AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXIX, No. 1, Spring 1997


Science Publishers Set Aside Funds for Archiving Electronic Journals

Archivists and historians as well as scientists have been concerned about the permanent preservation of electronic publications since the new medium first appeared on the horizon. Typical of current responses are those of the American Institute of Physics and its Member Societies; mostly they have established groups to study the issue and are beginning to draft solutions. Of particular note is a framework for archiving electronic journals created by the American Geophysical Union (AGU). At its December 1996 meeting the AGU Council adopted plans to create a trust fund for maintaining and upgrading its electronic journals in perpetuity, and authorized a budget that sets aside a fixed amount for the fund based on each journal page published.

Other journal publishers are also studying the problem and beginning to take similar steps. For example, the American Astronomical Society (AAS) has set up a special account, funded from subscription revenue, to enable the migration of the Astrophysical Journal to a new technology and to new markup standards every five years as necessary. The Astronomical Journal will be treated similarly when it goes online. Making and saving links has turned out to be a particularly important part of the process, according to Peter Boyce of the AAS. "Publishers have to prepare their material so that it can be archived," Boyce says, "and until a scheme becomes universally adopted, the publishers, if they are responsible toward their field, have to take on the burden of making the electronic journals available for the indefinite future."

Besides creating the trust fund, AGU has made plans to permanently preserve and update each issue of its new all-electronic journal, Earth Interactions (published jointly with the American Meteorological Society and the Association of American Geographers). The publishers will add index terms to the original articles over time, referring readers to subsequent articles in new issues.

For more information on the AGU´s program, contact Judy Holoviak at the American Geophysical Union, e-mail, phone 202 462-6900 ext. 217. For additional information on electronic archiving as a whole, readers should look at Preserving Digital Information, Report of the Task Force on Archiving of Digital Information, which was issued in May 1996 by the Research Libraries Group and is available on their web site at

Below are excerpts from the resolution that the AGU Council adopted at its December meeting.

PERPETUAL CARE TRUST FUND FOR AGU´S ELECTRONIC ARCHIVE: "AGU recognizes that it has a responsibility to the scientific community to assure that its publications are available in the future. Without the careful protection and upgrading of the files developed for AGU´s electronic publications, there could be a hiatus in the archive of the body of knowledge. The costs associated with the maintenance of the electronic archive will be a continuing obligation of the Union...

"To assure that AGU has the financial resources to maintain an archive of the material included in its electronic publications, to refresh these files on a regular basis, and to migrate the material in the archive to new formats ad media as the technology for electronic publishing changes, a trust fund for perpetual care will be established. The principal for this trust fund will come from revenues generated by page charges and special service fees.... The principal of the fund will be protected so that it can continue to create income needed in the future. It is expected that only the income from the fund will be used to cover the expenses of maintaining and migrating the archive. The creation of the electronic publication files is considered to be part of the ongoing activities of the Union, and these expenses are to be covered by current operating income.

"The income generated by this trust fund will be allowed to accumulate in such a way that more than one year´s income can be called upon for the major expense of a migration to a new format. Initially, little income will be taken from the trust fund because the archive will be small and only the expense of storage and refreshing the files will be incurred. It is considered important to build the fund during this period so that there is sufficient wherewithal to protect and migrate the archive."

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