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January 10, 1966


JAMA. 1966;195(2):122. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03100020110032

Our scientific journals perform many functions. And their variety produces much of the argument and alarm over the so-called publication explosion. If our concern lies only at the highest plane—the advancement of science by the discovery and exploitation of concepts previously unknown— then we may agree with Price,1 who suggests that a very large fraction of the alleged 35,000 journals now current must be reckoned as merely a distant background noise, not by any means central or strategic to science. But recording original data is not, in fact, the only important role of scientific journals.

For those who argue that too many journals are publishing too many communications, the conclusion seems obvious. Eliminate the redundant publications. The problem is, how to make the choice? Now, it is relatively easy to identify the important works of 1865, and to indicate the hundreds of useless papers published at that time. One