In academic publishing, a scientific journal is a periodical publication intended to further the progress of science, usually by reporting new research. Most journals are highly specialized, although some of the oldest journals such as Nature publish articles and scientific papers across a wide range of scientific fields. Scientific journals contain articles that have been peer reviewed, in an attempt to ensure that articles meet the journal's standards of quality, and scientific validity. Although scientific journals are superficially similar to professional magazines, 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. 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 and the English Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society first began systematically publishing research results. Over a thousand, mostly ephemeral, were founded in the 18th century, and the number has increased rapidly after that. (D. A. Kronick, "History of Scientific and Technical Periodicals," 2nd ed. Scarecrow, 1976)
These articles can be used in research and graduate education. Some classes are partially devoted to the explication of classic articles, and seminar classes can consist of the presentation by each student of a classic or current paper. In a scientific research group or academic department it is usual for the content of current scientific journals to be discussed in journal clubs.
The standards that a journal uses to determine publication can vary widely. Some journals, such as Nature, Science, PNAS and Physical Review Letters, have a reputation of publishing articles which 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. 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.
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.
The formats of journal articles vary, but many follow the general IMRAD scheme recommended by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE). Such articles begin with an abstract, 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, they are not generally regarded as scientific journal articles because they have not been peer reviewed.
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. Most academic libraries, similarly, 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 and this makes 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 where even greater speed is wanted, such as physics, the role of the journal at disseminating the latest research has largely been replaced by preprint databases such as arXiv.org. Almost all such articles are eventually published in traditional journals, which still provide an important role in quality control, archiving papers, and establishing scientific credit.
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. However, this money is generally used to fund the activities of the scientific societies that run such journals, or is invested in providing further scholarly resources for scientists, and thus the money remains in and benefits the scientific sphere.
Despite the transition to electronic publishing, the serials crisis persists.
Concerns about cost and open access have led to the creation of free-access journals such as the Public Library of Science (PLoS) family and partly-open or reduced-cost journals such as the Journal of High Energy Physics. 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 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. However, this is more an argument in favour of disseminating research online, than for open access per se.
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. Some publishers, for example the American Physical Society, 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 family of journals is another recent response to copyright concerns.
Teaching the Anatomy of a Scientific Journal Article: Three Activities Engage Students in the Process of Science
Oct 01, 2008; [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] An overarching goal of inquiry-based science education is to have every student experience the world as a...