Annual Meeting Reports

The Story of the Journal in Two Parts

This session was held in one of the larger rooms, which turned out to be a good thing, as it was filled nearly to capacity. A scheduled co-speaker was unable to attend, and Barbara Meyers Ford, president of Meyers Consulting Services, had to deliver the entire presentation herself. No disrespect to the second speaker, but I’m not sure it could have gone any better. This was less a session and more an extremely thought-provoking lecture on the history of the journal as an entity unto itself and practical instructions for piecing together the story, or history, of our own current journals.

I was shocked to learn that the roots of making journals go back more than 5,000 years. It was not until 1665 that the first journal was formally published. In that 4,000+- year interim, major milestones—such as moving from papyrus to paper—occurred at several hundred-year or longer intervals, whereas now they seem to come upon us every couple of years. Meyers Ford suggested visiting the University of Waterloo Web site and clicking on “The Scholarly Society Project,” which tracks societies and their publications from the 1300s forward.

Of course, historical data become much more plentiful as we move to the latter half of the second millennium, and a number of critically important milestones were achieved from the 18th century forward, such as the first modern Copyright Act in 1709, establishment of the American Philosophical Society as the first learned society in 1743, the founding of the Library of Congress in 1800, and the first formal peer-reviewed journal appearing in 1838 (before then, editors made accept/reject decisions unilaterally).

As for our own collective heritage at CSE, the IMRAD (Introduction, Method, Results and Discussion) method for STM journal articles was initiated in the late 1880s (we haven’t been around all that long!).

Meyers Ford concluded the first portion of her talk by discussing the dizzying array of printing advancements and journal publishing taking place in the past 30 years, including the advent of the Internet. Had she stopped there, this would have been a very complete presentation. But she deftly shifted gears to discuss the value and practical aspects of developing and preserving histories of our own individual journals. Some points to consider include the following:

  • Why was your journal started?
  • Provide a profile of the founder(s) of the journal.
  • Identify the major turning points in the journal’s development.
  • Provide energizing images and informative/entertaining anecdotes.

This session was successful on many levels, but in my mind it succeeded most importantly because those attending would definitely respond in the affirmative if asked “Do you have more useful knowledge now than before you attended this presentation?”