Scholarly publishing, peer review and the Internet

Peter Roberts


The Internet is arguably one of the most significant technological developments of the late 20th century. From its modest beginnings some decades ago - where the use of networked computers was largely limited to to a select group of technical specialists in research institutions, the military and government - to the present situation, with a complex global grid of more than 50 million users, the Internet has become an increasingly important medium of communication in a variety of public and private spheres. In the international academic community the arrival of the Internet has received a mixed reception, with responses ranging from unbridled enthusiasm to outright hostility. My preferred stance is one of cautious optimism. This paper addresses one domain of academic activity where I believe such a stance might be appropriate, namely, scholarly publishing. A number of different forms of writing in cyberspace are identified, and some of the arguments in favour of moving from print-based publishing to electronic environments are assessed. The paper reinforces the need for rigorous systems of peer review in scholarly work, and considers possible futures for serials in cyberspace.

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