As you may be aware ICSU through its Committee for the Dissemination of Scientific Information/ICSU Press held a second International Conference jointly with UNESCO on "Electronic Publishing in Science" early this year. This was almost exactly five years after the first highly successful Conference of this type had been held. Again it involved the broadest spectrum of experts representing the International Scientific Unions and Associations, Librarians and Information Scientists, Copyright Specialists, Publishers (both commercial and learned-society), Information Brokers. It also attempted to achieve wide international participation through the ICSU and UNESCO constituencies.
The dramatic impact of the new technologies on the distribution information is being particularly felt in science where many innovations such as the World Wide Web were initiated. The new developments provide enormous potential benefits for the scientific information chain and hence for the progress of science. But there are real difficulties in developing a new paradigm that meets the needs of science in an effective way. There have been major developments in electronic publishing since the last Conference and these continue. It was therefore appropriate to bring together those with experience and knowledge of the developing scene.
The lectures and discussion groups engendered a lively debate and enabled the Conference to make a number of important Recommendations on how the interests of the international community of scientists could best be served by electronic publishing. These Recommendations are attached in two different formats. They are aimed to varying degrees at all the stakeholders involved in the scientific information chain and in particular the Unions, Learned Society Publishers and individual Scientists who make up the ICSU Family. I am therefore writing in the hope that you will disseminate these conclusions to your constituents.
The full Proceedings of the Conference will be published shortly on the ICSU Press Web Site http://associnst.co.ac.uk/~icsuinfo where most of the papers presented are already posted. ICSU Press, along with its associated partners, will also be initiating a programme of follow-up activities which will be publicised in due course.
The Conference was judged a great success by those who attended and we hope and believe that its influence will be broadly felt in the scientific community.
Second ICSU-UNESCO International Conference
Electronic Publishing in Science
The Second ICSU-UNESCO International Conference on Electronic Publishing in Science, convened at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris on 20-23 February 2001, determined a number of Recommendations aimed to varying degrees at all the stakeholders involved in the scientific information chain: governments, funding agencies, scientific organizations, publishers, librarians and individual scientists themselves. In particular, the sponsoring organizations, ICSU and UNESCO, were encouraged to carry forward a programme to follow-up many of the issues raised.
The Recommendations of the Conference are set out below, broadly grouped under a number of headings.
I. GENERAL ISSUES
2. The wide availability of electronic journals and ease of access for browsing and searching is essential.
3. Publishers and librarians should collaborate to use the new medium to obtain information that allows them to improve the management of scientific publications and facilities for scientific use.
4. ICSU and UNESCO should recognize the value of broad meetings of this type for enhancing the scientific information chain. In the light of rapid changes in technology, such meetings might take place at shorter intervals than the five years between the first and second Conferences.
III. ECONOMIC ISSUES
1. In order to maximize the dissemination of high-quality scientific information worldwide it is essential that a continually improving level of infrastructure (hardware, bandwidth, etc.) be in place.
2. Funding agencies should take some responsibility for funding the publication of the results of the research they have supported.
3. Experimentation to test transitional methods of funding the publication should be encouraged and the results of such experimentation widely communicated.
5. Scholarly information should be tax neutral with respect to the medium used, and there should be more consistency at an (inter)national level.
IV. INITIATIVES AND DEVELOPMENTS IN DEVELOPING AND TRANSITIONAL COUNTRIES
1. ICSU, UNESCO and all those concerned with the dissemination of scientific information should take action to facilitate information access to developing and transitional country scientists through improved infrastructure, including the rapid setting up of Internet facilities, connectivity and networking, where needed.
2. Equally, the skills of scientists, publishers and librarians in the publishing chain should be enhanced, in terms of writing, editing, publishing, disseminating and marketing and archiving.
3. National, regional and international co-operation and partnership should be fostered through the sharing of resources, knowledge and experience, and the creation of consortia and alliances, to achieve more affordable economic models.
4. An enabling policy environment should be encouraged at the national level, including dialogue with local communities, and participatory initiatives at regional and international levels should be promoted.
5. A global commitment to support and sustain these initiatives needs to be secured.
V. LEGAL ISSUES
1. The principles of copyright, together with its traditional balances and exceptions, should be maintained in the electronic environment.
2. Science advances through access to, and the unfettered use of, factual information. Scientific, non-commercial use should not be constrained by legal restrictions on the use of data or information derived from databases.
3. For scientific databases there is often only a sole supplier, with the potential to block markets, or not serve them adequately. National and intergovernmental organizations should therefore promote a policy to assure the availability of database information at reasonable cost.
4. Additionally, if the rights holder cannot assure long-term archiving of the content of scientific databases, this policy should be extended in order that appropriate arrangements can be made for long-term preservation.
5. ICSU should establish a policy of prompt, full and open access to scientific data and information acquired within ICSU-sponsored programmes. Such a policy would be consistent with the ICSU principle of the universality of science and could parallel the existing ICSU statement on the Free Circulation of Scientists.
6. ICSU and UNESCO should endorse a policy of prompt, full and open availability of publicly funded data. Such a policy would enhance research effectiveness and output, as well as benefiting society as a whole through a better-informed public and economic growth.
VI. ISSUES RELATING TO PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT IN SCIENTIFIC MATTERS
Within their particular domains, all stakeholders in the scientific information chain, including ICSU, UNESCO, IFLA, learned societies, and individual groups of scientists, should assume greater responsibility for designing ways to help readers distinguish credible from questionable scientific information on the World Wide Web.