Scientific journal

Scientific journal

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In academic publishing
Academic publishing
Academic publishing describes the subfield of publishing which distributes academic research and scholarship. Most academic work is published in journal article, book or thesis form. The part of academic written output that is not formally published but merely printed up or posted is often called...

, a scientific journal is a periodical publication
Periodical publication
Periodical literature is a published work that appears in a new edition on a regular schedule. The most familiar examples are the newspaper, often published daily, or weekly; or the magazine, typically published weekly, monthly or as a quarterly...

 intended to further the progress of science
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

, usually by reporting new research
Research
Research can be defined as the scientific search for knowledge, or as any systematic investigation, to establish novel facts, solve new or existing problems, prove new ideas, or develop new theories, usually using a scientific method...

. There are thousands of scientific journals in publication, and many more have been published at various points in the past (see list of scientific journals). Most journals are highly specialized, although some of the oldest journals such as Nature
Nature (journal)
Nature, first published on 4 November 1869, is ranked the world's most cited interdisciplinary scientific journal by the Science Edition of the 2010 Journal Citation Reports...

publish articles and scientific papers across a wide range of scientific fields. Scientific journals contain articles that have been peer review
Peer review
Peer review is a process of self-regulation by a profession or a process of evaluation involving qualified individuals within the relevant field. Peer review methods are employed to maintain standards, improve performance and provide credibility...

ed, in an attempt to ensure that articles meet the journal's standards of quality, and scientific validity
Validity
In logic, argument is valid if and only if its conclusion is entailed by its premises, a formula is valid if and only if it is true under every interpretation, and an argument form is valid if and only if every argument of that logical form is valid....

. Although scientific journals are superficially similar to professional
Professional
A professional is a person who is paid to undertake a specialised set of tasks and to complete them for a fee. The traditional professions were doctors, lawyers, clergymen, and commissioned military officers. Today, the term is applied to estate agents, surveyors , environmental scientists,...

 magazine
Magazine
Magazines, periodicals, glossies or serials are publications, generally published on a regular schedule, containing a variety of articles. They are generally financed by advertising, by a purchase price, by pre-paid magazine subscriptions, or all three...

s, they are actually quite different. Issues of a scientific journal are rarely read casually, as one would read a magazine. The publication of the results of research is an essential part of the scientific method
Scientific method
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

. If they are describing experiments or calculations, they must supply enough details that an independent researcher could repeat the experiment or calculation to verify the results. Each such journal article becomes part of the permanent scientific record.

The history of scientific journals dates from 1665, when the French Journal des sçavans
Journal des sçavans
The Journal des sçavans , founded by Denis de Sallo, was the earliest academic journal published in Europe, that from the beginning also carried a proportion of material that would not now be considered scientific, such as obituaries of famous men, church history, and legal reports...

and the English Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society
The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society is a scientific journal published by the Royal Society of London. It was established in 1665, making it the first journal in the world exclusively devoted to science, and it has remained in continuous publication ever since, making it the world's...

first began systematically publishing research results. Over a thousand, mostly ephemeral
Ephemeral
Ephemeral things are transitory, existing only briefly. Typically the term is used to describe objects found in nature, although it can describe a wide range of things....

, were founded in the 18th century, and the number has increased rapidly after that.

Articles in scientific journals can be used in research and higher education. Some classes are partially devoted to the explication of classic articles, and seminar
Seminar
Seminar is, generally, a form of academic instruction, either at an academic institution or offered by a commercial or professional organization. It has the function of bringing together small groups for recurring meetings, focusing each time on some particular subject, in which everyone present is...

 classes can consist of the presentation by each student of a classic or current paper. In a scientific research group or academic department
Academic department
An academic department is a division of a university or school faculty devoted to a particular academic discipline. This article covers United States usage at the university level....

 it is usual for the content of current scientific journals to be discussed in journal club
Journal club
A journal club is a group of individuals who meet regularly to critically evaluate recent articles in scientific literature. Journal clubs are usually organized around a defined subject in basic or applied research. For example, the application of evidence-based medicine to some area of medical...

s.

The standards that a journal uses to determine publication can vary widely. Some journals, such as Nature
Nature (journal)
Nature, first published on 4 November 1869, is ranked the world's most cited interdisciplinary scientific journal by the Science Edition of the 2010 Journal Citation Reports...

, Science
Science (journal)
Science is the academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is one of the world's top scientific journals....

, PNAS, and Physical Review Letters
Physical Review Letters
Physical Review Letters , established in 1958, is a peer reviewed, scientific journal that is published 52 times per year by the American Physical Society...

, have a reputation of publishing articles that mark a fundamental breakthrough in their respective fields. In many fields, an informal hierarchy of scientific journals exists; the most prestigious journal in a field tends to be the most selective in terms of the articles it will select for publication, and will also have the highest impact factor
Impact factor
The impact factor, often abbreviated IF, is a measure reflecting the average number of citations to articles published in science and social science journals. It is frequently used as a proxy for the relative importance of a journal within its field, with journals with higher impact factors deemed...

. It is also common for journals to have a regional focus, specializing in publishing papers from a particular country or other geographic region, like African Invertebrates
African Invertebrates
African Invertebrates is a peer-reviewed scientific journal that covers the taxonomy, systematics, biogeography, ecology, conservation, and palaeontology of Afrotropical invertebrates, whether terrestrial, freshwater, or marine...

.

Articles tend to be highly technical, representing the latest theoretical research and experimental results in the field of science covered by the journal. They are often incomprehensible to anyone except for researchers in the field and advanced students. In some subjects this is inevitable given the nature of the content. Usually, rigorous rules of scientific writing
Scientific writing
-History:Scientific writing in English started in the 14th century.The Royal Society established good practice for scientific writing. Founder member Thomas Sprat wrote on the importance of plain and accurate description rather than rhetorical flourishes in his History of the Royal Society of London...

 are enforced by the editors; however, these rules may vary from journal to journal, especially between journals from different publishers.

Types of articles


There are several types of journal articles; the exact terminology and definitions vary by field and specific journal, but often include:
  • Letters (also called communications, and not to be confused with letters to the editor) are short descriptions of important current research findings that are usually fast-tracked for immediate publication because they are considered urgent.
  • Research notes are short descriptions of current research findings that are considered less urgent or important than Letters.
  • Articles are usually between five and twenty pages and are complete descriptions of current original research findings, but there are considerable variations between scientific fields and journals – 80-page articles are not rare in mathematics
    Mathematics
    Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

     or theoretical computer science
    Theoretical computer science
    Theoretical computer science is a division or subset of general computer science and mathematics which focuses on more abstract or mathematical aspects of computing....

    .
  • Supplemental articles contain a large volume of tabular data
    Data
    The term data refers to qualitative or quantitative attributes of a variable or set of variables. Data are typically the results of measurements and can be the basis of graphs, images, or observations of a set of variables. Data are often viewed as the lowest level of abstraction from which...

     that is the result of current research and may be dozens or hundreds of pages with mostly numerical data. Some journals now only publish this data electronically on the internet.
  • Review articles do not cover original research but rather accumulate the results of many different articles on a particular topic into a coherent narrative about the state of the art in that field. Review articles provide information about the topic and also provide journal references to the original research. Reviews may be entirely narrative, or may provide quantitative summary estimates resulting from the application of meta-analytical methods
    Meta-analysis
    In statistics, a meta-analysis combines the results of several studies that address a set of related research hypotheses. In its simplest form, this is normally by identification of a common measure of effect size, for which a weighted average might be the output of a meta-analyses. Here the...

    .


The formats of journal articles vary, but many follow the general IMRAD
IMRAD
- The basic structure of a scientific paper :The IMRAD structure is currently the most prominent norm for the structure of a scientific paper. IMRAD is an acronym for Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion...

 scheme recommended by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE). Such articles begin with an abstract
Abstract (summary)
An abstract is a brief summary of a research article, thesis, review, conference proceeding or any in-depth analysis of a particular subject or discipline, and is often used to help the reader quickly ascertain the paper's purpose. When used, an abstract always appears at the beginning of a...

, which is a one-to-four-paragraph summary of the paper. The introduction describes the background for the research including a discussion of similar research. The materials and methods or experimental section provides specific details of how the research was conducted. The results and discussion section describes the outcome and implications of the research, and the conclusion section places the research in context and describes avenues for further exploration.

In addition to the above, some scientific journals such as Science will include a news section where scientific developments (often involving political issues) are described. These articles are often written by science journalists and not by scientists. In addition, some journals will include an editorial section and a section for letters to the editor. While these are articles published within a journal, in general they are not regarded as scientific journal articles because they have not been peer-reviewed.

Electronic publishing


Electronic publishing is a new area of information dissemination. One definition of electronic publishing is in the context of the scientific journal. It is the presentation of scholarly scientific results in only an electronic (non-paper) form. This is from its first write-up, or creation, to its publication or dissemination. The electronic scientific journal is specifically designed to be presented on the internet. It is defined as not being previously printed material adapted, or re-tooled, and then delivered electronically.

Electronical publishing will exist alongside paper publishing, because printed paper publishing is not expected to disappear in the future. Output to a screen is important for browsing and searching but is not well adapted for extensive reading. Paper copies of selected information will definitely be required. Therefore the article has to be transmitted electronically to the reader's local printer. Formats suitable both for reading on paper, and for manipulation by the reader's computer will need to be integrated.

Electronic counterparts of established print journals already promote and deliver rapid dissemination of peer reviewed and edited, "published" articles. Other journals, whether spin-offs of established print journals, or created as electronic only, have come into existence promoting the rapid dissemination capability, and availability, on the Internet. In tandem with this is the speeding up of peer review, copyediting, page makeup, and other steps in the process to support rapid dissemination.

Other improvements, benefits and unique values of electronically publishing the scientific journal are lower cost, and availability to more people, especially scientists from non-developed countries. Hence, research results from more developed nations are becoming more accessible to scientists from non-developed countries.

Moreover, electronic publishing of scientific journals has been accomplished without compromising the standards of the refereed, peer review process.

One form is the online equivalent of the conventional paper journal. By 2006, almost all scientific journals have, while retaining their peer-review process, established electronic versions; a number have moved entirely to electronic publication. In similar manner, most academic libraries buy the electronic version, and purchase a paper copy only for the most important or most-used titles.

There is usually a delay of several months after an article is written before it is published in a journal, making paper journals not an ideal format for announcing the latest research. Many journals now publish the final papers in their electronic version as soon as they are ready, without waiting for the assembly of a complete issue, as is necessary with paper. In many fields in which even greater speed is wanted, such as physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

, the role of the journal at disseminating the latest research has largely been replaced by preprint
Preprint
A preprint is a draft of a scientific paper that has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.-Role:Publication of manuscripts in a peer-reviewed journal often takes weeks, months or even years from the time of initial submission, because manuscripts must undergo extensive...

 databases such as arXiv.org. Almost all such articles are eventually published in traditional journals, which still provide an important role in quality control
Quality control
Quality control, or QC for short, is a process by which entities review the quality of all factors involved in production. This approach places an emphasis on three aspects:...

, archiving papers, and establishing scientific credit.

Cost


Many scientists and librarians have long protested the cost of journals, especially as they see these payments going to large for-profit publishing houses. To allow their researchers online access to journals, many universities purchase site licenses, permitting access from anywhere in the university, and, with appropriate authorization, by university-affiliated users at home or elsewhere. These may be quite expensive, sometimes much more than the cost for a print subscription, although this reflects the number of people who will be using the license; a print subscription is the cost for one person to receive the journal, whereas a site-license can let thousands of people access it.

Publications by scholarly societies, also known as not-for-profit-publishers (NFP), usually cost less than commercial publishers, but the prices of their scientific journals are still usually several thousand dollars a year. In general, this money is used to fund the activities of the scientific societies that run such journals, or is invested in providing further scholarly resources for scientists; thus, the money remains in and benefits the scientific sphere.

Despite the transition to electronic publishing, the serials crisis
Serials crisis
The term serials crisis has become a common shorthand to describe the chronic subscription cost increases of many scholarly journals. The prices of these institutional or library subscriptions have been rising much faster than the Consumer Price Index for several decades, while the funds available...

 persists.

Concerns about cost and open access have led to the creation of free-access journals such as the Public Library of Science
Public Library of Science
The Public Library of Science is a nonprofit open-access scientific publishing project aimed at creating a library of open access journals and other scientific literature under an open content license...

 (PLoS) family and partly open or reduced-cost journals such as the Journal of High Energy Physics
Journal of High Energy Physics
The Journal of High Energy Physics is a refereed scientific journal in the field of high energy physics, owned by the International School for Advanced Studies and published by Springer.The journal covers the following areas of theoretical and experimental physics:Collider PhysicsUnderground and...

. However, professional editors still have to be paid, and PLoS still relies heavily on donations from foundations to cover the majority of its operating costs; smaller journals do not often have access to such resources.

An article titled "Online or Invisible?" has used statistical arguments to show that electronic publishing
Publishing
Publishing is the process of production and dissemination of literature or information—the activity of making information available to the general public...

 online, and to some extent open access, both provide wider dissemination and increase the average number of citations an article receives. Lawrence postulates that papers that are easier to access are used more often and therefore cited more often.

Copyright


Traditionally, the author of an article was required to transfer the copyright
Copyright
Copyright is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time...

 to the journal publisher. Publishers claimed this was necessary in order to protect author's rights, and to coordinate permissions for reprints or other use. However, many authors, especially those active in the open access movement, found this unsatisfactory, and have used their influence to effect a gradual move towards a license to publish instead. Under such a system, the publisher has permission to edit, print, and distribute the article commercially, but the author(s) retain the other rights themselves.

Even if they retain the copyright to an article, most journals allow certain rights to their authors. These rights usually include the ability to reuse parts of the paper in the author's future work, and allow him to distribute a limited number of copies. In the print format, such copies are called reprints; in the electronic format, they are called postprints
Postprints
A postprint is a digital draft of a research journal article after it has been peer reviewed. A digital draft before peer review is called a preprint...

. Some publishers, for example the American Physical Society
American Physical Society
The American Physical Society is the world's second largest organization of physicists, behind the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft. The Society publishes more than a dozen scientific journals, including the world renowned Physical Review and Physical Review Letters, and organizes more than 20...

, also grant the author the right to post and update the article on the author's or employer's website and on free e-print servers, to grant permission to others to use or reuse figures, and even to reprint the article as long as no fee is charged. The rise of open access journals, in which the author retains the copyright but must pay a publication charge, such as the Public Library of Science
Public Library of Science
The Public Library of Science is a nonprofit open-access scientific publishing project aimed at creating a library of open access journals and other scientific literature under an open content license...

 family of journals, is another recent response to copyright concerns.

See also

  • List of scientific journals
  • Academic conference
    Academic conference
    An academic conference or symposium is a conference for researchers to present and discuss their work. Together with academic or scientific journals, conferences provide an important channel for exchange of information between researchers.-Overview:Conferences are usually composed of various...

  • Academic journal
    Academic journal
    An academic journal is a peer-reviewed periodical in which scholarship relating to a particular academic discipline is published. Academic journals serve as forums for the introduction and presentation for scrutiny of new research, and the critique of existing research...

  • Citation index
    Citation index
    A citation index is a kind of bibliographic database, an index of citations between publications, allowing the user to easily establish which later documents cite which earlier documents. The first citation indices were legal citators such as Shepard's Citations...

  • Google Scholar
    Google Scholar
    Google Scholar is a freely accessible web search engine that indexes the full text of scholarly literature across an array of publishing formats and disciplines. Released in beta in November 2004, the Google Scholar index includes most peer-reviewed online journals of Europe and America's largest...

  • Mathematical journal
    Mathematical journal
    A mathematics journal is a scientific journal which publishes exclusively mathematics papers. A practical definition of the current state of mathematics, as a research field, is that it consists of theorems with proofs published in a reputable mathematics journal, and which usually have passed...

  • Open access journal
    Open access journal
    Open access journals are scholarly journals that are available online to the reader "without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself." Some are subsidized, and some require payment on behalf of the author.Subsidized journals...

  • Scientific writing
    Scientific writing
    -History:Scientific writing in English started in the 14th century.The Royal Society established good practice for scientific writing. Founder member Thomas Sprat wrote on the importance of plain and accurate description rather than rhetorical flourishes in his History of the Royal Society of London...

  • IMRAD
    IMRAD
    - The basic structure of a scientific paper :The IMRAD structure is currently the most prominent norm for the structure of a scientific paper. IMRAD is an acronym for Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion...


External links