A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education discussed the challenges involved when a Ph.D. student presented her dissertation on a CD-ROM. The Internal Revenue Service recently announced a World Wide Web site where citizens can retrieve electronic copies of tax forms. One of the best known resources for medical research is a Web-based site known as MedWeb, located here at Emory.
Computers in general, and the World Wide Web in particular, are affecting our lives increasingly. Publishers of scientific and scholarly journals are beginning to experiment with uploading their issues to a Web site and offering that type of availability to readers.
Recently, three faculty members from the Department of Ophthalmology have joined together, not to upload an existing journal onto the Web, but to publish a Web-only journal. Jeff Boatright, John Nickerson and Robert Church are the editors of Molecular Vision, a web-only scientific journal and, according to Boatright, the only peer-reviewed Web-only journal in the life sciences arena.
The journal is set up like most other scientific journals. Papers are submitted (by regular mail), and are sent to members of an editorial board, comprised of 38 distinguished researchers and scholars from across the United States and around the world. The papers are then either accepted or rejected, or are sent back to the authors for revision. The table of contents looks much that of any other scientific journal.
The Web medium has its advantages, said Boatright. The journal, which covers basic sciences vision research, receives an average of approximately one new article per month that is accepted for publication. Instead of having to wait three months to be included in the next printed journal, the article can be uploaded immediately onto the Web site. In addition to speed of publication, the Web format of Molecular Vision allows for use of color, an extremely rare option in a print journal. The format also provides capability for three-dimensional figures and movies or animation.
Other journals also are on the Web, even another ophthalmology journal. However, the other peer-reviewed journals also are available in a print format; a few Web-only journals, with varying levels of peer-review, have recently appeared. These include The Digital Journal of Ophthalmology (clinically oriented) and Frontiers in Biosciences.
Molecular Vision and its editors are receiving notice; at a recent meeting of The Vision Society, the Association of Research in Vision and Ophthalmology awarded them free exhibition space, citing the journal as "the future of publishing" in the scientific world. The journal also has been recognized by Point Communications as being among the top 5 percent of World Wide Web sites. Perhaps the best indicator of the journal's effectiveness is its readership; Boatright said that each of the pages has been accessed more than 500 times. "This is important," he said, "because it has been estimated that a typical scientific journal article is read by less than 100 people during the useful life of the article."
Molecular Vision can be accessed at <http://www.emory. edu/MOLECULAR_VISION/
-- Nancy M. Spitler