Our project has gathered a huge variety of data on the production and editorial aspects of the Royal Society’s publications, some of which may be useful to other scholars – and we look forward to seeing if there are scholars who can do more cunning things with it than we have the technical skills to manage! Please note that, although we certainly do have a lot of information, the historical record is patchy, and our data reflect this. We generally have better data for the 19th and 20th centuries than we do for earlier periods.
This page introduces the types of data we have gathered, and provides links to the datasets on Figshare [in progress!].
For analysis and discussion of selections from this data, we recommend you browse our growing collection of graphs and commentaries. Anyone who would like to contribute a short essay about some of our data is welcome to get in touch with Aileen Fyfe (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Key Fact datasheet generator
If you are visiting this site simply for a quick check on the print run, or price, or whatever, of the Transactions, this should be your first port of call! With help from colleagues in the Research Computing team at St Andrews, we have developed a tool that queries our datasets for a year of your choice, and pulls up editorial, publication, circulation and pricing information in one handy (and cite-able) datasheet. However, the tool does come with a warning: it can’t be any better than the underlying data, and that is patchy. For some years/decades, you’ll get a lot, but for others, you won’t. Do give it a try, and see what you find!
We have compiled reference lists of the printers, editors and key staff members associated with the Transactions and the Proceedings from 1665 to 2015.
People with chief editorial responsibility for the Transactions (and also, therefore, for the Proceedings until 1990)
The Royal Society
We have data files that will be useful to those studying other aspects of Royal Society history, including the number of fellows over time, and the financial history of the Society.
Royal Society annual accounts, ten-yearly samples from c1830-2010 [with categories of income/expenditure, including publishing] [Figshare]
We have income/expenditure figures for Royal Society publishing from 1752 onwards, which allow us to analyse the notional surplus/deficit of the publication activities.
We have data on the number of articles, pages and volumes published by the Society since 1665. This was provided to us in electronic form by the Royal Society, and we have analysed it in various ways (e.g. to look at how the average article length has changed over time). We also have gathered information about the material format of the Transactions over time (page size, size of text block etc): we were unable to develop a methodology that we believed would be sufficiently robust to look at production costs per square inch (or similar), but we offer the file to anyone who wants to try.
Production cost data
We have data on the costs of paper, typesetting, printing, binding and illustrations of the Royal Society journals. This is most complete for the period 1828-1877. For other periods, we generally have only got the total production cost per year (no breakdown). We have analysed these figures in relation to the amount of printed output per year to create a standardised measure of the cost of producing a scientific journal over time.
Print run, pricing and circulation data
We have some data on circulation figures and sales income. Print run data is most complete for the nineteenth century, but we do have some hints for print runs before and after. Sales income data is relatively complete for the twentieth century, but prior to that, the Royal Society’s circulation did not depend on sales. We have patchy information on distribution figures for earlier periods. Our data on the retail price of volumes (or annual subscription rates) is very patchy.
List of institutions receiving gifts or exchanges from the Royal Society, 1765-1932 (i.e. the non-commercial distribution, and most of the international distribution) [Figshare]
We have data on the number of papers submitted to the Royal Society (from the 1850s onwards). This includes information about how many people submitted, what proportion were fellows or outsiders, how many were women, and how common co-authorship was. This data comes in annual samples every five years, and we are still processing it.
Women who submitted papers to the Royal Society after 1853: a sample (i.e. the women who came after Caroline Herschel and Mary Somerville; fairly complete for the later 19thC, but only a sample for the 20thC) [Figshare]
We have data on the proportion of papers that were sent to referees, the number of people involved as referees, and the time-taken by the refereeing and editorial decision-making process. We have data on the final publication outcomes of submitted articles. This data comes in annual samples every five years, and we are still processing it.
Graphs and Commentaries
- Length of articles in Royal Society journals
- More submissions, more rejections: the Royal Society Journals since the 1950s
- Rejection rates in life sciences vs physical sciences, 1950s-1980s
- Submissions in life sciences vs physical sciences, 1927-1989
- The Proceedings in the 20th Century
- The Royal Society’s ‘other’ journals
- The Transactions in the early eighteenth century
- The unprofitability of scientific journals, 1750-1900
- Time Taken to Publish