A History of Scientific Journals: Publishing at the Royal Society 1665-2015 | UCL Press

Aileen Fyfe, Noah Moxham, Julie McDougall-Waters, and Camilla Mørk Røstvik (2022) A History of Scientific Journals: Publishing at the Royal Society 1665-2015. UCL Press. https://www.uclpress.co.uk/collections/ro_homepage_products/products/187262


Modern scientific research has changed so much since Isaac Newton’s day: it is more professional, collaborative and international, with more complicated equipment and a more diverse community of researchers. Yet the use of scientific journals to report, share and store results is a thread that runs through the history of science from Newton’s day to ours. Scientific journals are now central to academic research and careers. Their editorial and peer-review processes act as a check on new claims and findings, and researchers build their careers on the list of journal articles they have published. The journal that reported Newton’s optical experiments still exists. First published in 1665, and now fully digital, the Philosophical Transactions has carried papers by Charles Darwin, Dorothy Hodgkin and Stephen Hawking. It is now one of eleven journals published by the Royal Society of London.

Unrivalled insights from the Royal Society’s comprehensive archives have enabled the authors to investigate more than 350 years of scientific journal publishing. The editorial management, business practices and financial difficulties of the Philosophical Transactions and its sibling Proceedings reveal the meaning and purpose of journals in a changing scientific community. At a time when we are surrounded by calls to reform the academic publishing system, it has never been more urgent that we understand its history.


ResearchGate Newsroom | ResearchGate and Royal Society partner to increase accessibility of research

“The Royal Society, the UK’s national science academy, and ResearchGate, the professional network for researchers, announced today a content syndication partnership that will see the addition of 5,000 open access (OA) articles from journals Open Biology and Royal Society Open Science to ResearchGate.

The goal of the partnership is to increase the visibility, accessibility, and consumption of Royal Society gold open access publications in alignment with the Society’s purpose to recognize, promote, and support excellence in science and encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity….”

Development, implementation and impact of a new preprint solicitation process at Proceedings B | Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

Preprints are manuscripts posted on a public server that do not yet have formal certification of peer review from a scholarly journal. The increasingly prominent online repositories for these preprints provide a means of rapidly making scientific results accessible to all with an Internet connection. We here describe the catalysis and subsequent development of a successful new process to solicit preprints for consideration for publication in Proceedings B. We present preliminary comparisons between the focal topics and geographic origin of submitting authors of papers submitted in the traditional (non-solicited) route versus solicited preprints. This analysis suggests that the solicitation process seems to be achieving one of the primary goals of the preprint solicitation endeavour: broadening the scope of the papers featured in Proceedings B. We also use an informal survey of the early-career scientists that are or have been involved with the Preprint Editorial Team to find that these scientists view their participation positively with respect to career development and knowledge in their field. The inclusion of early-career researchers from across the world in the preprint solicitation process could also translate into social justice benefits by providing a career-building opportunity and a window into the publishing process for young scientists.

The Royal Society sets 75% threshold to ‘flip’ its research journals to Open Access over the next five years | Royal Society

“In an exciting new chapter for its scientific publishing, the Royal Society sets out how it will transition its primary research journals to open access and make more of its world-leading research available to all.

Following a review by its Council, the Royal Society has committed to ‘flipping’ the journals Biology Letters, Interface, Proceedings A, and Proceedings B to a fully open access model when 75% of articles are being published open access.

This transition will be driven chiefly by the expansion of Read & Publish agreements with major research institutions, enabling their scientific research output to be published open access in the Society’s journals.

The process is already well underway, the Society launched Royal Society Read & Publish in January 2021 and has pioneered new agreements – including a shared funding arrangement announced this year with the University of California….”

What the history of copyright in academic publishing tells us about Open Research | Impact of Social Sciences

“It has become a fact of academic life, that when researchers publish papers in academic journals, they sign away the copyright to their research, or licence it for distribution. However, from a historical perspective this practice is a relatively recent phenomenon. In this post Aileen Fyfe, explores how copyright has become intertwined with scholarly publishing and presents three insights from the history of the Royal Society that inform ongoing debates around openness in research and scholarly communication….”

Publication of peer review reports in Proceedings B and Royal Society Open Science | Publishing blog | Royal Society

We recognise the power of publishing peer review information and several of our journals have signed up to doing this through the ASAPBio open letter. Following a positive response from the communities we serve, Proceedings B and Royal Society Open Science plan to make the editorial process of papers as transparent as possible by mandating the publication of peer review reports on all manuscripts submitted from 2 January 2019….”