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RE: Versions

Versioning, and citing, in the Electronic universe IS and SHOULD BE
different from versions, editions and the citation practice of the Print

>From a slightly different angle, I am bound to agree with Evan Owens's

First -- I agree with the implication we need to adapt and improve. There
is a problem in much discussion of E-journals and indeed with the OA
services for periodical publications that are being developed. Too often
it is supposed that the 'correct' objective is to replicate in print,
somehow, the system that works (maybe not too well) in paper publications.
Its only when publishers, editors and researchers start asking themselves
the more radical question == 'What functions do we need in the best
possible system of electronic primary research publications?' that we get
to the heart of the matter. When this question is on the table, OA and
other issues can be seen in their proper perspective. Its got almost
nothing to do with the so called business models needed to support
TollAccess paper and those needed to support OA electronic publications.
The burning questions are all to do with how appropriate electronic
publications of research documents/information can best further
scholarship and research. And it's the appropriateness of OA for what
should happen NEXT that is really the compelling reason for Access being
Open (ie not much at all to do with library budgets and the unscrupulously
profit-seeking behaviour of some publishers). Fundamentally the reasons
for OA for research publications are being driven by the importance of
EasyFindability and EasyCitability for research publications.

Now from a different domain we have run into a somewhat analogous issue.
How should we as an online aggregator of reference works cope with the
slightly awkward issue that publishers of (eg) dictionaries quite
frequently produce minimal revisions of their best selling publications,
in part, so as to encourage the purchase of new copies. There is of course
nothing wrong with this practice which is now much easier for Print
Publishers than it was in Dr Johnson's day, but the marginal creeping of
small improvements in big dictionaries is a big problem for the electronic
aggregator. We think its an essential part of our service that the
'elements' of an authoritative reference work should be essentially
'stable and reliable' urls. But books are traditionally 'versioned' by
their 'edition' or their 'impression' (if the bibliographer is being
really picky). If we 'remake' all the urls of an Encyclopedia each time we
import a few new entries, there is a lot of needless disturbance and dead
connections. Dictionaries and encyclopedias that 'move with the times' in
an electronic universe are going to have to find a way in which the
individual entry can be 'revised' and 'versioned' according to when IT
changes. This is quite a tough problem, but we think it's a real one, and
it also appears to us that the publishers that get on top of this (and as
an aggregator we cant do it on our own) are actually creating an important
additional layer of service in the electronic world. Librarians, scholars
and users (certainly the courts of justice) will increasingly come to
expect that citations of electronic resources should be such as allow us
to determine accurately when something (a definition for example) changed
from A to B, and indeed what that change was... (ie it will be
advantageous have a system which allows us to inquire into and 'roll back'
the revision).

Although we don't yet have completely elegant solutions to all the
problems which cluster around this area (ironic understatement), we are
aware of the need to develop tidy and predictable solutions to the
'revision problem' for electronic publications, and I suspect that an
important 'value add' for electronic publications in the sciences and
humanities will be to develop appropriate models for tracking and
archiving authorial and editorial revisions. Of course, this makes life
more complicated (at least for some of us), but who can have supposed that
Precision in an electronic universe was going to avoid complexity?

This is an area where standards are important.....but awareness of the
issues needs to be there first.

Adam Hodgkin