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Compact Disc Science

The first fully New Zealand-authored CD-ROM publication was recently released by SIR Publishing. Titled Samples of New Zealand Science on CD-ROM, it features a variety of scientific databases, from monographs and articles to abstracts and bibliographies, including illustrations.

Similar to audio compact discs, CD-ROMs offer relatively cheap storage for large quantities of data. The information is accessed via an IBM-compatible computer attached to a CD-ROM drive. Users can search the databases with the computer and print out articles on a laser printer.

"We are keen to demonstrate that we can produce electronic publications in New Zealand, and want to find out whether end users see this as an improvement over ink-on-paper delivery," says Jaap Jasperse, who has been working on alternative ways of delivering scientific articles to readers. The discs are being sold at far below the actual cost of production.

One of the CD-ROM databases is Bugs on Disc, which contains all available references to New Zealand invertebrates in scientific and popular literature dating back as far as the 18th century. Unique in its comprehensiveness, Bugs on Disc would take 2500 pages if it had been conventionally printed using 6 point type. It contains 14,500 references by 4500 different authors.

Scientists find the new form of data storage useful. "We are making better use of information", says entomologist Trevor Crosby. "Searches through literature which could take weeks manually are completed in seconds by the CD-ROM disc." Crosby also believes that the disc represents an opportunity to reassess older findings in the light of current knowledge.