Dr Charlotte Sleigh writes:
With the 350th anniversary of the Philosophical Transactions upon us, many of us have been reflecting on the role of publishing in the history of science. As Adrian Johns pointed out in a 2000 BJHS article, the establishment of the scholarly journal is one of rather few momentous historical events to have escaped our discipline’s deconstruction. Transactions, he further noted, were ‘deals done, actions achieved, or … compromises negotiated’. That is, they were based on the practices of the Royal Society, meeting in person, and secondarily a paper record of such practices performed – whether in England or further abroad.
Our own journal, BJHS, inhabits a different era. Knowledge has become information, apparently abstractable from its mode of production. Of course, it would be better to say that there exist local, interacting, cultures of research around the globe, and that the practices of research publication have become transactions in their own right. And it is in this context that BJHS not only reflects, but also drives knowledge.
Since taking over as BJHS editor I have been continually pleased and surprised to discover just how wide is the reach of our journal. It has a very high degree of recognition around the world, and not just amongst historians of science. Colleagues from East and South Asia, from the Americas, and from Europe, frequently refer to it – not only with the highest respect, but also with great fondness.
The editorial board of BJHS is in the process of renewal. Our previous board has served the Journal incredibly well, giving us tremendous intellectual clout and the benefit of a great deal of accumulated wisdom. Our new board, which will be announced shortly, has been assembled to provide an even better geographical reach – both in terms of their location, but more importantly in terms of the science they cover. The new board also covers a fuller range of historical periods, from ancient times to the present.
There has never been a better time to publish with BJHS.
Subscriptions are increasing, and the time between submission, decision and production is amongst the quickest in the field. Cambridge University Press, moreover, continues to provide professional copyediting for all articles – alas, an increasing rarity in scholarly publishing. The rigorous but supportive double-blind review process benefits from the extended network of BSHS colleagues and their contacts. The Society’s commitment to, and confidence in, the Journal has recently been underscored by its launch of a new companion journal, BJHS Themes.
As Editor, I welcome inquiries about papers you’re considering sending the journal, and special issues you’d like to propose. Likewise our new Reviews Editor, Don Leggett, would be glad to hear from you about recently published books you’d like to review.
Colleagues in the UK, in the aftermath of the national Research Excellence Framework assessment, are being advised to publish in top journals for the forthcoming cycle. But BSHS members have far better motivations to publish with BJHS than such temporary, local advice. Our outlook is more global than this; and it has 350 years’ worth of historical model for reflection and inspiration.
Happy birthday, Phil. Trans., and onwards and upwards, BJHS!
Dr Charlotte Sleigh