The European Physical Society is an association of 36 National Member
The EPS itself does not own important physics journals. "Europhysics Letters" is in fact published jointly by Les Editions de Physique and Societa` Italiana di Fisica under the scientific responsibility of the European Physical Society.
I am in charge of the Publication Committee of EPS, which is now undergoing a process of reorganization in order to correspond better with the new and increasing needs of the community of physicists. Therefore, the following statements do not represent the official position of EPS, but reflect my own opinions.
The new electronic forms of media have greatly improved the communication among physicists, but a great effort has still to be made in order to allow physicists to exhange information without intermediaries. The use of electronic mail makes the submission of scientific articles simpler, especially for scientists that are active in Third World countries. At the same time, the availability of electronic methods has both increased the quality of editorial work and made the peer-reviewing process easier.
However, a great amount of work has to be done to improve tools and information sources that physicists use everyday. For example, in the field of information retrieval, the indexer's work is still done by hand to a great extent. Furthermore, the quality of alerting services and full-text archives, such as the Los Alamos Archives, is far from ideal. A suggestion was made inside the publication committee of EPS to set up clearinghouses, whose task should consist of providing the publishers with keywords to be added to the published articles. This proposal was not supported because it seemed unrealistic ; furthermore, it would create a new and unnecessary intermediation between the authors and the readers. To a larger extent than now, the role of the indexer could be played by the authors themselves, without need for any intermediation, if better authoring tools were available for the physicists' community.
Today, a wealth of text formatting tools are at the scientists' disposal, but the increasing importance of the article format should not belittle the role of the content, which should always be kept under control of the physicists.
The information services supported by EPS are :
"PhysDep", providing contact information for Physics Departments and
Research Institutions all around Europe.
"PhysDoc", giving access to unpublished physics documents stored
on servers known to PhysDep.
"PhysDis", concerning physics theses stored on servers known to
These three indexing services (called "PhysNet indexes"), established by
two members of the Department of Physics, Oldenburg University, are part
of EurophysNet, the physics information network of the EPS. The adopted
web search engine is the Harvest information broker.
Finally, "TIPTOP" (Internet Pilot to Physics, a swedish/canadian initiative) is one of the major collections of Internet resources in Physics, offering access to a specialized Web search engine.
Another important tool for the direct exchange of scientific information among physicists is represented by the european mirrors of the Los Alamos preprint archive, which are at present five and soon will be six. EPS supports these initiatives : these services should experiment new ways of searching and provide added-value information, not just mirror the US archives.
One of the most important issues related to the new communication technologies is that of archiving. An initiative should be taken by EPS in order to have not only published, but also unpublished literature archived for the future.
It is unsure whether preprint servers are the future of the scientific communication in physics. New ways of information transfer have to be experimented. The National Member Societies of EPS should play a more active role in this process.