Ana Marušić [1] Matko Marušić [2]

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Scientific pa­per is the main mo­de of com­mu­ni­ca­tion in scien­ce, whe­reas scien­ti­fic jour­nal is the pri­ma­ry me­dium whe­re su­ch ar­tic­les shou­ld ap­pear. Scien­ce is a com­mon pos­ses­sion of the man­ki­nd, the­re­fo­re a vai­la­bi­li­ty and per­cep­ti­bi­li­ty of the jour­nal to the en­ti­re scien­ti­fic com­mu­ni­ty wor­ldwi­de is a si­ne qua non to com­ple­te its ma­jor com­mu­ni­ca­tion ro­le. On the ot­her ha­nd, pro­fes­sio­nal jour­na­ls need not te­nd to in­ter­na­tio­nal per­cep­ti­bi­li­ty, as their main ro­le is pri­ma­ri­ly na­tio­nal, i.e. the de­ve­lop­me­nt and im­ple­men­ta­tion of the hig­he­st stan­dar­ds of a pro­fes­sion in a par­ti­cu­lar set­ti­ng. Thus, any pe­rio­di­cal brin­gi­ng bo­th pro­fes­sio­nal and scien­ti­fic ar­tic­les en­coun­te­rs a di­lem­ma as to what exac­tly it ten­ds to be and how to de­ve­lop, con­si­de­ri­ng the fa­ct that the stra­te­gy of de­ve­lo­pi­ng and rein­for­ci­ng a scien­ti­fic jour­nal is com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­re­nt from the one in ca­se of a pro­fes­sio­nal pe­rio­di­cal. A pro­fes­sio­nal jour­nal need not te­nd to acqui­re the at­tri­bu­te “scien­ti­fic”, the mo­re so if it has al­rea­dy gai­ned re­pu­ta­tion and sub­scri­be­rs/professionals who wa­nt to read it and who need it to lea­rn so­met­hi­ng new in their mot­he­r’s ton­gue to be ab­le to use it in their wo­rk. Howe­ver, if scien­ti­fic ar­tic­les are to be pub­lis­hed in su­ch a pe­rio­di­cal, thus ma­ki­ng it al­so a scien­ti­fic jour­nal, then it shou­ld ac­ce­pt in­ter­na­tio­nal stan­dar­ds, be­co­me mem­ber of the glo­bal scien­ti­fic com­mu­ni­ty, and ta­ke pa­rt in the glo­bal flow of scien­ti­fic infor­ma­tion on an equal foo­ti­ng. The fac­to­rs that de­ter­mi­ne mem­ber­ship in the in­ter­na­tio­nal com­mu­ni­ty of scien­ti­fic pe­rio­di­ca­ls are brief­ly des­cri­bed in this edi­to­rial.

Why is it su­ch a pain­sta­ki­ng job to pub­li­sh a sci­en­ti­fic jour­nal in a sma­ll scien­ti­fic com­muni­ty?

In sma­ll scien­ti­fic com­mu­ni­ties li­ke Croa­tia, the wo­rk on scien­ti­fic jour­na­ls is bei­ng ham­pe­red by a num­ber of fac­to­rs, thus re­du­ci­ng their qua­li­ty (1). Sma­ll jour­na­ls in sma­ll scien­ti­fic com­mu­ni­ties suf­fer from shor­ta­ge of hi­gh-qua­li­ty ar­tic­les to pub­li­sh, as the­re are an ina­dequa­te num­ber of true scien­tis­ts to pro­du­ce so mu­ch va­luab­le scien­ti­fic re­sul­ts. Ge­ne­ral­ly, on­ly rem­nan­ts of the al­rea­dy poor scien­ti­fic pro­duc­tion are le­ft to do­mes­tic jour­na­ls, whi­ch has an un­fa­vo­rab­le im­pa­ct on the to­tal num­ber and qua­li­ty of the pub­lis­hed ar­tic­les. The sa­me hol­ds for the ina­dequa­te sour­ces of re­viewe­rs for the ma­nus­crip­ts sub­mit­ted for pos­sib­le pub­li­ca­tion. Fi­nan­ci­ng of scien­ti­fic pe­rio­di­ca­ls po­ses a great prob­lem, as the­re are no own re­sour­ces (e.g., sub­scri­be­rs and com­mer­cia­ls), thus the jour­nal mu­st re­ly on go­ver­nmen­tal sup­po­rt. As En­gli­sh lan­gua­ge has gai­ned pre­do­mi­nan­ce in the scien­ce wor­ldwi­de, the choi­ce of lan­gua­ge and its qua­li­ty al­so crea­te a prob­lem in a scien­ti­fic jour­nal. Pub­lis­hi­ng the ar­tic­les on­ly in lo­cal lan­gua­ge li­mi­ts the cir­cle of po­ten­tial aut­ho­rs and rea­de­rs. Ab­strac­ts in En­gli­sh can im­pro­ve the pros­pec­ts of in­dexi­ng in bib­liog­rap­hy da­ta­ba­ses; howe­ver, ar­tic­les that can­not be in exten­so read in En­gli­sh are ra­re­ly in­te­res­ti­ng to the au­dien­ce ab­road. On the ot­her ha­nd, if a jour­nal from a coun­try that does not be­lo­ng to En­gli­sh-spea­ki­ng coun­tries de­ci­des to pub­li­sh pa­pe­rs exclu­si­ve­ly in En­gli­sh lan­gua­ge, it wi­ll en­tail the prob­lem of lan­gua­ge im­per­fec­tion and dif­fi­cul­ties in lan­gua­ge edi­ti­ng (2). All the­se drawbac­ks ta­ken to­get­her and in­di­vi­dual­ly lead to the low per­cep­ti­bi­li­ty of sma­ll scien­ti­fic jour­na­ls, and re­su­lt in their me­re ve­ge­ta­tion in the vi­cious cir­cle of ina­dequa­te qua­li­ty.

How to lea­ve this vi­cious cir­cle and grow in­to a no­ti­ceab­le scien­ti­fic jour­nal?

In or­der to be­co­me a scien­ti­fic pe­rio­di­cal in the pro­per sen­se of the wo­rd, i.e. a jour­nal that is re­cog­ni­zed, in­te­res­ti­ng, use­ful and avai­lab­le to the en­ti­re scien­ti­fic com­mu­ni­ty, it shou­ld sol­ve all rat­her than ju­st in­di­vi­dual prob­le­ms in the vi­cious cir­cle of in­fe­rior qua­li­ty. To break this vi­cious cir­cle, the edi­to­rs are expec­ted to in­ve­st great ef­for­ts in up­gra­di­ng the ba­sic pub­lis­hi­ng stan­dar­ds, fir­st of all re­gu­lar is­sui­ng; they need to iden­ti­fy the jour­na­l’s “nic­he”, i.e. spe­ci­fic to­pi­cs that wou­ld ma­ke it re­cog­ni­zab­le; to in­ter­na­tio­na­li­ze edi­to­rial boa­rd; and to ac­ti­ve­ly sear­ch for po­ten­tial aut­ho­rs, at the sa­me ti­me hel­pi­ng them im­pro­ve the qua­li­ty of their scien­ti­fic pa­pe­rs. Brief­ly, it is an im­pe­ra­ti­ve to ha­ve good artic­les, wi­se and con­struc­ti­ve re­viewe­rs, ap­prop­ria­te fi­nan­cial sup­po­rt and au­dien­ce (sub­scri­be­rs), qua­li­ty lan­gua­ge used in the jour­nal, and per­cep­ti­bi­li­ty ac­ro­ss the in­ter­na­tio­nal scien­ti­fic com­mu­ni­ty.
The lat­ter is the hal­lma­rk of the suc­ce­ss of a scien­ti­fic jour­nal, pri­ma­ri­ly im­plyi­ng its in­clu­sion in bib­liog­rap­hy da­ta­ba­ses. On­ly 10% of the wor­ld scien­ti­fic pub­li­ca­tio­ns ha­ve been in­dexed by the mo­st se­lec­ti­ve bib­liog­rap­hy da­ta­ba­ses su­ch as Scien­ce Ci­ta­tion In­dex or Cur­re­nt Con­ten­ts. In bio­me­di­ci­ne, Na­tio­nal Me­di­cal Lib­ra­ry from Bet­hes­da, USA, the lar­ge­st me­di­cal lib­ra­ry in the wor­ld, re­cei­ves mo­re than 25,000 pe­rio­di­ca­ls per year, from all over the wor­ld, yet in­clu­di­ng on­ly 4800 of them in its MEDLINE da­ta­ba­se (3). Bib­liog­rap­hy da­ta­ba­ses se­le­ct jour­na­ls ac­cor­di­ng to the four main cri­te­ria:

1. Ba­sic pub­lis­hi­ng stan­dar­ds

Re­gu­lar is­sui­ng is the mo­st im­por­ta­nt stan­da­rd to be met by a scien­ti­fic jour­nal, whi­ch is de­ter­mi­ned as a pe­rio­di­cal pub­li­ca­tion. Doub­le is­sues, frequen­tly re­sor­ted to by sma­ll jour­na­ls, ref­le­ct the ina­bi­li­ty to col­le­ct and pro­ce­ss an adequa­te bo­dy of scien­ti­fic pa­pe­rs on ti­me. Be­si­des re­gu­lar is­sui­ng, tec­hni­cal qua­li­ty of the jour­nal is al­so eva­lua­ted, e.g. layout, de­si­gn, pri­nt and bin­di­ng. The exis­ten­ce of re­viewi­ng pro­ce­du­re is al­so one of the ba­sic stan­dar­ds to be adop­ted by scien­ti­fic jour­na­ls.

2. Edi­to­rial con­ten­ts

It is im­por­ta­nt for a scien­ti­fic jour­nal to ha­ve a clear­ly set goal; its edi­to­ria­ls, in­struc­tio­ns for aut­ho­rs and des­crip­tion of the re­viewi­ng pro­ce­du­re shou­ld stric­tly de­fi­ne the scien­ti­fic fiel­ds and types of ar­tic­les the jour­nal brin­gs. Re­gu­lar in­clu­sion of da­ta on the jour­nal ac­ti­vi­ties, e.g., per­cen­ta­ge of pub­li­ca­tion of the ma­nus­crip­ts re­cei­ved, pa­per ci­ta­tion, and ot­her fea­tu­res of edi­to­rial wo­rk wi­ll in­crea­se the chan­ces for the jour­nal to en­ter bib­liog­rap­hy da­ta­ba­ses.

3. In­ter­na­tio­nal di­ver­si­ty

Bib­liog­rap­hy da­ta­ba­ses scru­ti­ni­ze the com­po­si­tion of edi­to­rial boa­rd and edi­to­rs of a jour­nal. Exper­ts from the in­ter­na­tio­nal scien­ti­fic com­mu­ni­ty shou­ld be in­clu­ded as mem­be­rs of the edi­to­rial boa­rd. The jour­nal shou­ld be ab­le to al­so at­tra­ct aut­ho­rs from ot­her coun­tries be­si­des tho­se from the lo­cal scien­ti­fic cir­cle, in­di­rec­tly im­plyi­ng the requi­re­me­nt for the jour­nal to ap­pear in En­gli­sh as a lan­gua­ge of mo­de­rn scien­ce.

4. Per­cep­ti­bi­li­ty (ci­ta­tion) of aut­ho­rs and edi­to­rs

Bib­liog­rap­hy da­ta­ba­ses ca­re­ful­ly ob­ser­ve the pre­sen­ce of the jour­nal aut­ho­rs and edi­to­rs in the in­ter­na­tio­nal scien­ti­fic com­mu­ni­ty, as ref­lec­ted in the ci­ta­tion of their pa­pe­rs. Ci­ta­tion ana­lysis iden­ti­fies tho­se pub­li­ca­tio­ns that ha­ve pro­ved re­le­va­nt, in­fluen­tial and use­ful in a par­ti­cu­lar scien­ti­fic fie­ld.
Fi­nal­ly, a sma­ll jour­nal whi­ch ten­ds to chan­ge and up­gra­de its qua­li­ty and per­cep­ti­bi­li­ty, can on­ly be re­com­men­ded to fo­cus on ha­rd wo­rk, com­mit­me­nt, de­di­ca­tion, per­sis­ten­ce, and ha­rd wo­rk again and again. For tho­se fol­lowi­ng this ad­vi­ce no cir­cle is so vi­cious that it cou­ld not be bro­ken.


1.   Marušić A, Marušić M. Small scientific journals from small countries: breaking from a vicious circle of inadequacy, Croatian Medical Journal 1999; 40: 508-14.
2.   Mišak A, Marušić M, Marušić A. Manuscript editing as a way of teaching academic writing: experience from a small scientific journal. Journal of Second Language Writing 2005,14:122-31.
3.   Nylena M, Hagve T-A, Marušić A. Small journals and non-English journals. U. Godlee F, Jefferson T (ur.). Peer review in health sciences. London: BMJ Books, 2003. str. 140- 50.