Research Update

A major research issue is the role of the Internet as a conduit for dissemination of research results. Articles in Photonics Spectra [1] and in Science [2] highlight some of the problems and concerns about electronic publishing. Who pays for access to electronic publications, is the quality of electronic publications as good as printed publications and do people prefer electronic or printed publications are some issues being debated. The Reader Opinion Poll results published in Photonics Spectra [1] revealed that two-thirds of the respondents used print versions of peer-reviewed journals rather than electronic versions published on the web. Seventy-eight percent of the respondents opinioned that "free" information on the internet is of lower quality than what is produced in peer-reviewed journals. Slightly over half (53%) of the respondents thought peer-reviewed journal material should be available on line at no cost. Fear was expressed that advertising might be used to underwrite the cost of "free" electronic information. On the other hand, concern was expressed that cost might limit access to information. Only twenty-two percent thought sites other than the journal's web sites will replace the printed publications.

The Science [2] article focused on how to cite electronic publications. Page numbers are meaningless in cyberspace. When the American Geophysical Union decided in 2001 that online papers, not print versions, were the publications of record, page numbers were scrapped and a 20-character string of numbers and letters called a digital object identifier (DOI) was assigned to each paper (e.g. Geophysical Research Letters 29,10.1029/2001GLO14304(2002)). Objection was raised that DOIs are not user friendly and search engines are not designed to recognize them. Concern has been expressed about archiving electronic material. Ironically geographic boundaries (e.g. user must be within a 5 mile area of the license holder) are used by some publishers to limit user access and hence, enhance revenue.

The physics community has embraced an electronic archive (at which is funded in part by the National Science Foundation. The archive is not peer-reviewed, but is intended as a long-tem archive of scientific communication, which may or may not be submitted to peer-

reviewed journals. The arXiv experience (documented at finds that a specialist-operated archive of results can dramatically increase the speed of dissemination of knowledge, as well as dramatically lower the cost (by possibly a factor of 100) of disseminating and archiving knowledge.

Assimilating new information that builds upon existing knowledge and rapid dissemination of the new information is the sine qua non for scientific advancement of regional anesthesia and pain medicine. Therefore, awareness of issues related to the use of cyberspace as a scientific instrument is an important research activity.


1. Peer-reviewed journals Do they need to change? Photonics Spectra August:157, 2002. (no author cited in publication)
2. Renner R. Online pioneer winds up lost in cybersace. Science 297:1468-1469, 2002.

James E. Heavner, DVM, PhD
Professor, Departments of Anesthesiology and Physiology
Director, Anesthesia Research
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Lubbock, TX

Matthew J. Heavner, PhD
Technical Staff Member
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Las Alamos, NM

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