It's going to be a preprint service. It's going to be a reprint repository. It's going to kill off society journals. It's going to save them. It's going to compete with commercial titles. It's going to complement them.

There appears to be no consensus on the effect E-biomed, a potential government-backed electronic publishing service proposed by Harold Varmus, director of the National Institutes of Health, will have on other journals--both paper and electronic. Nor does there appear to be much agreement on what form that service will take. "There's a vagueness in Varmus' proposal," comments electronic publishing expert Stevan Harnad, professor of cognitive science at Princeton University and the University of Southampton in England. Varmus, who acknowledges that the proposal is young, calls that vagueness "evolvability" (see Varmus interview, page 3). While words like "vagueness" and nonwords like "evolvability" are being applied specifically to E-biomed, they might well...

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