Electronic Publishing for Physics and Astronomy


The ship has left the Miraflores Locks, let loose from the `mules' run by the crews of the Panama Canal Commission. She has picked up speed while passing under the Bridge of the Americas which links de facto the Northern and Southern parts of the continent, and has headed resolutely towards the Pacific Ocean waters along the rows of boats of all kinds waiting to cross the Canal in the other direction. Through a layer of tropical clouds, the setting Sun is bleakly illuminating the tall white highrises of Panama City on the port side. It took a full day to cautiously move through the whole system of locks and cuts.

Back in the stateroom, I open again a working copy of this book and type down this foreword on the pocket computer. The last chapter was received the day before while speeding through the Caribbean Sea and my main work as Editor is now over.

It has been a real pleasure and a great honour to be given the opportunity of compiling this book and interacting with the various contributors through the latest technologies while being sometimes in geographically very different places.

The quality of the authors, the scope of experiences they cover, the messages they convey make of this book a unique and timely publication. The reader will certainly enjoy as much as I did going through such a variety of well-inspired chapters from so many different horizons.

It is not often the case either that publishers detail their activities and projects in a publication by one of their competitors. In this respect, it is also a very pleasant duty to pay tribute here to the various people at Kluwer Academic Publishers who quickly understood the interest of such a volume and enthusiastically agreed to produce it.

The volume starts with a few general chapters. After a contextual introduction by the Editor, Arnoud de Kemp offers his deep experience with scientific, technical and medical publishing while Franco Mastroddi details the challenge of electronic publishing (EP) for the multilingual and multicultural European mosaic. Fionn Murtagh then describes the technologies called for by EP.

Then follow a series of contributions from officers of learned societies or from persons dealing with their publications. Benjamin Bederson and Harry Lustig from the American Physical Society explain the rôle of a large scientific society as far as EP is concerned, while Peter Boyce from the American Astronomical Society recalls the activities of a smaller - but no less pioneering - professional group. Harm Habing and James Lequeux describe the multinational European venture in EP for Astronomy & Astrophysics. As a reference, the very detailed EP plan and interim copyright policy of the Association for Computing Machinery Inc. (ACM) are reproduced here under the original joint authorship of Peter Denning and Bernard Rous. This section is concluded by the chapter of Dennis Shaw on the EP programme at the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) Press.

We then move to the delicate matters of economic issues with Harry Lustig, as well as of copyright and protection for electronic material with Douglas Armati and Edward Barrow.

Uta Grothkopf quite naturally follows with her views from her key position of librarian having to cope with all the changes in the scientific information world.

Then come a group of chapters from cosmic information providers as a foretaste of what will be the information hubs of the future: Daniel Egret and Françoise Genova share their experience from the Strasbourg Astronomical Data Centre (CDS) while Guenther Eichhorn details the development of the NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS). The Star*s Family resources are then described by André Heck as an EP example of validated and authenticated yellow-page services.

Last, but far from being least, two chapters from publishing groups conclude the volume: Anne Dixon details the development of EP at the Institute of Physics Publishing while Johannes Menzel, Ken Metzner and Elizabeth Pope present two ambitious projects at Academic Press.

Certainly there were several possible sequences for presenting the various contributions of this compendium. None would be perfect since each specific chapter belongs generally to several categories. There is no simple truth nor single answer either to the various issues and challenges raised by EP, so do not expect all the authors to be `on the same wavelength'. One thing is sure however: all these chapters and the underlying experiences are worth perusing and meditating. Take advantage of these treasures!

André Heck
`Legend of the Seas'
7 April 1997

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