Author : David Banks
The first academic periodical was the Journal des Sçavans, which first appeared in January 1665. It was followed two months later by the Philosophical Transactions. The Journal des Sçavans was sponsored by the state and was made up mainly of book reviews and covered all the known disciplines of the time.
The Philosophical Transactions was a private venture based on Oldenburg’s correspondence and was restricted to science and technology. Scientific writers were motivated by personal reputation, the desire to improve the human condition, and, sometimes, priority.
The “publish or perish” syndrome is a recent development. Among the factors that have influenced it are the increasing professionalization of science, the development of the peer-review system, and, towards the end of the twentieth century, a desire for rapid publication.
The fact that English has (recently) become the lingua franca of scientific publishing creates additional difficulties for non-Anglophone scientists, which their Anglophone colleagues do not have to face. Scientific language, similar to all languages, evolves constantly.
One area that seems to be changing at the moment is that of passive use, which is the subject of ongoing research. Cultural differences may also have a role to play. For example, French scientists may have to overcome a basically Cartesian education.
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