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Our Journals - present and future

[E. N. Baker]Recently, my university has made major cuts in its subscriptions to periodicals. This has made me uncomfortably aware of the pressures that scientific journals face. At the same time we have been reminded by Durward Cruickshank, at the American and European crystallographic meetings, of the critical role the establishment of a crystallographic journal played in the formation of the IUCr. Our journals are major assets of the Union. They provide a high quality medium for publishing crystallographic discoveries, results and ideas. Profits from them support many of the activities of the Union. Today, however, many scientific journals face declining subscription levels as a result of restraints in library budgets, currency fluctuations and aggressive competition from new journals. Simultaneously, growth in scientific output, together with the demands of competition for research funds, fuels a demand for more publication space. How should we respond to these pressures? We can be proud of our journals, and it is essential that they continue to succeed scientifically and remain financially viable. In the short term, we need to continually improve, even re-define, them. Each faces challenges of a different nature. Acta D must achieve a higher profile in the biological field and to do this requires substantially shorter publication times. Acta C may need to balance crystallographic quality with chemical interest if it is to make its full impact on chemistry. And JSR will not succeed in its present form without higher subscription levels. These and other issues are being actively debated by John Helliwell, as Editor-in-Chief, Peter Strickland, as Managing Editor, by Section Editors and by the Finance and Executive Committees. Changes are on the way; Acta D will be fully electronic in 1999, and we are aggressively pursuing shorter publication times and better marketing. In the longer term, the whole basis of scientific publishing is in question. What should be in print, and what electronic? Should some of our journals become electronic only? Should some publications which are essentially presentations of data, rather than ideas, be more properly placed in databases? If so, depositions in databases must be accorded higher status by funding agencies and administrations. Most of all, however, we need input from the crystallographic community. They are your journals. We want to publish your best work, we need input on what improvements you want and we need help in ensuring that your libraries subscribe!

Edward N. Baker