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Cloak-and-Dagger Publishing

Science  04 Oct 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6154, pp. 71
DOI: 10.1126/science.342.6154.71

Classified journals aim to solve a thorny problem: how to rigorously peer review and share sensitive government-funded findings that officials don't want sent to regular journals.

A hot new journal debuted last month, but you can't read it—or publish in it—unless you have a security clearance from the U.S. government. The Journal of Sensitive Cyber Research and Engineering (JSCoRE) is the newest addition to the shadowy shelf of "dark," or classified, journals that aim to solve a thorny problem: how to rigorously peer review and share sensitive government-funded findings that officials don't want sent to regular journals.

"Even though the community of researchers doing sensitive work has the same needs as those doing unrestricted research, the absence of a peer-reviewed publication … impedes the quality and progression of sensitive science," wrote JSCoRE co-editor William "Brad" Martin of the U.S. National Security Agency and colleagues in a poster on the journal's origins that they presented at a meeting last year. To help researchers in the booming field leap that obstacle, the poster promises that JSCoRE will "feature an editorial board consisting of cyber luminaries from inside and outside of government" and "qualified peer reviewers."

JSCoRE may reside where few can lay eyes on it, but it has plenty of company. Worldwide, intelligence services and military forces have long published secret journals that often touch on technical topics. The demand for restricted outlets is bound to grow as governments classify more information; the United States alone has dozens of categories of controlled information, including "top secret," "for official use only," and "sensitive but unclassified." But going dark doesn't mean keeping the general public entirely in the dark: JSCoRE has asked authors to provide titles and abstracts that don't have to be kept secret, so the journal can appear in public indexes.

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