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Launching a botanical journal on the verge of WWI: the politics of the AJB
Date:3/19/2014

research. Concerned that the spread of botanists, both geographically and academically into narrower specialties, could result in a detrimental splintering effect, he worked tirelessly to create a vehicle where botanists of all subdisciplines could share their research, exchange ideas, and collectively build upon a growing body of knowledge. After years of pulling together resources, the journal finally went public in 1914, at the very onset of WWI.

"WWI shifted the balance of institutional and intellectual power in favor of the U.S., and I don't think we have appreciated how important that war was in terms of the history of American science," says Smocovitis. The war had a profound impact on botanists by creating a pressing demand for botanical research, infusing scientists with a sense of nationalism, and launching America to lead the global stage of science.

One thing that stood out to Smocovitis was how much American botanists owed to their European progenitors, especially in Germany. "Before the rise of science education in U.S., if you wanted to get a Ph.D., which increasingly became a necessity in late 19th century science, you had to go to Germany," says Smocovitis.

Her research into the evolution of the journal throughout the 20th century also revealed several important factors that lead to today's scientific publication practices, such as the growth of anonymous peer review and multiple authorship. "As hard as that seems to understand now, there was a time when only the editor or a small group of editors read a submission," she says. "Today it is rare to see a single-authored publication, and in some areas one can see 20 to 30 names on one paper."

Another important transition was the change from private ownership to society-subsidized or sponsored journal. "Until the 1920s to 1940s, most journals were owned by people whose primary intention was to make money," says Smocovitis, "One of the things that set the AJB
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Contact: Richard Hund
rhund@botany.org
314-577-9557
American Journal of Botany
Source:Eurekalert  

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