For researchers in such fast-growing fields as gene sequencing and crystallography, the end of traditional scientific publications may be in sight. Quietly, over the last year, a trial program in the electronic submission of data has laid the foundations for a revolution that may someday replace the research journal as the vehicle for scientific communication.

In an agreement With GenBank, the main U.S. gene sequence database, nearly a dozen journals are refusing to accept papers with sequence data unless the authors can supply an “accession number,” proving that they have already submitted the information to the database. Other journals are strongly encouraging such prior electronic submissions and are likely to make the rule mandatory in the future.

The policy is aimed at a growing problem among electronic databases in hot fields. Swamped by a flood of published data, the databases are quickly falling behind, and losing much of their usefulness...

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