Author Topic: Making history – RSC journals archive goes live  (Read 1834 times)

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Making history – RSC journals archive goes live
« on: February 01, 2004, 05:24:00 PM »
The complete publishing history of the Royal Society of Chemistry will soon be available electronically.

After some time the action became very violent, and gas was formed in such quantities as to expel the contents of the retort forcibly from its mouth. The retort must then be removed from the fire, when the action gradually subsides. When again placed on the fire, protected by a sand-bath, the action is not so violent.

So wrote Thomas George Tilley in 'On some of the Products of the Action of Nitric Acid on Castor Oil', the first paper to be published in the Memoirs of the Chemical Society in 1841. Although many chemists would recognise the situation described – not uncommon in undergraduate teaching laboratories – the characterisation methods used by Tilley and his contemporaries may raise a few eyebrows among present day chemists more used to NMR spectroscopy, mass spectrometry and other modern techniques. How many chemists today, one wonders, would be prepared to describe the taste of their products?

Tilley's paper was the first of over 210 000 articles, and 1.2m pages, published by the RSC (and its forerunner societies) between 1841 and 1996. Some of the 25 current RSC journals such as Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry trace their 'family tree' of previous titles and incarnations back to the 1841 Memoirs of the Chemical Society.

But it is not only the titles of the RSC journals that have changed. In 1841 only three authors from outside the UK published in the Memoirs: Redfenbacher (Prague), Liebig (Giessen) and Bunsen (Marburg). Browsing through RSC journals nowadays, the pages are full of papers from Australia, the US, The Netherlands, Japan, China, India, Belgium, France, Spain, Switzerland, Poland, Russia, Korea, Sweden and Denmark. In fact, more than 80 per cent of all papers published in RSC journals are from outside the UK.

Easy access

Material published in all RSC journals from 1997 onwards is already available in electronic format. However, practising scientists regularly require access to work published before this date, often many years in the past. How many laboratory hours have been wasted in the pursuit of a breakthrough or in characterising a 'novel' compound that was actually published 30 or 40 years ago? Modern literature searches can often give the false impression that research in the chemical sciences started about 20 years ago and that the literature before this date is of little relevance today. Problems continue when our literature search finally finds a 'missing synthesis' in a paper published 20 to 30 years ago – only to discover that to read the paper requires an excursion to some remote library stack room or, increasingly, that there is no library.

To solve some of these problems, earlier this year the RSC began a project to produce a complete electronic archive of the RSC's publishing history from 1841 to 1996 in Portable Document Format (PDF).

The articles will be available via issue contents lists (for browsing) and will also be accessible from full-text searches of the PDF files or more specific searches of bibliographic information. For papers from 1966 onwards it will also be possible to search the abstracts of the articles. Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) will be assigned, allowing another access route. Articles from 1990 to 1996 will contain 'reference links' to full text and CAS abstracts (where available) similar to the service now offered for articles from 1997 to 2003.

The archive will contain everything published in the RSC journals, including advertisements and pull-out sections (such as seating plans and menus for conference dinners). It should be of interest to historians of science as well as those seeking a specific reference.

From January 2004 electronic access will be available to over 1.2m pages of published work by the RSC for the first time. Who knows, in 150 years time maybe some new research published in an RSC journal will have been prompted by delving into the archives.



  • Guest
That's great news!
« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2004, 05:38:00 PM »
How many chemists today, one wonders, would be prepared to describe the taste of their products?

Some would ;D