The future of the Spanish scientific journals: a need for a scientific, social and institutional effort
Published: Volume 48(1), June 2001. Pages 99-105.
Original Title: El futuro de las revistas científicas españolas: un esfuerzo científico, social e institucional
In spite of the high and growing level of scientific production by the Spanish researchers on terrestrial vertebrate biology, the Spanish journals on this topic are, paradoxically, in a delicate situation that seriously threatens their future. This paper summarises the results obtained in an analysis of the current situation of these journals and their perspectives for the future. Such results are fully applicable to most scientific journals edited both in Spain and in similar countries. The international status of a journal determines the quality and quantity of original papers that it receives and publishes. The quality of the published papers was, in turn, the main determining factor of this international status until the appearance of the ´impact factors`elaborated by a private company, the North American Institute for Scientific Information (ISI). This Institute also elaborates a list of journals sorted according to their impact factors, as well as a number of criteria for the inclusion of journals in that list. Despite the fact that both the impact factors and the criteria for inclusion of journals are now under close scrutiny by the scientific community, the journals which are not included in this list are considered as ´non-prestigious`. This threatens the future of these journals because this ´label` prevents scientists from sending their good quality papers to them. Most Spanish scientific journals are not in the list, and the ISI is reluctant to enlarge it unless the journals were new, published in English and, usually, supported by the big publishers that monopolise the international market of scientific publications. Most Spanish scientific journals, especially those focused on terrestrial vertebrates, are published by scientific Societies integrated by both professional scientists and naturalists interested in the study of these organisms. The Spanish Administration partially supported some of them in the past by means of specific funds. In addition, there are/were some journals fully supported by public funds, but they have disappeared or are not published periodically. This situation contradicts the government´s objectives to promote the Spanish language and to obtain returns from the investment in training high-level scientists. On this basis, a way to ensure the long-term maintenance of the Spanish journals would be to enhance alternatives such as the publication of local studies or the support and training of novel scientists. This option may be carried out by the scientific So-cieties without institutional aid by means of i.e. reducing the subscription cost, assuming that some disagreements between the scientific and non-scientific partners were solved properly. However, this would limit the international projection of the Spanish journals. The only alternative would be a social, institutional and political agreement aimed at promoting the Spanish journals with the best perspectives of international diffusion, either already established or new. The final goal should be the inclusion of these journals in the ISI list. In this way, the coordinated efforts of scientists, scientific Societies and the Administration would eventually reach the objective of maintaining high-quality scientific journals, one of the main medium-term returns of the investment in science.