2005 Herman Skolnik Award: Lorrin Garson
The last seven years have seen a tremendous effort on the part of publishers to develop and enhance electronic editions of their print publications. The impact of this migration has been particularly significant within the international scientific community. The American Chemical Society has been one of the leaders in this area. While this migration to the Internet was prompted by the development of http and html, the work of the preceding twenty years positioned the industry to take rapid and widespread advantage of those developments.
Lorrin Garson has been at the forefront of electronic production and delivery of journal articles for nearly 30 years. He was trained as an organic chemist, earning a BA from the University of California, Riverside, and MS and PhD from the University of Maine. In the early 1960s he worked in the pharmaceutical industry as a medicinal chemist. He was on the faculty of the University of Tennessee from 1967 to 1974 in the College of Pharmacy, and joined the staff of the American Chemical Society in the Publications Division in 1974 as a Senior Research Associate in the Research & Development Department. In 1984 he became the Head of the Advanced Technology Department, in 1995 Chief Technology Officer for the Publications Division, in 1998 Director, Information Technology/Publications and in 2002 Chief Research Scientist. Garson retired from the ACS in January, 2004.
Upon joining the ACS, Garson developed one of the first electronic manuscript tracking and peer review systems for scientific journals. Through several upgrades, this system continues to server the Society's peer review needs in tracking and reviewing nearly 40,000 manuscripts annually.
After an experiment in printing a "custom" journal, selecting journal articles on the basis of subject, and binding them into a custom publication (somewhat akin to the "virtual" journals available online today), Garson turned his attention to full-text journals online. An initial experiment with a limited number of journals on the BRS System was followed by the release of ACS Journals Online, launched on STN in 1986, consisting of full text of all of the ACS journals from 1986 forward. This system generated no small amount of controversy. The information community was not convinced that full-text searching was a reliable alternative to abstract/keyword searching provided by the A&I vendors. In addition, the technology present at the time meant that full text was just that - text. No equations or graphics were present. Despite these deficiencies, cooperative arrangements were made with several other publishers, and eventually the Chemical Journals Online, expanded to include titles from the Royal Society of Chemistry, Wiley, Elsevier, and VCH. This system continued in operation through the mid-1990's. It was during this time that ACS began to convert its journal collection into SGML. Although hampered by a lack of easy-to-use software tools, Garson's group at the ACS worked with other publishers to define standard tag sets for scientific publications, and began to put those tag sets into use. This SGML infrastructure proved to be quite useful when CD-ROM technology began to mature. It was relatively easy to turn the ACS Journals Online into a CD-ROM product, with three titles appearing in 1994/1995 and continuing through 1996. The product consisted of a text view, with links to equations and figures, and links from the document text to citation text; and a page view, consisting of full-page tiff images. While moderately successful, the product was cumbersome because of the number of discs required per year, and the hardware setup for libraries to support multiple titles and multiple publishers. All of this set the stage for migrating to the Web. The first three ACS titles were loaded in 1996, and the remaining titles were loaded in 1997. The last year has seen the entire ACS archives loaded onto the Web.
During this period, Dr. Garson was involved in a number of industry/academic collaborations, including the CORE project, Red Sage, and DOI, to name just a few. The Web has certainly changed the way all of us acquire and publish information, in both our personal and professional lives. There have been contributions of a great many people. However, Dr. Garson's leadership within the ACS, and within the industry, has been significant in the online environment within the scientific community, and for this reason we have decided to give Lorrin Garson the 2005 Herman Skolnik Award.