Protect our sources

July 2, 2009

Alec Gill blithely assumes that the rest of the world is like his own niche ("Let's simplify referencing", 25 June). The author-date system is, for good reason, unknown in my field and in many other sciences. For us, what is important is what is shown, not who showed it, so the main purpose of citations is to identify sources. In the humanities and social sciences, who said what can be relevant, so we give the name in the text.

As for the format of the bibliography itself, if other subjects emulated mathematics and computer science and used real document- preparation systems instead of Microsoft Word, they would find that such trivial details are taken care of. If Gill really wants to "join the digital age", he should prepare his bibliographies in XML and use BibTeX databases with LaTeX.

Julian Bradfield, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh.

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