By Richard M. Todaro
The American Physical Society's program to provide Russian academic and research institutions free and reduced-cost access to its online journals has resulted in nearly 73,000 current articles being downloaded since its inception in March 2000, prompting APS Treasurer Thomas McIlrath to declare it a success.
"The goal of the program is to keep the literature available to students and research scientists throughout the world, in particular in this case, in Russia," said McIlrath, who also is publisher of the APS research journals. "I think we are moving well in Russia. Everybody seems to have common goals and reasonable expectations."
Known informally as the Electronic Journal Program, it was set up in early 2000 following the termination in 1999 of the Science Journals Donation Program by the Russian office of billionaire philanthropist George Soros's Open Society Institute Network.
The Soros program was established in the early 1990s in the chaos following the break-up to the Soviet Union in order to provide various institutions across the former USSR access to hard science journals, including APS ones.
According to the former head of the program, Soros himself decided in 2000 to stop supporting mailing journals in hard copy form in favor of establishing a much more quickly available electronic system.
"Mr. Soros wanted to change to an online position. He felt that by the time the journals arrived, although it was better than nothing, it was very far behind when the scientists actually needed them," said Melissa Hagemann, former program officer for the Science Journals Donation Program, and now with the Information Program at the Open Society Institute's New York office.
With the end of Open Society Institute support, in February of 2000 the APS Executive Board established the Electronic Journal Program, providing electronic access to APS journals - current and archived back to the beginning - to 158 participating Russian institutions through the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR), a government-funded organization that funds a wide variety of scientific research across Russia.
According to statistics provided by program manager Claire O'Neill Sinks, as of July 1, 2001 there had been 72,858 current articles downloaded by 133 of the 158 registered academic and research institutions in Russia. Archived articles accounted for another 1599 downloads from April through June.
Although the program provided free access to any participating Russian institution in its first year, McIlrath said the plan was to institute a 10-year phase-in of the regular cost for access to APS journals starting in 2001.
McIlrath said negotiations with the RFBR for a multi-year contract with the cost phase-in are "going well but slowly. We are trying to negotiate a single-site license paid by the RFBR that will provide all the journals to all the institutions back to the beginning of each journal."
The Electronic Journal Program provides access to the past three years of the Physical Review, Physical Review Letters, and Reviews of Modern Physics. It also provides access to the newly completed, comprehensive Physical Review Online Archive (PROLA), an electronic database containing all of these journals from three years ago (currently 1998) back to their beginnings - which for Physical Review was in 1893.
Martin Blume, Editor-in-Chief of the APS, has estimated that PROLA replaces 220 feet of library shelf space - almost four-fifths the length of a football field.