Editorial 1

The World Wide Web Journal of Biology is an international, Publication of Epress Inc., Copyright © 1995-1999.


Editorial: Electronic Publishing in the Sciences
Lester F. Harris

David F. Hickok Memorial Cancer Research Laboratory
Abbott Northwestern Hospital
800 E. 28th St., Minneapolis, MN 55407

Correspondence should be addressed to: Lester F. Harris, PhD.
Email: editor@epress.com

Submitted for publication: October 1995


Keywords: world wide web, electronic publishing, peer review, research.


The hallmark for advancement of scientific research is rapid dissemination of peer-reviewed information. Likewise, advancement in academic careers and success in obtaining funds for research are associated with a record of publication. However, due to space limitations, it is becoming increasingly difficult to publish scientific findings in a timely manner in conventional journals. In addition, publication and subscription costs associated with paper journals create hardships for many laboratories, especially during times of limited financial resources. Furthermore, lesser-known journals are not readily available for reference in libraries, abstract services, or other archives leading to instances of failure to credit previous work of other investigators as similar findings are reported. Therefore, a publishing alternative which addresses all of these issues is sorely needed.

Electronic publishing on the internet offers a means for low cost, non-space limiting, rapid and widely disseminated communication of peer-reviewed scientific information. Moreover, publishing in an electronic journal expands the kinds of information that can be presented, such as multimedia presentations, including sound files, movies, color graphics without page charges and coordinate sets for 3-D models. The use of electronic communications (E-mail, ftp, etc.) for submission, review and publication will eliminate the substantial paper costs of a conventional journal. Reprint requests can be made by E-mail to the author and individuals can download the entire article themselves, thus eliminating the time consuming and costly task of conventional copying from a library or other archive. Copyright will remain with the publisher as is customary in conventional paper journals.

An electronic journal is well suited for publishing traditional research findings as seen in conventional journals. In addition, an electronic journal, in contrast to conventional paper journals, is uniquely suited for in-depth communication of research findings from informatics applied to bioscience and molecular medicine. As an example, large amounts of inter-related data are being generated by the national Human Genome Project which will require mass storage of information in a flexible form for ease of retrieval and analyses. An electronic journal on the internet is ideally suited for publication of large files which can be easily retrieved allowing rapid computer access of information. Another example of the use of informatics in bioscience and molecular medicine is the back and forth process using computer models, based on results from laboratory experiments, for designing further laboratory experiments. Research findings from these studies can be well illustrated in an electronic journal. An extension of this type of research is the use of computer models in molecular dynamics simulations investigating the molecular events which occur during interactions between macromolecular molecules. These studies likewise create large amounts of data which can be best communicated and understood by examining trajectories resulting from the molecular dynamics. An electronic journal would allow publication of 3-D coordinates of the models as well as animated movies of the trajectories from the molecular dynamics simulations. Finally, direct links from the electronic journal to on-line database archives will facilitate rapid access for literature searches, genetic sequence analysis, gene mapping, protein structure analysis and computer model evaluations in conjunction with findings as they are reported.

The hypertext format of the World Wide Web (WWW) is ideally suited for the presentation of scientific information. In this regard, the primary purpose of The World Wide Web Journal of Biology is to create an international on-line open forum for rapid interactive peer-reviewed information exchange in the biological sciences. Links from references within the body of the articles to the National Library of Medicine's (NLM) on-line database of published research literature - MEDLINE, will provide rapid access for the reader to earlier supporting research while reading the article. In addition, MEDLINE is now linked to GenBank, another NLM archive managed by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) which contains an array of on-line databases. These links will allow the readership to conduct literature searches as well as similarity searches among gene, protein and phylogeny databases. Therefore, by providing links within the body of articles to these databases, the World Wide Web Journal of Biology is continuing the spirit of NLM's and NCBI's efforts in "moving research ahead" by supplying "data you can compute on" with access to resources. Furthermore, electronic communication from readers via an interactive forum of information exchange in the World Wide Web Journal of Biology will help to foster global collaboration in science. Statistics on the number of readers of each article are easily obtained, providing valuable feedback to authors. The WWW Journal of Biology will be archived quarterly to CD-ROM allowing a searchable, low cost database of past and current editions which will be available to libraries, abstract services and individuals who wish to subscribe. The World Wide Web Journal of Biology is now issuing a call for manuscripts; details for submission can be found in the instructions to authors section of the journal.

Lester Floyd Harris