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.