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IUCr 1995 Report - Sub-committee on Electronic Publishing, Dissemination and Storage of Information

Early in 1995, there was a lively exchange between members of the Committee on the Internet. A special meeting of the Committee held in conjunction with the American Crystallographic Association meeting in Montreal, Canada, then made recommendations to the IUCr Executive Committee. It is clear that the IUCr should disseminate crystallographic information on the Internet as soon as technically and financially feasible. It is less obvious what information can be disseminated economically and how rapidly the transition can proceed.

It was agreed at Montreal that electronic submission of manuscripts to all the Union journals should be encouraged, and that the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) protocol should become the standard for the IUCr's serial publications. What has yet to be determined is how the SGML protocol will be implemented. For example, it would be technically feasible to meet the objective by requiring all manuscripts to IUCr journals to be submitted in CIF format, which would be converted to SGML automatically by a translator. So far, the Committee has not decided to recommend that action. The rate at which the Chester office can implement the transition without undue disruption is also being assessed.

The residual uncertainties on manuscript submission are insignificant compared with those related to dissemination of information electronically on the Internet. Some members favoured having the journals provide only the titles of the articles published in the journals free of charge electronically. Others felt that the Union should supply an electronic copy of any manuscript in its journals at an appropriate fee. Planning the dissemination of information in the Union journals is complicated by the strong dependence of some crystallographic work on complex diagrams. Alternative protocols for processing graphical and pictorial information exist, but protocols preferred as de facto standards for different classes of information have yet to emerge. This issue has been referred to the Commission on Crystallographic Computing for advice.

The IUCr Executive Committee decided to appoint a consultant to advise on those aspects of the Chester office's work that would benefit from independent scrutiny. The consultant's report will become available for deliberation early in 1996.

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