Joint ICSU Press/UNESCO Expert Conference
on ELECTRONIC PUBLISHING IN
UNESCO, Paris, 19-23 February 1996
The Conference of Experts on Electronic Publishing in Science convened by ICSU and UNESCO in February 1996 discussed the broad range of problems and opportunities presented by the new technologies. It approved a
number of recommendations, roughly grouped below under five headings, which are directed specifically to ICSU and UNESCO and through them to the scientific community in general, the learned societies and national academies
and others involved in scientific information provision such as publishers and librarians, and to national
I. Peer review and codes of practice
1. The Conference overwhelmingly recommends that strict peer review should be applied to all scientific material submitted for publication in electronic journals.
- 2. The peer review system should yield definitive authenticated and dated versions of papers for publication, although the subsequent attachment of tags indicating later developments or revisions of papers should not be
- 3. Attention should be given to the definition of acceptable ways of establishing priority of publication, for these
appear to differ between scientific disciplines.
- 4. ICSU and UNESCO are encouraged to organize the most appropriate type of forum involving scientific societies
in order to formulate codes of ethics and of conduct for electronic publication which would spell out the reciprocal
obligations of the scientist and the community on such matters as peer review, citation, integrity and authentication
of material and archiving.
II. Electronic archives
- 1. Given the traditional role of publication in science in providing an archive, it is timely and urgent that attention be given to ensuring the archiving of science in electronic formats. The malleable nature of digitized information requires the establishment of verifiable electronic archives including databases.
- 2. The Conference recommends that scientific societies, publishers and librarians come together to establish
principles and guidelines for electronic archives covering, but not limited to: maintenance, content, structure,
finance, eligibility, accessibility and compatibility. Consultation with the International Organization for
Standardization (ISO) should be ensured concerning the use and development of appropriate international
- 3. It is further recommended that a registry be created for electronic archives in scientific fields, together with the
establishment of principles and guidelines for its operation.
III. Financial considerations
- 1. The Conference recommends that funding agencies regard the costs, both of the publication of research results and of access to required information, as an essential component of research funding.
- 2. The Conference recognizes that the availability of electronic information in a searchable form is potentially of
great advantage to the world scientific community for the efficient conduct of research and education. Funds should be directed so as to allow full use to be made of the potential and development of this source of information.
- 3. A technical study of the costs and benefits of electronic publication should be carried out by an international
committee established by ICSU in coordination with ICSU members and associates, and involving representatives of
the library and scientific, technical and medical publishing communities.
IV. The scientist's working environment
1. Although each scientific discipline has its particular information gathering and dissemination methods, a set
of basic skills needed by scientists can nevertheless be identified. All scientists should receive training in
information resources and library use and in good authoring skills, adapted to the electronic environment, if possible
as early as the undergraduate level. ICSU and UNESCO should assist those developing countries which do not have
the resources and expertise to organize this training.
2. The Conference unanimously endorses the view that adequate and reasonably priced network access is essential
for scientific work and scientific education. National authorities should ensure that appropriate infrastructure be
established for this purpose and that scientific data traffic receive appropriate priority. Scientists in all countries
should have good access to computer communications to participate in information exchange needed for their work,
and ICSU and UNESCO should promote such access with all available means.
3. In keeping with the increasing role of the scientists in the electronic publishing process, the international
scientific community should facilitate exchange of experience between scientists and scientific disciplines in this
field with a view to identifying best practice and encouraging cooperative training, research and development. This
work should be facilitated by the international committee proposed in (III.3) above.
4. As a useful first step, an information network should be established to refer users to information resources, tools
and standards relating to electronic publishing in science. Direct, immediate access to this information should be
incorporated into the ICSU WWW site and facilities should be provided for discussion groups and for E-mail access
for those users without WWW capacity.
V. Developing countries
- 1. The scientific community in developing countries is becoming increasingly involved in all stages of
electronic publishing, including locally published on-line journals, CD-ROM technology and appropriate databases.
These scientists should assume greater control of the technologies involved. UNESCO, ICSU and the international
community should take this into account in planning and implementing cooperative projects.
- 2. The scientific community in developing countries should become involved as a partner in the development of
methodologies, tools and standards relating to electronic publishing and archiving so that these can be adapted to its
needs. In particular, regional cooperation should be encouraged and language-independent systems adopted where
- 3. UNESCO should be encouraged to support one or two developing country pilot projects in the area of electronic
- 4. The costs of infrastructure and information provision are particularly heavy for developing countries. This
problem is ultimately the responsibility of the governments concerned. The assistance of UNESCO and other UN
agencies in promoting solutions should continue, while better linkages to the local private sector, regional
cooperation relying on local expertise, and competitive and flexible regulatory regimes should all be fostered.
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