Science strikes on-line deal with China
May 22, 1998
In an imaginative deal with Chinese government, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has agreed to make all of its on-line products available to Chinese scientists under a single licensing agreement. The deal includes the on-line version of Science and two Web-based services, ScienceNOW and Next Wave . The print version of Science , which has one of the biggest circulations of any research journal in the world, is not included in the deal.
The AAAS is also trying to sell national site licences for Next Wave - an on-line magazine for young scientists - in a number of countries The schemes, if successful, could change the face of electronic publishing and make Next Wave the first profitable scientific magazine on the web. However, the Next Wave proposal has been met with concern on some electronic mailing lists used by scientists.
The deal was hatched in discussions between Ellis Rubinstein, editor of Science , and Zhou Guangzhao, president of the Chinese Association for Science and Technology. A group of Chinese funding agencies have joined forces to pay for the deal. China is seen by many publishers as an expanding market over the next few years. The advantage of dealing with a single consortium has allowed AAAS to offer large discounts on the deal, according to Rubinstein. Another unusual aspect of the agreement is that the AAAS is leasing a Internet connection to pipe Science products direct to China. The deal is for one year though both sides expect it to run for longer.
Concerns about Next Wave first surfaced on DAPHNET, an on-line discussion group about women in science and engineering. Some users are worried about the content of Next Wave. "There is perhaps a danger that it may become simply a publication with a US focus plus titbits from elsewhere, " says Elizabeth Johnson, a physicist from Imperial College in London. "The Net is leading people to expect much more than this."
Rubinstein believes that concerns about Next Wave have been blown up out of all proportion, particularly rumours about the cost of national site licences. "We are, after all, a not-for-profit organisation" says Rubinstein. "We are chartered to serve the scientific community as well as it can and not to reap huge profits. This seems not to be well understood by some of the e-mail discussants in the UK." Rubinstein also argues that as more countries subscribe to Next Wave, the amount of international content will increase. Next Wave hopes to become profitable in 1999.