Many readers of D-Lib Magazine may have seen a recent press release from Yale University entitled "Yale Library to Plan Digital Archives with Elsevier Science."1 Yale plans to collaborate with Elsevier to investigate the creation of a digital repository for the 1,100 journals published electronically by Elsevier Science. Financial support for the initiative comes from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that I am the project leader for a similar Mellon-funded project at Cornell University.)
There is general consensus that networked digital technologies have the potential to radically alter the nature of scholarly communication. Some of the most exciting experiments in digital libraries seek to develop new tools and services for scholarly communication that can transcend what is possible in a print environment. The article by Herbert Van de Sompel and Oren Beit-Arie in this month's issue of D-Lib Magazine, which describes the rich possibilities present when OpenURLs are combined with the SFX framework, is a good example of the type of innovative new service only possible in a digital environment. Other research is under way to determine how to duplicate in a digital environment the best features of past methods of scholarly communication (certification of findings by the scholarly community; wide-spread dissemination of results to relevant audiences; and the free use of materials in libraries, for example).
No function currently associated with scholarly communication is more important than the preservation of scholarly information over time. Modern scholarship expects that the item one cites today will still be available and unchanged in the future. Libraries, by preserving print copies of publications, have addressed this scholarly need. Electronic publications need a similar guarantee. As Ken Frazier notes in his opinion piece in this month's issue, the contents of electronic subscriptions can change at the whim of the distributor; there is no assurance that an article found today will still be there tomorrow. How to maintain the authenticity and integrity of a digital repository over time is a major research challenge.
Starting with commercial publishers, as Yale is doing, is an appropriate first step. As Lee Zia notes in his article in this issue, open and restricted access material can co-exist in the digital library. While addressing the preservation of journals produced by commercial publishers, Yale and the other Mellon grantees may develop mechanisms that more open repositories of scholarly communication can follow.