Leading publishers and observers of the science publishing scene comment in essay form on key developments over the past century. The scale of the global research effort and its industrial organisation have resulted in substantial increases in the published volume, as well as new techniques for its handling. The former languages of science communication, like Latin and German, have given way to English. The domination of European science before WWII has been followed by large efforts in North America and the Far East. The roots of the National Library of Medicine lie in the US Army medical library, the US War effort gave rise to hypertext, and the US defense reaction to the Soviet Sputnik resulted in the Internet. The European invention of the Web has also changed the science publishing scene in the past five years. Some characteristic publishing enterprises, commercial and society owned, are described in a series of articles. These are followed by analysis of recent developments and possible changes to come. Functions of publishers, librarians and agents are brought into context. The future of publishing is currently being debated on open channels, while the historical dimension and professional input are sometimes lacking.
In recent years interest in science publishing has broadened and now extends well beyond the narrow confines of publishing professionals. Publishers, librarians and distribution agents all have their own forums for discussion. This collection of essays is an attempt to bring professional publishers a bit closer to the large community they serve: authors, editors scientists/readers, as well as other partners and colleagues in the collection and distribution of information. Science publishing has grown as a result of the extension of services provided by publishers to scientists and experts from the outset of formation of (new) disciplines.
The time frame has been set to cover actors and developments in the 20th century, noting that major innovations like the Internet have only made an impact since 1990 and the World Wide Web since 1995. Also, science publishing has a history stretching back for many centuries. While concentrating on some of the leading actors of the past century, some characteristic features introduced before 1900 are commented upon. In the second half of the book we attempt to cover key trends and innovations which have had an impact on our industry — notably since World War II. Transition in the language(s) of science has also meant transition in the locations where management of communications takes place.
At the start of the past century there were comparatively few scientists, and that holds true (to a lesser degree) for the period around 1950 as well. Their mode of communication with colleagues, be it through correspondence by letter, visits to key colleagues and institutions, membership of societies, and attendance at conferences, is considered as background to several of the contributions. Formal publications were through books and journals and this system has been preserved throughout the 20th century. No-one denies the massive changes which have taken place over this period, the increase in the number of scientists and the large measure of internationalization. The evolution of the Internet and the Web has resulted in a large information garbage belt in which many valuable pieces can be found — sometimes only after great effort.
All participants in the science publishing chain (or circle as some observers prefer, from the scientist/author to the scientist/reader) have been affected by innovations ranging from the mechanical typewriter, photocopying, telecommunications, computers, all the way to database and search technologies. Today the Internet involves millions of servers and billions of homepages. Communication between scientists and the role of publishers and other actors are no doubt subject to change. On the other hand, last month a journalist commenting on the year 2000 performance of market leader Reed-Elsevier used the headline “a second life for the dinosaurs”. Is the old saying “plus ça change, c'est plus la même chose” still applicable?
An additional reason to put together this collection has been to celebrate two of my colleagues who at this time have served 50 years in the publishing profession: Seiji Sato in 1999 and Hans Kruschwitz this year. I take this occasion also to express sincere thanks to my family and colleagues, too many to thank individually, for having made this publication possible.
The overall scope of this book is scientific publishing from 1900, but 1900 is a somewhat arbitrary date in the history of academic publishing which, for the most part from 1900 to 1940 was a continuation of that in earlier times. There were substantial changes from about 1850 and then after 1950, so that it is natural to consider the hundred years between those dates as a whole. There were considerable advances in physics in 1900, which also influenced chemistry, and they had consequences in publishing, but the journals founded before 1900 continued into the new century and relatively few new ones appeared after 1900. The procedures and economics of academic publishing up to 1950 also remained much as they had been for almost two centuries. Thus something must be said about the development of academic publishing in science from the end of the seventeenth century onwards in order to understand its nature in the first half of the twentieth. That is the plan of this chapter.
The physical sciences underwent greater developments and were generally more advanced by 1900 than were the biological sciences, and that is reflected in the greater prominence given to the physical journals in this essay. Most attention is also given to publishing in English, not because that in other languages was negligble but because it was on the whole parallel, and the account of English language publishing covers most of the issues that arose in other languages.
The development of commercial scientific publishing companies in Germany commenced in the middle of the 19th century. University and Academy publishers never had a chance. Scientific society publishers emerged only in 1921/1923 during inflation, but had little impact. German publishers dominated in particular in Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry. In 1909, 45% of the articles covered by the Chemical abstracts were from German publications. Until 1933 the German language was the “lingua franca” of Europe's scientific community. The export of German science publishers was significant, and in 1930 around 60% of Springer Verlag's turnover came from export. The international significance of German science can be seen from the large number of Nobel Prizes bestowed on it: 15 German scientists were recipients from 1901 to 1915, 16 from 1918 to 1932. After 1933 many highly qualified scientists fled the Nazis and found refuge in the Western world, constituting the start of the decline of German science. During World War II German science literature was reprinted on a large scale and sold worldwide. After the War the German language had definitively lost its world significance and German companies concentrated thereafter on production of textbooks and journals for the home market. In the sixties they also commenced publication of research literature in English.
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