The Structure and Philosophy of the Journal of Statistics Education

Tim Arnold
North Carolina State University
Managing Editor

Journal of Statistics Education v.1, n.1 (1993)

Copyright (c) 1993 by Tim Arnold, all rights reserved. This text may be freely shared among individuals, but it may not be republished in any medium without express written consent from the author and advance notification of the editor.

Key Words: Electronic journals; Graphics formats; Plain text.


The Journal of Statistics Education (JSE) has a unique structure and an inclusive philosophy that have technical consequences for readers and authors. This paper, a message from the journal's managing editor, explains why the JSE was built to have its unique structure, the format of information available to readers, and the effect the philosophy will have. The paper's Appendix outlines three groups of readers and associated methods of accessing the journal. The Appendix also describes the purpose and contents of the associated JSE Information Service.

1. Introduction

1 The Journal of Statistics Education (JSE) was created in order to provide an outlet for high-quality articles on statistics education, and to provide a vehicle through which statistics educators can share their knowledge and be recognized for their work. The electronic computer network was chosen as the medium in which to publish the JSE because of the reduced costs of making the journal available and the exciting opportunities made possible in the medium. With the absence of printing costs, low dissemination costs and the contribution of technical, editorial, and referee services, the JSE can be distributed on the Internet computer network at no cost to the reader.

2 Once the decision was made to use the electronic medium for publishing, another set of goals became apparent: to keep the contents of the journal as accessible as possible to as many people as possible, yet still use the latest technology to exploit the electronic medium. In other words, the goal is to provide multiple views of the same information, with different viewing methods for different levels of technological capability. The reader may select the most appropriate method, depending on technological capability or personal preference.

2. The Unique Structure of the JSE

3 There are many experiments today in methods of publishing electronic journals, each with different goals and employing different methods of archiving and dissemination. Strategies for publishing electronic journals are evolving: The question is not whether there will be electronic journals in the future, but only which of today's experiments in electronic publishing will survive. For example, some current electronic journal projects provide electronic "pages," crisp images which seem like they were photographed from a paper-printed journal. While this type of electronic journal has the attractive appearance associated with conventional printed journals, the readers of such journals must buy or already have the software and a compatible computer necessary to view that particular journal. These expensive projects are attractive, but for many scholars the costs of this kind of solution outweigh the benefits.

4 The field of statistics education is inherently cross-disciplinary; the community of statistics educators is more a community of mind than one of place. Because the practitioners are so widely scattered, ranging from the so-called "pure" statistician to the psychologist teaching psychometrics, the economics professor teaching econometrics, or the biologist teaching biometrics, the JSE was created to be inclusive of all statistics teachers, regardless of discipline. In addition, these statistics teachers are also separated in terms of nationality and geographic location. The JSE is intended to be international in scope, dedicated to improving all postsecondary statistics education, and crossing both disciplinary and national borders.

5 At each point in implementing the JSE, from planning the dissemination system, to selecting, programming and installing the communication tools, we have chosen the simplest, most open-systems options such as free, public-domain software and the Internet computer network. As a result, access to the JSE can be as simple as sending an electronic mail message. However, this free and easy access is something we have to pay for in other ways, at least for today. In particular, in order to reach more people we must do without some of the prettiness and fanciness we expect from traditional paper and ink journals. For instance, different fonts, typeset text and in-line color graphics are impressive...if prettiness is the standard. If world-wide access, immediate text searching and simple, free viewing tools are the standards by which to choose, then plain text and graphics files sent over computer networks is an amazing solution. Our feeling is that it is the meaning of the words, and not their appearance, which gives them value.

6 It is bluntly a question of money: to be fancy in the electronic world is to be expensive, and hence exclusive. To adopt such an approach is to say that only the relatively rich deserve education. The JSE, in its endeavor to include all interested readers, no matter their location or size of the school, will use the "technology of tomorrow," the cutting-edge of information tools, but also the technology of today, and even the technology of yesterday to reach out to all statistics educators. To be exclusively "cutting-edge" is to be alone.

7 This does not mean that the JSE will only contain text nor that the journal will fail to exploit the electronic medium. For readers who are limited to receiving only the text of articles, the text will always be available by e-mail request. For those with more technological capability, the JSE will offer a level of interaction and information to meet that capability. This inaugural issue of the journal contains only text, but future issues will have articles containing color graphics, video clips, interactive graphs, and sound. And even today the JSE is available not only by e-mail request, but also by direct connection to the JSE archiving computer. Readers can use a point-and-click user interface to the journal to browse or search articles or to request immediate electronic transfer of articles, datasets, or other journal information.

8 In an effort to assist readers and authors in obtaining more technological capability and knowledge in navigating the computer network, the JSE will provide access to free or shareware software programs and information. To accomplish this task, the JSE Information Service was created. In addition to housing network-navigation software and information, this service also contains a growing archive of information, software and discussions related to statistics education. More information on this service is included in the Appendix of this paper.

9 We are now exploring alternative methods of access to the JSE and its materials. Direct dial-in or the user-run FidoNet network may be a solution for people with a computer and modem but no other network access. Interactive voice response fax may be a solution for those with a fax-machine but no computer. We are working to solve these problems, but believe that soon we will all have network access, just as we have telephone access today. In the long term, the JSE is not exclusive in residing on the global computer networks; on the contrary, it has implemented the most inclusive solution available.

3. Content: Text, Graphics, Datasets

10 JSE articles are distributed in plain (ASCII) text. Accompanying graphics, if any, are presented in Graphics Interchange Format (GIF). Programs for viewing GIF files are available from the JSE Information Service.

3.1 Text

11 Even though many readers have computers that can display text in desktop publishing programs, or display different fonts and typefaces used in a word processor, the JSE uses only plain text in its articles and departments. This is because of the aforementioned goal of inclusiveness. Some readers might use one word-processing package, while others use a different brand, and still others have none at all. However, all computers can display plain text. Therefore, in order to be read on all of the many different types of computers in the world, the JSE will provide the text portion of its articles in plain (ASCII) format. As technology changes and readers respond to the change, the JSE will also offer articles in other formats, such as LaTeX, Postscript, or SGML.

3.2 Graphics

12 Graphs are often necessary in communicating information, especially in the field of statistics education, and graphs will be included in future issues of the JSE. For those readers who do not have the software tools to view graphs, the JSE makes viewing programs freely available. While the journal will provide all available documentation on the programs, some readers may find it necessary to get help with installing and learning the programs from a local computer-support person. For readers with only e-mail access to the JSE, two programs (a decoder and viewer) will be necessary (see Appendix).

3.3 Datasets

13 We may find that for some papers, graphics are not as necessary as they are in print journals. For example, for papers which are "data-driven," the electronic medium allows authors to offer entire datasets instead of a mere static image of the data. The JSE Data Archive will house datasets useful to our readers (see Appendix for information on contributor's guidelines), and will of course include the datasets used in JSE articles. These datasets will be easily retrievable by e-mail request or any of several methods outlined in the Appendix of this paper. By providing the data and the equation or the relationship to explore, readers can create graphs for themselves in their own statistics packages. Furthermore, authors may encourage readers to experiment with the data in certain prescribed ways, allowing them to experience a technique or realization rather than only read about it. Perhaps for papers such as these, "Figure 3" may contain an algorithm for creating a graph instead of a static image.

4. Conclusion

14 In the electronic medium, professional journals can be and indeed must be different entities than conventional paper journals. While the JSE shares with some paper-based scholarly journals the same high standards for publication and commitment to reader service, the JSE is not an imitation of a paper journal, but a new creation. For the journal to survive and remain healthy it must embrace and celebrate its medium.

15 Today, the journal offers plain text, graphics, data files, and an associated electronic discussion group and information service. Soon, the journal's issues will have even more to offer, encouraging innovation in authoring as well as changes in sharing information with colleagues, in scientific articles, and in teaching itself.

16 The JSE will adapt to future developments in technology. To monitor the changing world of technology and distill the services and information from that world into a usable system is the job of the editorial staff of the JSE. To guide that process so the JSE remains a useful resource for educators and statisticians is the job of the readers and authors of the Journal.

17 "You drop a stone in a pool and the circles spread. But on what far shore of the pool does the last circle break?" (from "As It Was in the Beginning," Stephen Vincent Benet)

18 We hope the circles will spread far indeed from this first issue of the Journal of Statistics Education.

Addendum (added July 7, 1999)

Technology has changed rapidly since this article was written in 1993, and many of the details in the following Appendix are no longer accurate. In particular, World Wide Web access to JSE has replaced e-mail and gopher access. It is evidence of Tim Arnold's vision that while details of the structure of JSE have changed, the philosophy that he described in 1993 still guides the journal.


A.1 Current Setup: How Does It All Work?

Readers subscribe to one electronic mailing list, jse-announce or jse-talk. All subscribers receive announcements of JSE issues by an automatic e-mail message. The announcements contain:

Readers do not automatically receive the entire journal, but only these announcements. They will peruse the announcement, noting which articles or other information they want, and with a single e-mail command they will request these files. The JSE Information Service will then send the articles out by e-mail to the reader.

There are several other methods available for retrieval of articles as well, for those readers with additional capability, such as FTP, gopher or World-Wide-Web (WWW).

Readers who subscribe to the e-mail list jse-announce will receive only announcements of JSE issues and other messages considered pertinent to the readership concerning the journal.

Readers who subscribe to jse-talk will receive these announcements, and additionally may participate in an electronic forum to discuss articles or other JSE-related topics. The jse-talk discussion group is dedicated to communication among readers, authors, and staff of the JSE. We hope that this communication channel will prove fruitful in guiding the journal as well as in assisting readers.

A.2 Technical Categories of Readers: Connections to the Internet

The following is a list of three categories of reader capability and the access methods possible with each capability.

  1. The reader has a direct connection from his or her desktop computer to the Internet. The reader's computer is equipped with an ethernet card and is explicitly set up as a node on the Internet. Access methods: gopher, WWW, FTP, or e-mail interaction

  2. The reader has no direct connection to the Internet, but can connect (via a modem data switch, or dedicated line) to another computer on the Internet. For instance, the reader has a desktop computer or terminal connected to a mainframe. Access methods: telnet, FTP, or e-mail interaction

  3. The reader has no direct connection to the Internet, but can send and receive electronic mail to and from that network. For instance, the reader uses other networks such as Bitnet, FidoNet, CompuServe, etc. Access method: e-mail interaction

A.3 The JSE Information Service: Access Methods

Corresponding to the user groups above, the access methods are outlined here.

  1. If the user's computer is actually a node on the Internet, the information-client software program called "gopher" may be used. Gopher software programs are available from the JSE Information Service for several different computer platforms. For readers using this method, connecting to the JSE is as simple as typing a single command on their local computer. For users with UNIX workstations that are on the Internet, the World-Wide-Web software is available in addition to the gopher program.

  2. For users with access to the Internet through a different computer than their own, such as a campus server or mainframe, the FTP (File Transfer Protocol) command should be available and may be used to connect to the JSE Information Service and retrieve any of its files. This method will transfer files from the JSE Information Service to the host computer, not to the user's computer (i.e., FTP will transfer files from one computer to another as long as they are both connected to the Internet). Local methods must be used to transfer the files from the host computer to the user's own computer (e.g., Kermit, Procomm, etc.). The pattern of retrieval follows these steps: (a) link from local computer to personal account on the host campus computer, (b) use the FTP command to access the JSE Information Service, (c) transfer the files or programs back to the campus host machine, (d) download the files from the campus host to the local computer. Note that all non-text files (i.e., software programs) must be transferred in *binary* mode.

  3. Readers may request information from the Service by e-mail command. This method is sufficient for retrieving text or data files, but users will require the "uudecode" package on their own computer in order to retrieve and unpack graphics files or software programs from the JSE Information Service. The uudecode software can be bought at computer retail stores or retrieved at no charge from the JSE Information Service. (For more information, retrieve the file access.methods using the instructions given below.) E-mail is a very good tool for moving plain files, but to transfer software programs, which are binary files, the programs first have to be encoded so they do not get damaged or corrupted during the e-mail transit. Therefore users must have the associated decoder on their own computer to transform the software back to its binary form.

A.4 The JSE Information Service: Contents

The information contained in the system currently includes:

The intent of this service is to provide useful information and programs to the potential readers of the JSE as well as to provide a place for sharing information within the statistics education community.

To get more information about:		send the message: 

Index of JSE files available		send jse/index 
JSE Author Guidelines			send jse/
Dataset Contributor Guidelines  	send jse/	
Access methods for the JSE		send access.methods
	(This  file includes JSE subscription instructions.) 

Send the message exactly as given (the recipient is a very picky program), with no other information in the message, with no capitalization, etc., to

Send comments, concerns and suggestions to

Tim Arnold
Department of Statistics
Box 8203
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC 27695-8203

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