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The number of scientific abstracts is increasing exponentially (semi-log scale), doubling about every 15 years.

Journals are a key element of scientific life. A partly public source of information, the end point of a project, and a measure of researcher productivity. The first was published in 1665 and many new ones appear every year with the number of articles growing at 3-5% per year [1][2]. Current debate regarding journals revolves principally around the issues of increasing subscription costs and rare open access to mostly publicly funded scientific results.

Key numbers

Subscription cost of journals are skyrocketing. Increases cannot be justified by inflation.
  • ~30'000 scholarly peer-reviewed science/technical/medical journals (STM 2012, p5)
  • ~2 million articles per year; 20% USA, 10% China, 7% UK, 6% Japan, 6% Germany (STM'12, p5)

  • ~20% of science articles are available free of charge
    • 6-8% of articles are direct open access (i.e. made available by the publisher as opposed to the authors) [3]
    • 12% free manuscript versions can be found using search engines [4]
  • share of direct open access articles is increasing swiftly at +20% per year [5]

  • researchers are reading more (270 articles/y) but spend less time per article (30min, down from 45min in mid 90s) (STM'12, p6)

  • ~5'000 publishers in total (STM'12, p33)
  • top 3 (Elsevier, Springer, Wiley) account for over ~40% of articles published [6]
  • average price of an article is £3100 ($4800/€3700) to the buyer (STM'12, p47 2010 CEPA, original figure in £; €/$ converted in 2013)
    • 41% peer review management, copy-editing, typesetting & origination
    • 19% variable costs (printing, paper, distribution)
    • 21% indirect costs (staff and overheads)
    • 19% "surplus", i.e. profit
  • 80% of buyers of subscription are mostly publicly funded university libraries [7]
  • profits Elsevier 2010 36%, Springer 2010 34%, Wiley 2012 Q1 42% [8]


The first scientific journals were founded in 17th century Europe, at a time of Louis XIV, Baroque art, extensive warfare, and the Scientific Revolution. In January 1665, the French publication Journal des sçavans (journal of savants) was the first on the scene with a mix of science, history, and law, morphing later into a literary journal which no longer publishes significant scientific results. In April 1665, the English Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society started publishing - philosophical referring to natural philosophy which would now be called science. The journal is still active [9] and can be considered the world's oldest exclusively scientific journal.

  • 1960s: peer review, although a much older concept, is becoming widespread; Nature institutes peer review in 1967
  • 1964: MEDLARS, predecessor of PubMed, launched; computerized search of a huge public repository of abstracts becomes possible
  • 1970s: companies like Elsevier increasingly buy up academic journals from the non-profits and academic societies Bergstrom'06, fig3, subsequently raising subscription fees
  • 1990s: electronic-only journals (i.e. without a printed version) start being published (list of E-only journals)
  • 1991: - 1st free scientific online archive of articles
  • 1997: PubMed offers internet access to the huge MEDLINE repository
  • 2004: Google Scholar is launched
  • 2006: JoVE - 1st video life science journal


Alphabetical listing of journals

Here is a collection of journals split into separate pages based on the first letter of the journal name. The list includes the full journal title and the standard abbreviation of the journal title.

Journals | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

See also