February 21, 1996

Scientists Debate Creation
Of Massive Internet Archive

PARIS, Feb. 20 (Reuters) -- Scientists at a UNESCO conference here on Tuesday debated whether it would be wise to create an electronic archive of their work and make it available on the Internet.

Some of those in attendance expressed misgivings about such a project, both because of questions about control over electronic publishing and out of fear that depedence on the Internet for sicentific publications could ultimately harm colleagues in poor nations that do not have ready access to the international computer network.

"Cyberspace appears as an immense territory without rules and laws, without traffic norms," Federico Mayor, director general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, said at the start of the four-day conference.

A major issue facing scientists and communications experts from the 92-member organization was how to set up an archive of electronic publications in cyberspace, perhaps with UNESCO help.

While no one questioned that such a giant archive could become a prime resource for scientists, many questioned what its scope should be and how it should be financed.

Delegates also discussed extending the Internet to regions where local dial-up access is not yet available, including some countries in southeast Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Central Africa.

"A main challenge is to allow all scientists to benefit from electronic publishing," Dennis Shaw, chairman of the editorial board of the conference at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, said.

The conference will also look at whether and how to charge those who tap into the archive.

Mayor asked whether electronic publishing would end up giving scientists greater access to scientific literature or "prove to be a technology more likely to widen the gap even more between the knowledge "haves' and the "have nots'?"

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