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IUCr 1995 Report - International Council for Scientific and Technical Information (ICSTI)

All major ICSTI activities were scrutinized at its General Assembly, which in 1995 was conducted under the auspices of the European Patent Office (EPO). The programme included an extended technical presentation on the use of information by the EPO itself. The proceedings had implications for the IUCr's scientific publishing.

A Survey on the Use of Networks, conducted by ICSTI, assessed the use of networks for disseminating information in the wide range of environments spanned by ICSTI membership. While the project produced few surprises, it was reassuring to see many common prejudices confirmed.

A significant new trend was strong support on ICSTI for the SGML protocol, which has gained such widespread acceptance that its future role as a de facto publishing standard is assured. There is also widespread expectation that the WWW will become the future medium for disseminating scientific information on the Internet eventually, but there are significant financial and technical obstacles to its realization.

On the basis of earlier experience with the TULIP project, which tested electronic delivery of scientific information in libraries, commercial publisher members of ICSTI could not foresee their commercial publishing on the Internet becoming financially viable within five years. They believed that electronic delivery would remain expensive compared with alternatives for the foreseeable future. In a decision that is mainly cost driven, several members intend focusing on magnetic media and CD-ROM delivery.

The approach of typical not-for-profit members of ICSTI differed strongly from that of the commercial publishers. Not-for-profit publishers favoured presenting material on the Internet, provided that did not compromise the viability of their hard-copy core publishing.

Notwithstanding its important role in electronic publishing, raster graphics' cipher-like properties limit it to applications where human observers synthesize the graphic or pictorial information. ICSTI is considering a study of alternative protocols for representing and disseminating graphic and pictorial information as a topic for a future project.

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