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The last example relates to Robin Cowan’s illustration1 of the book containing a table of integrals that is no longer commercially viable because it is on the Internet. Resources that existed before a new technology and were sold to researchers at a reasonable profit may no longer be viable, just as horse-drawn carriages have become obsolete. If this occurs, the incentives provided within the scientific community may have to be broadened to give better incentives for things we previously did not give incentives to because they were taken for granted.

Today in science we tend to give much more credit for doing original or new work. We should remember, however, the nineteenth-century work of making digests, summaries, surveys, and compilations of earlier work is still very important for the research community. Perhaps more credit should be given to these kinds of ventures.


Publication policies tend to be long lived as illustrated in the example of the New England Journal of Medicine, which established a policy in 1951 that became less relevant in 1960.

When we discuss policies today, especially at this time of rapid technological development, we should try to anticipate the development that is likely to occur in the future and how our policies will relate to it.

I suggest that the direction we are going is research knowledge management. In research there are documents of different kinds—articles, research reports, reviews, discussion items, raw data, and laboratory notes from experiments. This broad collection of information is not organized in a very coherent way. Some organizations have begun to address this issue.

There was another conference in Paris in January 2003 where one major French research institute described its plans for building exactly this kind of system for its own needs.2 This is a very likely development. It will continue on toward integration on the international level within science, integration or interfacing with knowledge management systems in industry, and integration or interfacing with knowledge management systems in government or the public sector. This trend may be quite relevant to the scientific contribution at the World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva. Thus, when we review our own policies and rules for scientific publication and communication, we ought to keep this in mind.

A change in the direction of such knowledge management is only going to be acceptable and useful if the research community is able to revise the rules so that the incentives and values important to us will function well with the new technology.

Is it even possible to change the existing rules and practices? It is not easy. Nobody can dictate it. That change certainly must arise in the same way that those rules and practices arose in the first place, that is, by discussion within the scientific community that leads to new policy decisions by such organizations as journals.

What is needed is a broad discussion by a body such as the International Council for Science (ICSU). These issues must be brought to attention and the discussion ignited, perhaps with provocative proposals.

The Committee on the Dissemination of Scientific Information within ICSU might be a group that could initiate such debate. The mandate of this group is to do studies that lead to quality proposals for ICSU. Publication policy is a natural item for the agenda for this committee.


See Chapter 8 of these Proceedings, “Economic Overview of Open Access and the Public Domain in Digital Scientific and Technical Information,” by Robin Cowan.


For more information, see the International Council of Scientific and Technical Information (ICSTI) Open Access Meeting Web site at This meeting was convened by ICSTI, in partnership with the INSERM and the French Ministry of Research, and in association with ICSU and the Committee of Data for Science and Technology.

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