History since the XXIst General Assembly

Following the XXIst General Assembly of the IAU an Editorial Board was set up to assist the publication of the IBVS, with the following members: L.A. Balona, M. Breger, M. de Groot, D.S. Hall, R. Koch, Y. Kondo (President, Comm. 42), J.-M. Le Contel, J.R. Percy (President, Comm. 27), M. Rodono, J. Smak, N. Samus, C. Sterken (Chairman), and the Editors: L. Szabados and K. Olah. The Board had its first meeting on 13 November, 1991, at the Astronomical Institute of Vienna, and set together a few times since.

Information Bulletin on Variable Stars has been distributed on a subscription basis since 1992, for a charge which covers only the (ever increasing) postal costs. During the last years of the free distribution we had 400 addresses where the Bulletins were sent to. After introducing the subscription fee, about 70-80 of these addresses never replied. At the moment we have again 400 addresses (now subscribers) and that means quite a success: several dozens of new subscribers who are really interested in getting the journal. A separate sheet shows how to subscribe to the IBVS.

The International Astronomical Union generously gave a 1000 $ grant to cover the subscription fee for two years of those institutions who were unable to pay. This grant now is over, so with sorrow we discontinued sending the Bulletins to the granted institutes. Three years ago, in the hope of positive changes in the supported institutes we decided not to turn to the IAU for support again, however, our positive hopes did not come true.

We are publishing 140-150 issues/year in the last few years, and this year we reached the 4000th issue. Annual and cumulative numbers of IBVS are displayed in Figures _1_ and _2_ .


As to manuscripts submitted for publication in the IBVS, conciseness and information content are essential requirements. The manuscripts are maximum 4 pages long. A pure list of observational data does not necessitate a prompt publication, so manuscripts have to indicate why the given observations are important and how they fit (or do not fit) the previous data, models, etc. If the tabular material is too lengthy to be included (because of the four-page limit), the manuscript should refer to the availability of the data (e.g. if deposited, file number in the Archives of Unpublished Photoelectric Data maintained by IAU Commission 27, free access by anonymous ftp or, willingness to send the list of data upon request, etc.).

However, we are thinking of introducing a special issue-format for those manuscripts which contain only observations as their number is growing. These manuscripts are submitted mostly by amateur astronomers and their data could really be important and up-to date, so their simple existence might still need fast publication. We imagine this as a fixed-format issue having only the necessary information of the data and space for figures (again within the 4 page limit).

More and more manuscripts arrive electronically, i.e. via ftp or E-mail (see _Figure 3_ ). This way of submission considerably shortens the time necessary for producing the final version if only minor corrections are needed. A separate sheet shows how to submit papers via ftp. (See also a special part of this report about the question of electronic submission and subscription.)

If the Editors in Budapest feel its necessity or are not able to judge the scientific merit of the paper, manuscripts are sent to external referees. This process proved to be very useful. We ask our referees to evaluate the paper within two weeks to keep the speed of publication fast enough. Referees usually use E-mail or fax when answering to the editors.


The Editors of IBVS feel the time is ripe now to step forward to the electronic distribution of the journal. All the necessary technical facilities are at our disposal, therefore no part of the production cycle (paper submission, refereeing, typesetting and distribution) represents a technical challenge. However, careful consideration is needed to avoid possible threats (see the Special Insert of the AAS Newsletter: Electronic Publishing in Astronomy: Projects and Plans of the AAS), and making the proper choice from the suite of available software.

We have to give a nicer and more uniform layout to the IBVS, we have to ensure that electronic production would not compromise quality and we need feed-back from usage. Only widely available, not platform-specific software is acceptable. The Editors should give advice to subscribers on public domain software needed for users. The journal should be accessible for subscribers with a wide spectrum of computing and network facilities, ranging from PCs and low speed modems to UNIX workstations with X11 and Internet connection with speeds of 64 kBaud.

Konkoly Observatory will continue the distribution of printed copies, but in long term only libraries can subscribe to them. Electronic distribution will be free of charge.

- Paper submission

Electronic submission would considerably speed-up the turn-around time. There are two obvious choices: e-mail and ftp. Although encoding would make the transfer of an arbitrary binary file possible via e-mail, we would like to restrict submission to non-encoded material.

- Typesetting

The format most widely used in astronomy was chosen: LaTeX (or, perhaps, TeX. See "Desktop Publishing in Astronomy and Astrophysics, ed. by A. Heck). LaTeX documents can be transmitted via e-mail or ftp. We have produced a LaTeX style file, and we have been using it in the past two years (see a separate sheet how to get it). The Editors intend to phase out camera-ready submission.

- Figures

We opted for PostScript - it can be transmitted through ftp and e-mail, can be printed directly to PS printers, and there is free software available for displaying and printing PS documents. PS figures can be included in LaTeX documents. Problems arise only with the rasterized information figures which are extremely big in PS - so we need compression.

- Compression

We opted for the UNIX "compress" method (adaptive Lempel-Ziv coding), but we can use other compression programs as well. However, we certainly would not like to use more than two compressed formats.

- Distribution

The Editors wish to start the regular electronic distribution via anonymous ftp and the World Wide Web from the 1 January, 1995. Meanwhile they are thinking about using a kind of mail-server as well.

Issues from the last couple of years can be continuously kept on-line, older issues might be made available by request, or can be put on a CD-ROM. Back issues are being scanned in Konkoly Observatory, and they will be available in rasterized PostScript. Production of ASCII versions using an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software would be desirable, but not possible at the moment. Automatic searching and indexing would need ASCII versions.

- User registration and transaction logging

The Editors feel the necessity of some feed-back on usage: who has accessed IBVS and which issues were downloaded. Limited logging capabilities are present in the ftp server softwares and in Mosaic (the software used for WWW distribution). We propose a voluntary registration system - only registered users will be entitled for special services, like: printed/e-mailed contents and indices; warnings on maintenance shutdowns; information on planned configuration changes, the "helpdesk" will not be available for others, only they will be included in opinion polls. However, this question should be discussed with the Editorial Board before the final decision.

Submission method statistics (Figure 3) shows that the number of electronically submitted (ftp or e-mail) papers has increased rapidly in the last 1.5 years.

The Editors intend to query subscribers and the members of Commissions 27 and 42 about their technical capabilities concerning the electronic distribution. Please, fill in the form! (This is the same questionnaire as in the "Technical information" page.)

The questionnaire exists in TeX format too - it can be found at the anonymous ftp area of the machine ftp.konkoly.hu