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Drift 21, Rm. 005 Organized Session Aspects of Scientific Practice/Organization
24 Jul 2019 04:00 PM - 06:00 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) Switch to local time
20190724T1600 20190724T1800 Europe/Amsterdam Before the PDF: Writing, Publishing and Measuring Science, ca. 1945-1980s This session explores novel perspectives on publication formats in 20th century science publishing. Thereby we build on recent scholarship of print media in the sciences, yet we address a rarely looke... Drift 21, Rm. 005 History of Science Society 2019 meeting@hssonline.org

This session explores novel perspectives on publication formats in 20th century science publishing. Thereby we build on recent scholarship of print media in the sciences, yet we address a rarely looked at period that is crucial to understand current debates about publishers or media. When and why became natural scientists invested in specific formats of print, such as different variants of journals and books, how have such preferences fared and what did this mean for long-term disciplinary developments? How has the "impact" of publications been determined, what functions have journals or books occupied? In brief, we will explore science's paper media (creation, sales and uses) before digitization. This session follows these issues along the problem of periodicity in journals and non-journal formats as viewed from publishers' perspectives in the 1950-60s (Schmidtke), by questioning the concept, the making and the crisis of encyclopedic handbooks in the post-war chemical sciences (Grote), by analyzing efforts to catalogue and measure the impact of publications (Csiszar), and by assessing the role of journals, partly through commemorative practices, in building international and disciplinary communities in the 1950-80s (Daling). We argue that in order to get a more articulated view on recent publishing trends, it is crucial to understand past developments affecting the formation and choice of formats, as well as authors', editors', readers' and publishers' strategies. A commentary (Hagner) will wrap up the session and stimulate a discussion on a pertinent, timely and undervalued topic in the history of science.

Organized by Alrun Schmidtke and Mathias Grote

"Nations Can Publish or Perish"? Scientific Metrics and Development
04:00 PM - 04:30 PM2019/07/24 14:00:00 UTC - 2019/07/24 14:30:00 UTC
After World War II, as science became attached to the discourse of international development, analyses of the scientific literature became a key source for producing national comparisons of scientific productivity. This paper will focus on the rise of the Science Citation Index and will suggest that the uptake of this new tool was connected as much to its applications to producing measures of scientific producitivy as to its use as a literature search tool. Today it is clear that tools for measuring science are political as much as they are technical. By operationalizing universalist concepts such as quality and significance, they are means by which to legitimate or marginalize particular national research collectives. Historical accounts usually imply that the rise of science metrics and their application to policy was a natural consequence of new technologies for the automatic collection, manipulation, and distribution of publishing data. But it also depended on contested ethical and sociological claims about public and private communication, access to scientific findings, and the role of the scientific literature in the global circulation of knowledge largely articulated by scholars based in the United States. This paper juxtaposes the claims of advocates such as Derek de Solla Price and Robert Merton with early critics outside the USA such as Edmundo Fuenzalida and later Léa Velho whose work began to show that there was a geopolitics to scientific authorship, reading, and citation that problematized their infrastructural role in accounts of the universality of science.
"Journalization" of Science Publishing: Periodicity of Book Formats at Springer, North-Holland, OUP, and Interscience, 1950-1965
04:30 PM - 05:00 PM2019/07/24 14:30:00 UTC - 2019/07/24 15:00:00 UTC
While recent scholarship on the history of science publishing has focused on scientific journals, self-confessed ‘journal publishers’ only came into being in the latter half of the 20th century. This poses the question how this shift towards periodicals as core products was brought about: What other formats were publishers invested in and how did these formats relate to periodical publishing? Why and how did this change? This paper explores publishers' perspectives on scientific publication formats in the mid-20th century as mediated by publishing adviser Paul Rosbaud (1896-1963), who worked for several publishers such as Springer in Germany, North-Holland in the Netherlands, Interscience in the U.S., Oxford University Press and Pergamon Press in the UK in the 1950s and 60s. During this period, Rosbaud, a trained physical chemist, was involved in a plethora of publication projects. This included the founding of new journals, the publishing of conference proceedings, textbook series and handbook literature. Most of these formats held some promise of periodicity to the publishers: Even if publications like textbooks and handbooks are not commonly associated with periodical publishing, they could exhibit such features from a sales and distribution point of view. Drawing on rich sources from publishers' archives and Rosbaud's lively correspondence with leading physicists as preserved in their personal papers, this paper traces negotiations between scientists and publishers in regard to an ongoing ‘journalization’ of science publishing in the mid-20th century.
The Role of International Journals in Epistemic, Political, and Community-Building Processes in Postwar Science: BBA’s Celebration Volume of 1989
05:00 PM - 05:30 PM2019/07/24 15:00:00 UTC - 2019/07/24 15:30:00 UTC
For more than two hundred years after the origin of the learned journal, the modes of scholarly communication remained highly diverse. Only in the later nineteenth century did the scientific paper achieve privileged status. It took another half century before the formats and uses of scientific journals began to fully correspond to contemporary conceptions of scientific publishing. Those journals, “invented” after World War II by commercial publishers rather than scientific societies, had specialized orientations, international editorial boards, established peer-review procedures and relatively fast publication schedules. Due to these features, they were more apt than their forebears to provide analysis of scientific fields and developments, direct those developments through categorization and selection, bring about social cohesion, and negotiate meanings and social rules. As scholars have only recently begun to approach questions regarding the nature and legitimacy of science from the perspective of changing communication formats, the (twentieth-century) scientific journal has not yet received much attention as a social institution. By presenting the case study of Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA), founded in 1946 at Elsevier, this paper probes into the role of international journals in epistemic, political and community-building processes in postwar science. It also explores the role of commemorative practices in the performance of journals as social institutions, specifically the 1000th volume of BBA, published in 1989 as a celebration volume with reprints of “particularly significant articles”. This paper argues that journals sometimes invoked the commemorated past to serve conceptual, institutional, social, and political agendas in the commemorating present.
Total Knowledge in Teutonic Tomes? Encyclopedic Handbooks in the Chemical Sciences, ca. 1930-1960
05:30 PM - 06:00 PM2019/07/24 15:30:00 UTC - 2019/07/24 16:00:00 UTC
The question of how the pre-digital modern sciences have coped with knowledge inflation is as open as timely. Handbooks, understood as heavy, multivolume reference works claiming to present a discipline’s essential knowledge in a systematic order, were an innovation to deal with this problem, which flourished particularly in Germanophone science. The tomes of such scientific encyclopediae were consulted for reference, and often became canonical. This paper contours the “Handbuchwissenschaft” (Fleck) as an ensemble of specific actors and practices by scrutinizing the making of a central reference work on inorganic chemical substances, “Gmelins Handbuch der anorganischen Chemie” (8th edition, >700 volumes). How did the hundreds of involved “paper scientists” and clerks extract and compile knowledge deemed reliable? How was the editing of this megalomaniac book organized by a state institute in the rapidly changing linguistic and technological environment of the post-war decades? While the concept of book informing Gmelin and other Germanophone handbooks was framed in a holistic discourse on knowledge, the rapid increase of journal articles subverted this concept, leading to a crisis of the project after 1960. Looking at the handbook as a past solution to knowledge inflation does not only permit to re-evaluate the role of books among the modern sciences’ media, it may also be informative for the history of our own discipline, since Gmelin and other handbook projects contributed to historiography e.g. by collecting or editing sources.