Publishing in academic journals facilitates the circulation of knowledge, enables the scrutiny of new claims to knowledge, and enhances the professional standing of researchers working in universities. It also supports a highly profitable industry whose business model is currently being challenged by open access policies. As publishers, funders, policy-makers and researchers try to re-shape academic publishing for the twenty-first century, understanding the ways it has changed in the past is essential.

From 2013-17, a research team led by Professor Aileen Fyfe at the University of St Andrews investigated the history of the world’s longest-running scientific journal, the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Their research generated new historical insights about the business model of mission-led publishing societies, and into the functions and social dynamics of peer review, as well as telling the story of how the publishing and editing of scientific journals have changed over the last 350 years. These historical findings have stimulated and informed current debates about open access publishing, peer review and the role of learned society publishers.

This site is one of the legacies of that ‘Publishing the Philosophical Transactions’ project. It includes:

  1. A historical section, showcasing the 350-year story of the Philosophical Transactions and Royal Society publishing [no longer being updated]
  2. A growing collection of essays drawing upon the historical material to address key themes in scholarly publishing today
  3. An entry point to the data files (editorial, financial, human) generated by this project, so they can be used by other scholars
  4. Information about the research project itself, its personnel and outputs