Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
COMMUNICATION IN THE LIFE SCIENCES 411 Informal Publications and Correspondence Between the forum of a meeting and publication in primary journals lies a spectrum of informal routes of communication that includes correspondence and manuscript exchange among scientists, "invisible colleges," publication of newsletters, technical reports and book reviews, and listings of research in progress. Attempts to formalize manuscript exchange before editorial acceptance have met with considerable opposition, and unreviewed papers are probably best left out of formal information systems. The criterion recently established for primary publication by the Council of Biological Editors offers a realistic base line in deciding whether or not to include nonjournal materials in a storage and retrieval system. Citable publications are those in which sufficient details are given to enable peer scientists to assess the probable soundness of the results, to repeat the experiments if necessary, and to retrace the lines of reasoning that led to the conclusions. Book reviews may be valuable if they contain new ideas or offer a critical analysis of the subject. An instance of how the content of book reviews can be extracted is provided by the annual Mental Health Book Review Index,* which includes reviews in some relatively remote fields that are abstracted, however briefly, and stored in the information system. Listings of research in progress serve the purpose of alerting scientists to research projects under way, but not yet published, that may overlap, duplicate, or even conflict with their own. Such listings are provided in special fields, for example, through a collaboration between the American Society of Plant Taxonomists and the International Organization of 'Plans Biosystematists, and in a more general way through the federally sponsored Scientific Information Exchange of the Smithsonian Institution. The latter records both federally and privately sponsored research projects actually ir1 progress and covers much of primary life sciences research, distributing abstracts upon request to scientists, policy-makers, administrators, and reporters. However, while invaluable to federal science administrators, this service is rarely used by working scientists. PRIMARY PUBLICATION Advent of the computer age augurs a day when scientific publications will be recorded on magnetic tape; however, for the next several decades the ~ Menta/ Health Book Review Index: An Annual Bibliography of Books and Book Reviews in the Behavioral Sciences. Council on Research in Bibliography, Inc., Flushing, New York. 1956.
412 THE LIFE SCIENCES printed journal will remain the most economical and common form of publication. Nevertheless, contemplated solutions to the current informa- tion deluge should take the future into consideration; a log jam in a com- puter network is no more tolerable than one in printed material. The Journal Not only has the number of journals in biological sciences (13,000) out- paced the ability of scientists and teachers to read them, but also the number of pages per journal has expanded. Most scientists are frustratingly aware that, however diligently they try to keep up with the literature, they can never read all that is potentially valuable or germane to their own inter- ests. Although they may be concerned, few bench scientists are actually alarmed by this situation; most consider that they remain reasonably au courant with the leading edges of their own disciplines through a combina- tion of regular reading, attendance at meetings, seminars in their own insti- tutions, and the informal operation of "invisible colleges." This is particularly true of those whose research can be confined to a relatively narrow specialty, be it renal disease, virus structure, or resistance to smut infection. For the biological generalist seeking new insights into the forces directing evolution or behavioral adaptations to the environment, for example, the task is overwhelming, and no available information system meets his needs. Some quantitative aspects of this enterprise may be illuminating. In 1966, of our sample of respondents, 8,801, or 72.4 percent, published one or more full-length articles describing original research in journals with national or international circulation. A total of 24,573 articles were re ported, for a mean annual publication rate of 2.0 (including those who failed to publish), with 7 percent of the group publishing more than five articles a year. Eighty-eight percent of our respondents contributed at least one publication of the types listed in Table 64. Meanwhile, they also con- tributed 1,134 major reviews, 489 books and monographs, and 2,41 6 chapters that appeared in books edited by others! Figure 46 shows the proportion of biologists producing the various types of publications. Improvement of the quality of primary journals, with the reader in mind, is a paramount need. Such improvement demands changes in the editorial process, a rigorous look at standards, considerations of cost, and some commitment to the education of scientists as authors as well as investi gators. Many scientists are notoriously poor writers. A modest program of instruction in scientific writing during graduate training could lessen much of the future editorial burden. Some faculty time should be invested
COMMUNICATION IN THE LIFE SCIENCES 413 TABLE 64 Publications Reported in 1966 by 12,364 Life Scientists TYPE OF PUBLICATION INVESTIGATORS AVERAGE a REPORTING ONE NUMBER NUMBER PER OR MORE PUBLISHED RESPONDENT TOTAL, ALL TYPES10,72750,8584.1 Full-Length Research Articles8,80124,5732.0 In-House Publications2,5277,6840.6 Books and Monographs442489<0.1 Chapters in Books1,7102,4160.2 Major Reviews8871,1340.1 Abstracts of Original Research4,6689,6740.8 Other Publications -2,0284,8880.4 a Average numbers based on 12,364 respondents to individual questionnaire. Source: Survey of Individual Life Scientists, National Academy of Sciences Committee on Research in the Life Sciences.. in teaching a manner of data presentation and analysis that will be service- able for a lifetime. In selecting manuscripts for publication, editorial boards necessarily engage in value judgments. Publication priority generally goes to those manuscripts presenting significant advances in the understanding of nature. Methodology that could assist others in making important advances and work that is competent and fills gaps in understanding or knowledge but does not pave the way for new theoretical or practical advances are as- signed lower priorities. The editor's task is to decline work that is duplicative, incompetent, incorrect, or totally pedestrian. This set of edi- torial judgments is the backbone of the scientific information system; it protects the inexpert reader and those who provide research funds while assuring scientists in the field that published work has been performed with competence and that the Endings are probably reliable. In almost every scientific subfield there is a hierarchy of journals that reflects the relative quality of published papers. Although it does not exist overtly, this hierarchy is known to all sophisticated scientists within the field. Occasionally, a paper is consecutively submitted to journals of diminishing quality until it finds acceptance. Some of the deficiencies of journals can be attributed to the fact that editors usually serve on a voluntary basis, their editing competing for time with their own scientific work. Failure to provide editors with adequate assistance in handling the technical details of publishing a journal usually because of the cost of such assistance is a false economy. Such assistance
414 THE LIFE SCIENCES All Types of Publication Full-Length Research Articles In-House Publications Books and Monographs Chapters in Books Ma for Reviews Abstracts of Original Research Other Publications ::~ ~ ~ :17 hi: ~ :: ~ ~:: ~ ~ ~38~ 0 20 40 60 80 100 FIGURE 46 Percentage distribution of 12,364 respondents reporting various types of publication. (Source: Survey of Individual Life Scientists, National Academy of Sciences Committee on Re- search in the Life Sciences.) could not only lead to improved quality but could also eliminate some of the time lag between submission of a manuscript and its publication. Still unrealized is an appropriate mechanism for defraying the continually increasing costs of journal publication. These costs have risen drastically in the last two decades and, if built into subscription rates, would almost eliminate any but institutional subscribers, few of whom have the resources to purchase, bind, and store more than a small fraction of the 13,000 biological journals. The alternatives are to subsidize journals, either di- rectly en bloc, or, as is frequently the case, by an assessment, per page, levied against authors. Since federal granting agencies have agreed that publication is intrinsic to research projects, these charges are legitimately defrayed from research grants, thus lessening the burden upon institutional
COMMUNICATION IN THE LIFE SCIENCES and individual subscribers while serving as an incentive to investigator- authors to prepare tight, pithy manuscripts. In view of this policy, we find it absurdly contradictory that these agencies, as another matter of policy, consistently negotiate down requests for such page charges while awarding the research funds that support the research to be reported. For many years, sale of reprints to authors has been a major source of revenue to journals. Again, rising costs, passed on to the authors, have become an inordinate drain on research funds. In the future, however, as photocopying equipment becomes more generally available, this practice should subside and the drain on authors' research funds should diminish, but the financial plight of the journals will become still more acute. Federal research-supporting agencies should give serious consideration to these problems while there is yet time and before journals either become bank- rupt or price themselves out of business. New Forms of Primary Publication Current experiments in handling the overwhelming volume and costs of published material include the use of microcards, microfilm, and microfiche, selling individual journal articles to scientists who may have no use for entire volumes, and selling abstracts and indexes separately from journals. (The journal, Wildlife Disease,* for example, which must print long names of species or geographic locations that may be of interest only to select readers, now publishes exclusively in microfiche. ~ As the number of papers in a single issue of a journal that are of special interest to a given reader diminishes, consideration is being given to the provision of only those few he wants, although complete journal issues would continue to be bound for libraries. An attractive alternative is publication of volumes containing only summary abstracts, as tried by the new publication, Communications in Behavioral Biology~; after scanning the abstracts, readers order com- plete texts of the articles of interest to them. Future Forms of Primary Publication Rapid development of computer technology and the prospect that scientists eventually may have computer consoles on their desks suggests that the days of printed journals are numbered. There is no question that electrical Wildlife Disease. Wildlife Disease Association, Ames, Iowa. 1965. ~ Communications in Behavioral Biology. Academic Press, Inc., New York, New York. 1968. 415
THE LIFE SCIENCES transmission of information will be faster than the U.S. Mail, but the cost, at least for the foreseeable future, is high. Computer networks being planned at Project MAC (Machine-Aided Cognition) and EDUCOM (Interuniversity Communications Council) may take 10 years to construct in such a way as to place one or two terminals in each major research insti- tution in the United States, another 10 to provide terminals for small groups of scientists, and another 10 to link with other continents. But even when such a network is complete, the role of editors and reviewers will remain unchanged; indiscriminate release of unedited reports to a computer net- work could well be even more disastrous than indiscriminate publishing would be today. The International Literature Science is an international venture. Each piece of information, regardless of where it is learned, is fitted into the total intellectual framework. The volume of the biological literature and its range of subject matter are such that, without some qualitative judgments, a simple count of the number of primary journals or the number of papers is an insufficient criterion of the contribution of the life scientists of a given nation to the development of the science. To make some assessment of the American contribution to the world literature, the Biological Sciences Communication Project of the George Washington University was commissioned to undertake a limited study, some of the results of which are summarized in Tables 65 through 68. A group of 3,100 journals was identified, and the frequency with which publications are cited therein was used as a criterion of significance. Of these, 2,377 are published in 15 nations, as shown in Table 65. The United States publishes about one fourth of the world total of these journals. TABLE 65 Number of Primary Journals in the Life Sciences Published in the 15 Leading Nations United States 797 Netherlands 67 Japan 284 India 65 France 186 Spain 62 Italy 165 Norway 59 U.S.S.R. 150 Argentina 54 United Kingdom 143 Switzerland 53 West Germany 143 Brazil 52 Canada 97 Source: Data from the Biological Sciences Communication Project of the George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
COMMUNICATION IN THE LIFE SCIENCES 417 i,400 1,300 1,200 1,100 1,000 900 800 700 600 500 400 300 200 100 / I t / I / I / / I / ~1 / ~/ . /.Aq u ati c Biology , ~ ~ - Pharmacology and Toxicology Pediatrics .. , · ~ e.e' · an. Biochemistry 1900- 1910- 1920- 1930- 1940- 1950- 1960 1909 1919 1929 1939 1949 1959 1964 ti~UKk 4/ Comparative growth rates of serials in the fields of aquatic biology, biochemistry, pharmacology/toxicology, and pediatrics, ten-year periods, 1900-1964. (Source: Biological Sciences Communication Project, George Washington University, Washington, D.C.) Spot checks were made in four disciplinary areas: aquatic biology, pediatrics, biochemistry, and pharmacology and toxicology. Figure 47 shows the comparative growth rates of the numbers of serial publications in these four areas from 1900 to 1964; this figure does not reflect the numbers of actual papers published, nor does it include any qualitative
418 THE LIFE SCIENCES judgments. Some light on the forces behind the tremendous growth is provided by Table 66, which compares the sponsorship and/or ownership of journals in the four areas. Twenty-eight distinct patterns of sponsorship were found, of which only four are considered in this table. Whereas scientific societies predominate in sponsoring biochemical and pediatric journals, government agencies are the chief sponsors of journals devoted to aspects of aquatic biology, and industrial organizations contribute heavily to sponsorship of serials concerned with pharmacology and toxicolo~v A. . one survey committee selected three leading journals cnn~.rn~.~1 with biochemistry and molecular biology, pediatrics, and ecology and population biology, published in each of the following countnes: the United States, England, France, West Germany, Japan, and the U.S.S.R. The biblio- graphic citations reported in all issues of these journals published in 1966 were then examined. The bibliographies of American journals were in- spected for references to journals published in the United States and in the other five countries (Table 671; the bibliographies cited in the foreign journals were examined for references to American work (Table 681. In this set of selected foreign journals, citations of American references constituted one third of the bibliographies of all papers concerned with biochemistry and molecular biology and pediatrics, whereas American papers contributed only one sixth of the bibliographies of articles concerned with ecology and population biology. Figure 48 shows that the pattern of citation did not vary significantly from country to country. American biochemists and pediatricians found it appropriate to cite publications from the other five nations decidedly less frequently than the ~J _ ~^ A^~^V _~^J._~4 ~At ~ ~11 TABLE 66 Sources of Sponsorship of Journals in Selected Fields SPONSOR AQUATIC BIOCHEMISTRY PEDIATRICS BIOLOGY PHARMACOLOGY No. % No. % No. % No. % TOTALS 177 100.0 194 100.0 696 100.0 829 100.0 Societies 65 36.7 92 47.4 196 28.2 348 42.0 Government 18 10.2 18 9.3 450 64.7 53 6.4 Commercial Publisher 83 46.9 71 36.6 49 7.0 258 31.1 Relevant Industry 11 6.2 1 3 6.7 1 0.1 1 70 20.5 Source: Data from the Biological Sciences Communication Project of the George Washington University, Wash- ington, D.C.