Project Aims

The project will aim to:

  •  Compile historical economic data series of interest to all scholars of the book trade: on the costs of paper; composition; press work; illustrations; and the journal’s income and expenditure
  • Compile historical data series regarding the circulation of scientific knowledge in Philosophical Transactions: its print run; its circulation/sales; its acceptance ratio for submitted papers (when applicable); and (if possible) a reconstruction of its historical impact factor
  • Analyse the editorial practices of the journal, with particular attention to the personal role of the editor, the types of articles published, the move from reporting oral papers delivered to the Royal Society to open submission of written papers, and the emergence of peer-review
  • Assess the fortunes of the Philosophical Transactions (and of Royal Society journal publishing more broadly) as a business enterprise over time, and thus evaluate the place of learned journal publishing within the commerce of the book trade
  • Evaluate the effects of new technical developments upon the circulation of scientific knowledge, particularly processes for the reproduction of illustrations, and the development of steam-powered, and later, electronic publishing systems
  • Assess (as far as possible) the reputation of Philosophical Transactions, as seen by its contributors, its readers, and outside commentators, over time. Consider why authors chose to submit there, rather than elsewhere; and how readers valued knowledge claims made in its pages, rather than elsewhere
  • Reconstruct (as far as possible) the distribution and readership, over time, of the Philosophical Transactions in the global scientific community, through examination of subscription lists, booksellers’ records, reciprocal journal exchange schemes, and citations
  • Trace the changing relationship between science and its publics by examining how the findings of research published in Philosophical Transactions have subsequently been reported to a wider public by newspapers, radio, television and internet; and consider how the editorial staff of the journal have sought to mould the ‘public life’ of its research articles

If you’re interested, you can read the full Case for Support (PDF), as submitted to AHRC.