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The APS and the Los Alamos xxx e-Print Archive have established a cooperative partnership designed to allow the physics community to take maximal advantage of the E-print archives. The agreement is in response to the major impact that e-prints are having on the communication of physics research. "With all of its journals now online, the APS is ready to explore how the journals can be more tightly integrated into the rapidly evolving, networked environment of physics literature," said APS Editor-in-Chief Martin Blume.
Founded by Paul Ginsparg in August 1991, the archive has grown to encompass all fields of physics, as well as many in mathematics. It now contains over 67,000 articles and the growth rate is approaching 2,000 new articles per month. The archive is funded by the National Science Foundation and is automatically mirrored in over a dozen countries via volunteer Web sites. Ginsparg envisions the e-print archives as an unfiltered, global, freely available database of research articles that can serve as a foundation for a rich set of possible overlays that provide filtered views of the physics literature. A similiar view of the electronic future was articulated by the APS Task Force on Electronic Information Systems, which issued its report in 1991.
E-prints are author-controlled versions of research articles that are freely circulated outside the traditional peer-reiew and publication process. Unlike the familiar paper preprints, the e-prints can be, and often are, updated by the author at any time, including after the peer-review process. The archives have already become a primary means of information exchange in fields such as high energy physics, general relativity and quantum cosmology, astrophysics, and other disciplines like quantum computing, chaos theory and nuclear physics. Condensed matter is one of the fastest growing areas of e-print usage, with almost a 50% increase in the number of submissions in 1997.
In addition to the possibility of developing a single, global electronic physics database, the APS expects to use the archives to improve the Physical Review publication process, while simultaneously lowering costs, according to Blume. The Society has already taken several steps towards that objective. For example, in 1997 the APS amended its copyright transfer statement to recognize explicitly the right of authors to circulate their work as e-prints, both before and after publication in Physical Review. It also enacted a uniform policy across all PR journals for including citations to e-prints, and allowed for submissions of articles to PR via e-print number. And Physical Review D began using the Los Alamos archive and its mirrors to provide electronic copies of manuscripts for referees.
"For the near-term, the APS strategy takes advantage of the extent to which the physics community has already jumped far ahead of other research disciplines in all of this, and helps move the Society towards development of substantial new electronic resources, to the ultimate benefit of both its membership and the physics community at large," said Ginsparg of the agreement. "The new copyright agreement. recognizes the vested rights and non-commercial interests of physicist authors and promotes their research communication needs."
In the coming year, the APS intends to expand the use of Los Alamos for referral to other journals, according to Blume, using it as the primary means of circulating public e-prints. The APS E-print server, which currently receives about 30 articles per month, will be transformed into a server for referees to receive manuscripts electronically. The APS also intends to implement better tracking of e-prints that become Physical Review articles, and to provide updates to Los Alamos for linking to the on-line journals, enabling researchers to locate the published versions of articles more easily. Finally, the Society will explore an alternative interface to the archives, the incorporation of archive indexes into APS search engines, and other ways Los Alamos can supplement APS activities, such as providing low-cost conference proceedings. "We are very happy to join in a broader utilization of Ginsparg's excellent archive which is a pivotal element of the communications revolution, " said Blume.
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