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Mellon to fund MIT electronic journal

The MIT Press has received a $150,000, three-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the development of its new electronic peer-reviewed journal, Chicago Journal of Theoretical Computer Science (CJTCS), as an economic model for future subscription-based electronic journals.

"The scholarly communication industry needs a model for electronic publication that will move electronic journals into the mainstream of scholarly communication and encourage more journals to move to this form of publication," said Frank Urbanowski, director of the MIT Press.

Driving the effort is the rapidly increasing subscription price of commercially published journals, which is placing many beyond the budgets of most libraries, he said.

The CJTCS is being developed at the MIT Press with the goal of establishing a clear model and method for nonprofit publishers to move forward with electronic journal projects in response to the needs of universities, researchers and libraries. CJTCS is designed as a cost-based (instead of market-priced) electronic journal and as a way to introduce more diversified competition into the marketplace.

"At the end of the three-year grant period, we plan to provide the Mellon Foundation with an `electronic journal in a box' that can be used to establish university electronic journals on a cost basis rather than on market basis," Mr. Urbanowski said.

CJTCS provides a promising new archetype for applying cost-sharing and risk reduction to academic publishing, the announcement from the MIT Press said.

In return for an annual subscription fee of $125, libraries are licensed for a wide range of uses of the journal at their institutions. The articles can be mounted locally or accessed over the Internet.

CJTCS will be archived at MIT by the MIT Libraries and Information Systems to insure permanent availability of published articles. The journal will take advantage of its electronic form by including executable computer code.

CJTCS is edited by a team of distinguished computer scientists led by Janos Simon and Michael O'Donnell at the University of Chicago Computer Science Department. Published article by article, the peer-reviewed journal focuses on new and significant research results in all areas of theoretical computer science and will eventually ease pressure on the established print journals in the field, most of which have large backlogs of accepted papers waiting one to two years before publication.

CJTCS is ideally suited to an experiment in Internet publishing since its target community of authors and readers already has a critical mass of members accustomed to daily use of the Internet and with access to laser printers, the MIT Press said.

The editors are committed to a six-week turnaround in the review process. Articles are submitted electronically in LaTeX source format, with the Press' production process designed to use the author's keystrokes and formatting while still adding the valuable steps of copy editing and proofreading. After an article is accepted, it goes into production immediately and is available to subscribers in 12 to 14 working days.

Publication consists of the placement of standardized LaTeX source and PostScript in an electronic archive, accessible by a variety of retrieval methods, on a file server at the MIT Press.

The $150,000 grant will help in providing funds to enable MIT to enlist libraries in the effort, to set up user and subscriber focus groups, to study end-user behavior and information retrieval patterns, to develop the economic model, and to disseminate the model to publishers at the end of the launch. Within the three-year time period, the MIT Press also expects to develop other electronic journals and incorporate those results into the model.

A version of this article appeared in the December 7, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 39, Number 14).

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