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Delays of up to one year between initial submission and appearance in print are routine in many fields with evidence of a three year delay for the proceedings of a conference [Hayes, 1989]. The Journal of the American Society for Information Science (JASIS) in common with many journals shows at the start of each article when the article was first submitted and when accepted. A common delay between final acceptance and appearance in print is 12 months. Some of this delay is no doubt due to the processes of preparing the article for publication, but the rest is probably caused by the need to defer printing the article until an issue is available with free space. [Peek and Newby, 1996] argues that some of the delay is caused by the uncertainties inherent in the refereeing process. Without any firm idea of when an article will be returned by a referee, and with no control of the submission of articles to the journal in the first place, the journal is forced to maintain a backlog of articles working their way through the production pipeline to ensure a regular printing schedule. Of course, in the worst case, an issue of a journal may be delayed until it is full.
In fields with a significant information technology component, 12 months can encompass an entire generation of technology and is simply unacceptable. Fields like computer science have a strong tradition of refereed conference proceedings for this reason, and the high-energy physics community has always made extensive of rapidly circulated preprints [Ginsparg, 1994].
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