APS News

Keeping the Promise: Phys Rev Completes Online Archive

PROLA team at APS Editorial Office in Ridge, NY: Louise Bogan; Paul Dlug; Mark Doyle, Project Manager; Maxim Gregoriev; Gerard Young; Rosemary Clark. (Bob Kelly/APS)
PROLA team at APS Editorial Office in Ridge, NY: Louise Bogan; Paul Dlug; Mark Doyle, Project Manager; Maxim Gregoriev; Gerard Young; Rosemary Clark. (Bob Kelly/APS)

The Physical Review Online Archive or PROLA is now complete: every paper in every journal that APS has published since 1893 (excepting the present and past three years, which are held separately for current subscribers) mounted online in a friendly, powerful, fully searchable system. The project took just under ten years from earliest conception to reality.

PROLA functions primarily as an infinitely more useful replacement for some 200 feet and 1,600,000 pages of archival APS journals, the early volumes of which are deteriorating. Librarians have welcomed PROLA, noting that Physical Review is one of the few physics journals of whose older copies are still in active use. These fragile tomes can get the rest they deserve, while the robust new PROLA versions beam out to researchers' and students' desktops. Because it held the copyrights for individual articles, APS was able to bring the archive back to life and offer it to libraries and individuals in this durable form.

With the completion of PROLA, additional uses for the archive can be explored. The earliest volumes of the journals can be examined at length, in detail and at ease. Historians and biographers can track the expansion of the knowledge of physics that took place over the previous century in Physical Review. Research published in Physical Review by any particular author or group or institution can be collected and perused with a search of PROLA and a second search of current content. Journalists can access physics Nobel Prize winning papers when these have been published in Physical Review, which is very often the case. Hyperlinked citations (to LANL archive preprints and papers in journals of other publishers through CrossRef, in addition to APS) allow examination of influences on significant papers, and forward citations show the impact that these papers had on future research. A simple but sophisticated, intuitive link manager encourages authors, institutions and others to link to APS publications, both current material and PROLA. Authors are also free to mount their Physical Review papers on their own sites.

PROLA is composed of scanned images of the printed journals, optical character recognition (OCR) material, and a searchable richly-tagged XML bibliographic database. Each year, another year of this material is added to PROLA from the current subscription content; 1997 was added in January 2001, 1998 will be added in 2002 and so forth. Some ardent readers of Physical Review feared that the online conversion and (in some cases) subsequent removal of older hard copy journals from libraries meant the end of pleasant browsing, but in fact, PROLA greatly facilitates casual perusal. By clicking on the Browse button, readers can access the complete Physical Review collection from any location, at any time, to browse idly or with purpose.

Non-subscribers can view the abstracts and tables of contents, and can purchase individual articles they want to see.

The PROLA project took shape in the early and mid-1990s, when the Naval Research Lab was engaged in a cooperative research and development agreement with APS to scan images of Physical Review for an electronic library initiative, and a Los Alamos National Lab group was converting Physical Review legacy typesetting data into a searchable archive. Then the World Wide Web appeared on the scene and the result was a cooperative APS-NRL-LANL agreement in which the NRL images were delivered to the Los Alamos PROLA group and integrated into a search engine for delivery via the Web. PROLA moved to the APS Editorial Office in 1998, under the direction of Mark Doyle, a young physicist who came to APS in 1996 from LANL, where he had worked with Paul Ginsparg on the pre-print archive. Doyle added many new features and considerable sophistication to PROLA, which he launched online at the end of 1998, with Physical Review from 1985 to 1996.

APS contracted with APEX ePublishing Data Services to rekey the front matter and references for the rest of the archive and to scan in the pages. Progress back into the archive was slow at first because of the amount of material involved, but picked up speed rapidly, reaching completion in May of this year. Enhancements expected by the end of the year include rescanning of the 1985-1996 material to a higher standard, and a Physical Review search engine that will include PROLA and current content. Feedback and suggestions for enhancements are invited as more researchers make use of the archive and encounter occasional problems in scanning quality or links. APS members are invited to browse PROLA and get subscription information by going to http://prola.aps.org/, or the new PROLA mirror at Cornell University (see side-bar).

APS officers and staff at the Editorial Office take great satisfaction and pride in the completion of PROLA and the warm reception it has had in the research and library communities. "I give much credit to my predecessor Ben Bederson and to [Journal Information Systems Director] Bob Kelly, who conceived of and pushed the project forward, and above all to [Products and Services Manager] Mark Doyle who took over as the project manager and made PROLA happen," said Marty Blume, APS Editor-in-Chief.


Physical Review Comes Home to Cornell

Building on an effort to ensure uninterrupted and enduring access to its journals, the APS has entered into an agreement with Cornell University Library, in which the Library will maintain a mirror copy of APS journal archives. The mirror will be accessible to anyone on the Internet in accordance with the APS's pricing policies.

"Last year the APS took an important first step by agreeing to archive our content with the Library of Congress. This agreement with Cornell represents another major step forward in making concrete our commitment to round the clock electronic access to this archive via the Physical Review Online Archive (PROLA). We expect to take further steps in the future to improve international access while continuing to work with the library community to secure the archive's long term future," says APS Journals Product Development Manager Mark Doyle.

The visible mirror at Cornell consists of the newly completed PROLA, comprised of back issues from 1893-1997 of the following journals: Physical Review Series I and II, Physical Review A-E, Physical Review Letters, and Reviews of Modern Physics. The new mirror will also serve as a backup to current content in the event that the APS's primary servers are not available.

"This is a particularly appropriate partnership for Cornell University Library because Physical Review was established at Cornell University in 1893," commented Carl A. Kroch University Librarian Sarah Thomas. "I am delighted to welcome Physical Review back to Cornell in its electronic form. Through this agreement, Cornell University Library and the APS will be working together to archive and to provide access to PROLA, the primary record of research in the physical sciences."

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette