Scientific Literature

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Scientific Literature


the aggregate of written and published records that are generated by research or theoretical summarizations and are circulated to inform specialists on the latest achievements of science and on the progress and results of research. Regardless of the specific area of science, the subject of scientific literature is science itself—ideas and the facts, laws, and categories discovered by scientists. A scientific study is considered to be incomplete until its results have been recorded in written form for dissemination. Publication of a scientific work is essential in cases of a question concerning the establishment of scientific priority.

In terms of its social function and objective in society, scientific literature is not only a product but also the tool of intellectual endeavor, “a tool of no less importance than a research instrument. The well-organized publication of scientific literature is a necessary condition for high efficiency of scientific effort. It is at once a type of accounting, an arena for the competition of ideas, and a means for introducing scientific achievements into practice” (Pravda, Dec. 15, 1966, p. 2).

Early scientific publications were written in the form of treatises, dialogues, discourses, “instructions,” “journeys,” and biographies, and even in poetic forms (odes and poems). These forms were gradually replaced by new ones, such as monographs, surveys, articles, reports, critical reviews, biographical and geographical essays, announcements, authors’ abstracts, and abstracts and summaries of papers and communications circulated in published form. Modern forms of scientific literature also include unpublished material, such as dissertations (which may later provide the basis for monographs) and reports on research.

The style of modern scientific literature is distinguished by objectivity, by strict logic of presentation, and by clarity and precision of literary language in combination with the use of scientific notation (terms, symbols, formulas, graphs, diagrams, drawings, and so on). A tendency toward internationalization of scientific style is observed; it is particularly reflected in the attempts to create compositional uniformity of scientific publications (objective, results achieved by predecessors, method, materials, experimental technique, results and their evaluation, and predictions for the future).

The scientific and technological revolution of the mid-20th century produced the “information explosion,” which is characterized by an avalanche-like increase in the flow of scientific publications. This, in turn, has led to certain changes in the types of scientific publications. There has been an increase in the number and scope of periodical and serial publications, accompanied by a certain reduction in the number of publications in book form. There is also a tendency toward transformation of occasional, nonperiodical collections into serial publications and of serial publications into journals and bulletins. “Journals of brief communications” and “letters to the editor” are appearing (highly current, high-priority publications). New forms of circulation of scientific papers are being adopted. Among them are the deposition system, in which a paper prepared for publication is submitted for storage to the appropriate information center, which publishes a brief account of it and provides a copy on request, and the preprint system, which is the production and distribution of a few copies of scientific communications for the information of a narrow circle of specialists.

Scientific informational literature has taken shape as a separate group of publications containing the results of analytical and synthetic processing of primary scientific publications in the form of bibliographic descriptions, abstracts, condensed publications, or survey documents. As a consequence of the differentiation of science and the deepening separation of its various branches, specialized scientific information publications are becoming more widespread.

Scientific literature is published in the USSR by the Nauka (Science) Publishing House, as well as by the publishing houses of the Union republics (Naukova Dumka in the Ukrainian SSR and Nauka i Tekhnika in the Byelorussian SSR). These publishing houses produce 55 percent of the entire scientific literature. In addition, scientific literature is being published by the publishing houses Mysl’ (Thought), Mir (Peace), and Progress; the central sectorial publishing houses, major higher educational institutions, and numerous research institutes. In 1972, 6,992 scientific book and bulletin titles were published, with a total printing of more than 23 million (the figures for 1960 were 5,100 and 12.9 million, respectively).

In 1972, 7,834 titles in scientific informational literature, with a printing of 4.8 million copies, were published by all-Union, central sectorial, and intersectorial institutes and centers of scientific and technical information (in 1966 the figures were 2,200 and 1.4 million, respectively).

Scientific literature is highly varied in terms of the publications, among which are collected works of the classics of science, as well as of contemporary Soviet and foreign scientists; general-scientific series (Klassiki nauki [Classics of Science] and Literaturnye pamiatniki [Literary Monuments]); specialized series (for example, Filosofskoe nasledie [Philosophical Heritage] and Mekhanika kosmicheskogo poleta [Mechanics of Space Flight]); single-volume and multivolume serial and occasional publications of historic documents (Literaturnoe nasledstvo [Literary Heritage]); and single-volume and multivolume monographs of individual authors and groups of authors (for example, the ten-volume Vsemirnaia istoriia [World History]). The growth of scientific periodical and serial publications is characteristic.

Among such publications, serial bulletins and collections, such as Trudy (Transactions) and Uchenye zapiski (Scientific Notes), accounted for 59.3 percent of the total volume of periodical and serial publications in 1940 and 79.7 percent in 1972.

According to UN data, the volume of publications in the international pure sciences classification in 1968–70 decreased by 0.5–5.0 percent in most countries in terms of the number of titles. At the same time, there was a stable growth of 1–6 percent of total titles in the social sciences classification. In terms of the absolute number of titles in the pure sciences and social sciences classifications, the USSR occupies a leading place. The number of titles published in these two classifications in 1970 were as follows: USSR, 6,600 and 19,300, respectively; Great Britain, 3,400 and 6,000; USA, 2,500 and 1,300; Federal Republic of Germany, 2,500 and 13,700; Japan, 2,100 and 7,000; France, 1,200 and 5,100 (Statistical Yearbook 1972, New York, 1973).


Lenin, V. I. O nauke i vysshem obrazovanii [collection]. Moscow, 1967.
Giliarevskii, R. S. “O budushchem nauchno-tekhnicheskoi knigi. “ In the collection Kniga: Issledovaniia i materialy, 1964, no. 9.
Likhtenshtein, E. S. “Nauka i kniga.” Ibid., 1967.
Senkevich, M. P. Literaturnoe redaktirovanie nauchnykh proizvedenii. Moscow, 1970.
Sovremennaia nauchno-tekhnicheskaia revoliutsiia, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1970.
Fokin, S. Ia. “Nauchnaia literatura i chislennost’ nauchnykh rabotnikov v SSSR.” In the collection Kniga: Issledovaniia i materialy, 1966, no. 13.


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