Scientific journals started as a way to capture the ferment and debate of scientific societies in privileged centers of culture and learning. But the effect was to extend that ferment far beyond those centers. The printed page allowed the development of a virtual community of scholars, and in so doing energized science.
We are now on the brink of a new virtual community.
It is with great pleasure that the Editors announce free Internet availability of Epidemiology to 67 of the world’s most economically deprived countries. This has been made possible through the WHO program “Access to Research,” which can be reached at the Health InterNetwork Web site http://www.healthinternetwork.net. Universities and other public institutions in these 67 countries will find Epidemiology among the free health-related journals at that site.
One of the opportunities created by electronic publication and Internet access is to narrow the information gap that divides rich and poor nations. While the hardware needed for Internet access is far from universal, it is surprisingly widespread in countries where technology may otherwise be scarce.
Internet access is no cure-all for the health problems of the globe. It is, however, a vitally important step, and a step with implications for every epidemiologist regardless of where we do our work. On the face of it, the preoccupations of epidemiologists in Minnesota and in Malawi may seem so different as to be unrelated. But we believe quite the opposite: a better understanding of each other’s work can enrich epidemiology in both places.
Internet connections are a two-way street. The WHO program works in one direction. Our Web-based system for handling manuscripts (available through http://www.epidem.com) works in the other. Researchers in the most remote places of the world can now submit their work for publication in the journal as easily as they can read our pages.
To our colleagues in Bangladesh and Bolivia and Burundi, who may be seeing these pages for the first time, we say welcome to the neighborhood.