Scientific Journal

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Scientific Journal


a periodical that serves as a source of scientific information and means of scientific communication. This category includes bulletins and serial publications—collections of articles and reports of scientific institutions and public conferences, such as Transactions and Proceedings (see). There are three types of scientific journals. Primary journals publish for the most part new findings or new interpretations and discussions of known facts and ideas. Secondary journals mainly provide data on primary documents and are the product of information and bibliographical activities. They include journals of abstracts and indexes to them, alert information, express information bulletins, and bibliographical journals. The third, or tertiary, type of scientific journal generalizes previously published source material. This includes survey journals, journals dealing with scientific methodology, and certain popular science or general science journals.

The World List of Scientific Periodicals, Published in the Years 1900–1960 (4th ed., vols. 1–3, 1963–65) is an international index listing approximately 60,000 titles in all sciences, including periodicals that have ceased publication. According to estimates based on the holdings of the British Museum Library, there are approximately 35,000 current titles in the exact, natural, and applied sciences. More than 3 million articles are published annually in these journals.

The scientific journal has been criticized since the 1930’s as a source of information. Various proposals for replacing it with other means of disseminating information have been made, but none has been implemented, mainly because the function of a scientific journal is not only the dissemination of information. Publication in a journal establishes the priority of the author for the work described, continuity in scientific research is achieved through references to earlier literature, access to all periodical literature ensures that science will be international in scope, and scientific journals contribute to the formation of schools of scientific thought. One area of study in the science of science is the multilevel analysis of the scientific journal.

Historical survey. The appearance of the scientific journal marked a turning point in the history of science. Scientific journals developed out of the exchange of correspondence, at first conducted informally and then in a more regular fashion, among scientists concerning research findings. The need for a more reliable system of communication led to the formation of scientific circles and “nonvisible groups,” which served as the basis for the virtually simultaneous founding of scientific journals and a number of scientific societies. The first such journals were Journal des sçavans (Paris, 1665), Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (London, 1665), and Acta eruditorum (Leipzig, 1682–1731). These three journals became the official organs, respectively, of the French Académic des Sciences, the London Royal Society, and the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin. For a century and a half, the only materials published in scientific journals were news items and information about and excerpts from new books. At first, the dissemination of research findings took the traditional form of correspondence. Only in the 19th century did the scientific journal change from being solely a means of disseminating reports of new advances to being the principal method for collecting, preserving, and disseminating scientific knowledge. As early as the first quarter of the 19th century attempts were made to organize a system of bibliographical notification; by the early 20th century, the system had evolved into the modern form of the journal of abstracts.

In Russia the first scientific journal was published in Latin by the Academy of Sciences— Commentarii Academiae scientiarum Imperialis Petropolitanae (1728–51), the forerunner of Izvestiia Akademii nauk SSSR. The first attempts to work on the problem of scientific information were associated with M. V. Lomonosov. Abstracts in Russian were published in special journals, such as Kratkoe opisanie Kommentariev Akademii nauk (1728) and Soderzhanie uchenykh rassuzhdenii Akademii nauk (1750–59), and in such general academic journals as Primechaniia k Vedomostiam (1728–42) and Ezhemesiachnye Sochineniia, k pol’ze i uveseleniiu sluzhashchie (1755–81). The oldest Russian scientific-technical journal still being published is Gornyi zhurnal (Mining Journal, 1825).

In the 1970’s, approximately 800 scientific journals are being published in the USSR, including 150 titles put out by the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and 110 by the academies of sciences of the Union republics.

For information on the major scientific journals, see the article on each journal, for example, ZHURNAL OBSHCHEI KHIMII (Journal of General Chemistry) and KRISTALLOGRAFIIA (Crystallography). See alsoASTRONOMICAL JOURNALS, BIOLOGICAL JOURNALS, and HISTORICAL JOURNALS.


Price, D. “Sistema nauchnykh publikatsii.” Uspekhi fizicheskikh nauk, 1966, vol. 90, issue 2, pp. 349–59.
Ziman, J. M. “Informatsiia, sviazi, znanie.” Uspekhi fizicheskikh nauk, 1970, vol. 101, issue 1, pp. 53–69.
Balashev, L. L. “O nauchnom zhurnale.” Nauchno-tekhnicheskaia informatsiia, series 1, 1970, no. 5, pp. 3–4.
Kronick, D. A. A History of Scientific and Technical Periodicals, 1665–1790. New York, 1962.
Porter, J. R. “The Scientific Journal—300th Anniversary.” Bacteriological Reviews, 1964, vol. 28, no. 3, pp. 211–30.


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