40 years ago in Chemistry in Britain

40 years ago in Chemistry in Britain

It is fashionable today to devise new ’secondary’ journals and computer programmes for the retrieval of published scientific information, but apparently it has been forgotten that burial necessarily precedes resurrection. 

In recent years scientists have become adept at information burial, by supporting the proliferation of new journals. 

The purchase costs of journals have now risen so much that even well-endowed libraries are being forced to be selective, and hence a scientist who sends his/her paper to a minor specialist journal can thereby be burying his/her information very effectively. 

Chemical information cannot be completely indexed and computerised. One can compile lists of compounds, structural assignments, recorded spectra, reaction velocity constants, enthalpies and the like, but not reaction yields according to particular experimental conditions, or, above all, those theories of chemistry which make the subject a living science and not a museum-filling exercise. 

To be appreciated, new stimulating concepts need to be read in a primary journal with as high a circulation as possible. This can be achieved only if our journals are few, and good and therefore controlled by our professional societies, strong enough financially to withstand disrupting commercial interests. 

Digested from a letter by W A Waters, Dyson Perrins Laboratory, Oxford,  Chemistry in Britain, March 1968