Scholarly skywriting and the prepublicationcontinuum of scientific inquiry

William Gardner's (1990) proposal to establish a searchable, retrievable electronic archive is fine, as far as it goes (though he seems to have missed some of the relevant background literature, e.g. Engelbart 1975, 1984a, b; Schatz, 1985, 1987, 1991). The potential role of electronic networks in scientific publication, however, goes far beyond providing searchable electronic archives for electronic journals. The whole process of scholarly communication is currently undergoing a revolution comparable to the one occasioned by the invention of printing. On the brink of intellectual perestroika is that vast PREPUBLICATION phase of scientific inquiry in which ideas and findings are discussed informally with colleagues (currently in person, by phone and by regular mail), presented more formally in seminars, conferences and symposia, and distributed still more widely in the form of preprints and tech reports that have undergone various degrees of peer review. It has now become possible to do all of this in a remarkable new way that is not only incomparably more thorough and systematic in its distribution, potentially global in scale, and almost instantaneous in speed, but so unprecedentedly interactive that it will substantially restructure the pursuit of knowledge.
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