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Scientific papers have normally been exposed to peer review before publication as a guarantee of quality and originality. However, the delay entailed can slow down the rate at which a specific area is able to develop. In addition, the more specialized publications have to pass on their costs to a smaller target audience. This can lift their price to a point where they are too expensive for a generalized library, even in the US, to acquire and makes them relatively inaccessible in many parts of the world.

To address some these concerns, it was not uncommon for pre-prints to be made available prior to completion of the peer review process. Turning this stage into an electronic form, which could be easily e-mailed, was only one small step further and to put these into an archive available to all was the final stage. Starting in the early 1990s, the physics community (led by Paul Ginsberg at the Los Alamos laboratory), has led the way in introducing electronic publishing on the web supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation (try their URL at This has been so successful (25,000 new papers annually) that proposals are under active discussion in the US to extend it to other disciplines. Nature (the UK journal) provides a running commentary on the rapid developments taking place in this area which is clearly the forerunner of massive global changes in technical and other publishing value chains.

The Quantum World - A New Scientist Guide

CERN European Laboratory for Particle Physics

The Institute of Physics

European Synchrotron Radiation Facility

International Centre for Theoretical Physics

International Union of Pure and Applied Physics

Neutron sources world-wide

OECD Megascience Forum

Synchrotron radiation sources world-wide

European Physical Society

European Science Foundation

European Southern Observatory

European Space Agency

EU: Science, Research and Development




Los Alamos National Laboratory


National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST)

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

U.S. National Science Foundation


Nature Vol. 397, 21st January 1999 pp. 195- 199

Nature Vol. 395, 10th September 1998

Varian and Shapiro Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy McGraw Hill 1998


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