|Title:||The production, circulation, consumption and ownership of scientific knowledge: historical perspectives|
|Citation:||Fyfe, A. (2020) The production, circulation, consumption and ownership of scientific knowledge: historical perspectives. CREATe Working Paper 2020/4|
|Key Related Studies:|
|About the Data|
|Data Description:||The study is based on archival research of the Royal Society of London and their involvement in the publication of the Transactions journal. The study draws mainly from secondary data, including journals and sales reports, of the Transactions in different time periods.|
|Data Type:||Secondary data|
|Secondary Data Sources:|
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|Data Analysis Methods:|
|Cross Country Study?:||No|
|Government or policy study?:||No|
|Time Period(s) of Collection:|
“Who owns the content of scientific research papers, and who has the right to circulate them? These questions are at the heart of current debates about improving access to the results of research. This working paper will use the history of academic publishing to explore the origins of our modern concerns. The Philosophical Transactions was founded in 1665 and is now the longest-running scientific journal in the world. This paper will follow the Transactions from its early days as a private venture of its editor to becoming the property of the Royal Society. It will explore the basis of the Society’s claim to ownership (which had very little to do with copyright) and reveals the ways in which the Society encouraged the circulation, reprinting and reuse of material in the Transactions during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It will end by considering how things changed in the twentieth century, as commercial interests became increasingly influential in academic publishing and as new technologies brought new opportunities for circulating knowledge.”
Main Results of the Study
The study finds three waves of changes in the ownership and business model of the Transactions:
• The first wave, from 1665-1752, is known as the era of the ‘independent editor’. During this time, editors tended to be independently wealthy, aristocratic noblemen who could afford to finance the costs associated with producing the journal, which otherwise struggled to make any kind of profit.
• The second wave, from 1752-1954 is defined as the ‘scholarly mission’. During this time, costs continued to outstrip any income from sales as Transactions continued to be circulated non-commercially in libraries and other learned societies.
• The third wave, from 1955 to the present day is defined as the ‘commercial mode’, where publishing houses are profitable. The study points to the leveraging of copyright transfers in order to achieve this by offering new income avenues through rights of reproduction, distribution etc.
Policy Implications as Stated By Author
The study does not make any explicit policy recommendations.
Coverage of Study