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On On-line access to journal articles

Randy King <randyk@ims.com> asks:

> Would it be possible for someone to set up an ftp site?  That way
> the papers could be easily accessed by anyone.  It would also
> provide a single location to post recent papers for anyone to find.

This is probably not the sort of thing that should be done by
individuals, especially given the very real possibility of violation
of copyright laws.  The good news is that individuals do not have to
undertake such projects.  They are on-going by institutions already.
For instance, everyone interested in access to older articles should
look at www.jstor.org.  JSTOR (for Journal Storage) is in the process
of creating searchable digital archives of journals dating back to
their original issues.  They have copies of _Philosophical
Transactions_ dating all the way back to 1665.  That first issue
includes a brief description of evidence for a spot on Jupiter and via
that spot an indication that Jupiter rotates on its axis.  The future
of the internet certainly includes easier access to our past...

All that said, my access to JSTOR is probably much more extensive than
most of you will have (a perk granted me by the University of
California); it looks like you'll have little to no access outside of
a university or library, but you should consider talking to your local
librarians to consider getting them purchase access if they don't
already have it.  JSTOR's coverage of paleontology journals is sparse,
but aside from _Science_ dating back to the first issue in 1885 they
do have _Evolution_, _Quarterly Review of Biology_, and _Paleobiology_
among other titles with at least occasional dinosaur articles.  Reason
dictates that their coverage will only get better.

JSTOR does not archive the most recent issues of journals, however,
that sort of thing is likely to arrive soon (if it doesn't exist
already).  "Places" like PubMedCentral
(http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov) will proliferate with the growth of
the internet.  PubMed has little of paleontological interest, but they
do carry the _Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences_.  As
luck would have it, when I glanced at that I saw an article of
indirect relevance to a topic that was discussed here earlier this
month... the topic was paleo-oxygen levels.  Here a change in O2 at
the K-T boundary was discussed with people citing various problems
with assessment of O2 levels via gases trapped in amber.  The article


discusses O2 levels during the Permian and Carboniferous periods and
how a spike to 35% O2 would have effected contemporaneous plant life.
The article quickly points to a recent PNAS review (also freely
available) discussing O2 levels during the past 550 million years as
inferred from sediment types and abundances:


You're not going to find everything you want on the web, but you can
find a lot, and what you want is likely to become increasingly easier
to find as time goes on.

In terms of finding citations (i.e., potential articles to find),
everyone should know about the BFV online.  I think the main site is
here at UCSB:


but at the moment the server is refusing connections (lscf a.k.a.,
life sciences computing facility) is in the midst of some security
upgrades, so that situation may not resolve itself fully until some
time next week.

Anyhoo, a message I'm about to forward on behalf of HP Tomy Tyrberg
will talk more about that subject and how its contents pertain to an
estimate of the number of VP papers written.  I'll turn that question
in another direction by suggesting people take a look at:

Tyson, Neil de Grasse, (2000).  "Doubling Time. (pace at which
     astrophysics research is progressing)", _Natural History_ v109,
     n8 pg. 84.

I don't have the article in front of me, (so far as I can tell,
_Natural History_ does not fully archive the magazine on-line), but
the main point of the article is how rapidly the rate of production of
scientific papers is progressing.  He focuses on astronomy, but
branches out to other areas of science as well.  If I recall
correctly, his estimate is that the doubling time of scientific papers
is somewhere around 20 years.  That means that half of all scientific
papers were written in the last 20 years (despite the fact that I can
dig up on the web articles that were published almost 350 years ago).
I suspect someone here will correct me on the 20 years number, but the
point remains that articles are coming out much faster now than ever
before, and there's no sign of that letting up any time soon.  It is
thus more than a little unreasonable for someone to ask to be e-mailed
copies of all articles you have...

Mickey Rowe     (rowe@psych.ucsb.edu)