Melinda BaldwinDec 24, 2021
The History of a Scientific Journal
University of Chicago Press 2015
Listen to this interview of Melinda Baldwin about her book Making 'Nature': The History of a Scientific Journal (U Chicago Press, 2015). Melinda is AIP Endowed Professor in History of Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland. We talk about Nature, naturally.
Melinda Baldwin : "Yes, I think it will be surprising to many scientists today that Nature has really been thoroughly shaped by the journal's contributors and readership, and certainly to the people who view Nature's editorial staff as these all-powerful gatekeepers of scientific success. But, I love the list you just gave of all the people who are involved in making a journal — the referees, the editors, the authors, the readers, the publishing executives — because that can really be one of the things that we lose sight of when discussing modern scholarly communication: The professional advancement of scientists is so heavily dependent on being published in these peer-reviewed journals, and according to where a scientist works, things like tenure, promotion, and even just getting hired can depend heavily on getting into a particular type of journal, a prestigious journal that rejects many submissions. And so it can seem like the power to shape scholarly communication is only in the hands of the editors and in the hands of the anonymous referees who review papers. But looking at the history of scientific publication, you really see a story where a lot more figures are influential in shaping the way that the scientific journal has developed. And you see that, of course, with Nature, where it was definitely contributors' needs and interests that drove some significant changes in the format and the audience of the journal."