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     May 1, 2001

Today's New York Times has an article on Paul Ginsparg's e-print archive for physics, mathematics, and related fields.  Ginsparg's archive has existed since 1994, which makes it ancient by internet time.  It has exerted enormous influence both on the scientific fields which use it and on the shape of the FOS debate. 

The Times story picks out anecdotes which highlight the way that the archive puts third world scientists on equal footing with scientists at world-class research universities.  It does the same for uncredentialed scientists, like Lobus Motl, an undergraduate from Prague whose research paper on string theory posted to the archive in 1996 impressed the leading scientists in the field and won him a scholarship to Rutgers.

I find the Times story remarkable for two reasons.  First, it's a sign that FOS initiatives now interest the mainstream press.  This story could have been written years ago, but wasn't, or wasn't in the New York Times.  Second, it ignores the fact that the archive makes scientific literature accessible in the third world only because it has removed the bottleneck of profit which confines print journals to major research libraries.  The Lobus Motl story has more human interest, but isn't there more to this story?

James Glanz, Web Archive Opens a New Realm of Research
(First-time users of the online NYTimes must register, but there is no charge.)
(This link may be dead within a few days.)

Paul Ginsparg's arXiv.org e-Print archive


The BBC gave mainstream press attention to another FOS initiative this week.  Its April 26 story on the Public Library of Science (PLOS) makes clear that to be universally accessible, scientific literature must be free, not just digital. 

The PLOS is organizing a boycott of science journals that don't put their content online free of charge within six months of print publication.  The boycott is scheduled to start in September.  The BBC reports this as a deadline worth monitoring, which it certainly is.  Let's hope it attracts more mainstream and academic attention.

Mark Ward, Scientists Threaten Journal Protest
(Thanks to Kathy Milar and Sara Penhale for bringing this to my attention.)

Public Library of Science


If you've been following the online discussion of the PLOS initiative in _Science_ and _Nature_, then you should know about the discussion of related issues in _American Scientist_.  It's the most comprehensive and long-running FOS discussion anywhere.  It was started in the September-October 1998 issue with an essay by Thomas J. Walker.

Thomas J. Walker, Free Internet Access to Traditional Journals

Stevan Harnad, moderator's introduction to the forum

_American Scientist_ forum


If any readers of the newsletter plan to attend this May 4 conference in Munich, please send me a note or post your observations in our discussion forum.

Conference on Scientific Information and Intellectual Property Problems and Opportunities


This is supposed to be a sporadic newsletter.  Some weeks there won't be much news, and some weeks I won't have much time.  But recently I've been turning around much more quickly than I expected to.  It may be that the newsletter is new and I'm trying to establish it.  Or it may be that classes ended at Earlham last week and I'm stretching out.  But I feel duty-bound to insert a note that I don't plan to sustain the pattern of the last few issues.  Enjoy your summers.



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Peter Suber

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