published works is free. All submitted papers receive a rating of no stars (50% of published papers) to 4 stars (0.3% of published papers, Impact Factor greater than 20). Ratings are awarded by reviewers and in each area by a peer elected scientific board. To check it out go to

Reviewed Paper Deleted From Scholarly Journal

A paper about the genetic origins of Palestinians was deleted from the journal Human Immunology after many complaints about what some saw as inappropriate political comments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The paper looks at the genetic variability in the HLA complex – a highly diverse complex of immune-system genes – in a sample of Palestinians but includes a historical introduction that calls Jews living in the Gaza strip "colonists" and describes some Palestinians as living in concentration camps. Elsevier Science, publisher of the journal, has removed all electronic versions of the article, sending letters to individual subscribers and librarians advising them to ignore the article "or, preferably, to physically remove the relevant pages." The paper was in a special issue on anthropology edited by the paper’s author. Although the paper was reviewed favorably by two peer reviewers, the journal’s editorial board has revised its policy so that in the future the editor-in-chief will supervise work by guest editors. The UIUC Library does not subscribe to the paper version of the journal currently, but makes it available online through its license for ScienceDirect. Read about the incident at



Before You Sign That Book Contract….

Eric Weisstein, Encyclopedist with Wolfram Research, Inc., set about with some large degree of trust and naivete to arrange for publication of a "snapshot" of his comprehensive and rich website "Eric’s Treasure Trove of Mathematics." There are many useful lessons to be learned from this saga and if you missed the report in the December 2 issue of the News-Gazette, you can read about what went wrong and why in an online article titled "Eric’s Commentary on the Shutdown of MathWorld," at

Center For Research Libraries Makes Headlines

The Chicago Tribune’s November 27, 2001 issue featured a story on the Center for Research Libraries, "Chicago’s Hidden Temple of Esoterica." The Center, of which UIUC is a founding and current member, is a consortium of more than 200 colleges, universities and libraries that stores and makes available to faculty and students at its member institutions incredibly rich holdings of materials not collected elsewhere: foreign doctoral dissertations, primary and secondary school textbooks, a complete set of all the documents from the Nuremberg Trials, more than 5,500 foreign newspapers, science and technical journals from around the world, and much much more. Check out the Center at or contact the Library’s interlibrary loan office at to learn about how to borrow materials from the Center’s collections or how to use them at the Center, which is located on the University of Chicago campus.

The Evidence in Hand: Artifacts in Library Collections

The evidence of our history that is carried in print, audiovisual, or digital forms is kept mostly by libraries and archives, which are relied on to make it accessible over time. At a time when more material is made available virtually – online – there is a growing demand for access to original materials. Yet librarians and archives have never had enough resources to collect and preserve everything of potential research value. Librarians and archivists are thus left to make difficult decisions about how much and what can be acquired, preserved, and made accessible in meaningful ways. This problem is addressed in a new report from the Council on Library and Information Resources entitled The Evidence in Hand: Report of the Task Force on the Artifact in Library Collections. The task force of scholars, librarians, and archivists was formed in 1999 and asked to articulate a framework for making or evaluating institutional policies for the retention of published materials and archival or unpublished materials in their original form. Among the recommendations is a call to support the development of regional repositories of artifactual collections and for the creation of standardized descriptive practices that make information about resources readily accessible through searchable databases. Read the report at

Archiving in the Digital Age

In the November/December 2001, Educause Review Kevin Guthrie, President of JSTOR (, writes about the challenges of protecting electronic information for future generations of scholars and students. Before the development of electronic and network technologies, libraries purchased, stored, and preserved books and journals in paper. But, there is not yet an equivalent system in place to protect the electronic literature being publishing today. Guthrie addresses such important issues as how we can be sure that such a system will evolve, where the resources to sustain such a system will come from, and who will accept responsibility and accountability for such a system. Read his article at

Technology Changes Archives Activities, Too

Leon J. Stout, president of the Society of American Archivists, opened SAA’s annual meeting last August with the declaration that professionals in the archives field will become "cyberarchivists." Successful "cyberarchivy" will depend on how well we ensure that digital material is preserved and stays accessible. Archivists must find ways to provide electronic access in perpetuity to a continuous stream of electronic records judged permanently valuable. These include records that governments and others have generated and continue to generate. Subsequent sessions at the SAA meeting examined how close the "archives of the future" is to reality and the new historiographical direction of social memory. Read more about it in the November/December 2001 issue of CLIR Issues from the Council on Library and Information Resources at

Confused About Copyright?

Do you think that if there is no copyright symbol a work isn’t protected by copyright? That copyright protects ideas? That copyright was created primarily to protect an author’s intellectual property? James Hilton, Provost for Academic, Information, and Instructional Technology Affairs and Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, debunks these misconceptions in the November/December 2001 issue of Educause Review. (Professor Hilton visited UIUC recently and spoke about copyright issues.) Hilton also examines the two broad classes of challenges that copyright creates within higher education: preserving access to works outside the Academy and preserving the free exchange of ideas within the Academy. Read his article at

Two Copyright Cases Decided in Favor of Entertainment Industry

Two cases that involved challenges to the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act were decided late last month, both in favor of the entertainment industry. A Federal District Court judge in Trenton, NJ dismissed a lawsuit brought by Princeton University associate professor Edward Felton, who had been threatened with lawsuits by the Recording Industry Association of America to keep him from presenting his research into ways in which a digital copyright protection system can be broken. The case was dismissed because RIAA did not actually bring suit against Felton.

In a case with perhaps more impact, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan ruled in favor of the Motion Picture Association of America in its lawsuit against Eric Corley and his publication 2600, over Mr. Corley’s decision to publish a program that could be used to unlock the copyright protection system for DVDs. This decision affirmed last year’s lower court order that prohibited publication of the software and even publishing online links to the software. Mr. Corley may take his case to the Supreme Court.


Holiday Hiatus

Issues in Scholarly Communication is taking a holiday hiatus. We’ll be back with more pithy notes about the latest developments and thinking in this area at the start of next semester. We wish all our readers a safe and happy holiday season.