BOX 3.1 Space Science Data and Electronic Publishing

The space science community has been at the forefront of electronic publishing. Scientific societies, such as the American Astronomical Society (AAS), have been leaders in this type of information exchange. For example, AAS collects al of its meeting abstracts electronically and publishes the AAS Job Register on-line. In addition, AAS pioneered the development of effective electronic journals with its online publication of the Astrophysical Journal. What started out as an experiment has turned into a success story in electronic publication. 1

Supported in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation, the AAS in cooperation with the University of Chicago Press first developed an electronic version of the Letters portion of the Astrophysical Journal(eApJ).2 Produced in two versions(HTML for screen reading and PDF for local printing), this journal goes well beyond the electronic delivery of paper manuscripts typical of most “electronic” journals.

The eApJ has references tied into the NASA-supported bibliographic database maintained by the Astrophysics Data System (ADS; see <>), which provides abstracts of most references and is developing an archive of page images of several of the most useful astronomical scholarly journals.

The eApJ uses URNs instead of URLs (names instead of locations) as link targets, and so the links will remain valid indefinitely. Both the ADS and the eApJ use a standardized notation for naming articles, which enables links and pointers to be generated automatically during the publishing process. As part of the sophisticated set of links associated with this journal, the eApJ includes a capacity for forward referencing whereby each article carries with it an updated set of references to articles that refer to it—an automated electronic citation service. Before the full Astrophysical Journal came on-line in November 1996, the AAS made arrangements to establish mirror sites in Great Britain, Europe, Australia and (possibly) Japan to ensure relatively rapid response times.

The success of the eApJ is propelling the astronomical publisher to bring their literature on-line rapidly. Over 95 percent of the world's peer-reviewed astronomical literature is expected to be on-line by mid-1997. Standard protocols, conventions, and procedures will be absolutely, critical if this networked system of literature and data is to be effective for the working scientist.

Electronic publishing in this area has also enhanced data access and archiving. The Astronomical Data Center, located in Strasbourg, France, has an agreement with the publishers of Astronomy and Astrophysics “to provide all data files from their publications.” The Astronomical Data Center at Goddard has a similar arrangement with the AAS, which includes Icarus and the publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, as well as AAS publications. This type of arrangement “permits the two centers to archive a major portion of the international astronomical data without individual requests to the authors” of journal publications.3

  • 1  

    Response by Peter Boyce, American Astronomical Society, to the committee's ''inquiry to Interested Parties (see Appendix D).

  • 2  

    The full journal is now available on-line at

  • 3  

    Response by Nancy G. Roman, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, to the Committee's "Inquiry to Interested Parties" (see Appendix D).

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