Editors and referees in the making of scientific Knowledge: Philosophical Transactions in the nineteenth century

Speaker: Dr Aileen Fyfe # University of St Andrews

23rd Feb 2015

15:30 - 17:00

Room 1.06, Old Surgeons' Hall, High School Yards


As the practice of science became professionalised during the Victorian era, reputations came to depend on a record of research publications, particularly articles in journals. In this context, the gatekeeping role of editors and (at some journals) referees became crucial both to the making of careers and the defining of scientific knowledge. In this paper, I will focus on the editorial practices at the Philosophical Transactions, published by the Royal Society. The Transactions is the oldest scientific journal in the world, and also one of the first to develop practices for written reports by independent referees. I will look at the history of the Society’s editorial processes, the role played by referees, and the actual use of referees and their reports. It will become clear that ‘peer review’ is neither a clear-cut process, nor as self-evidently central to the making of scientific knowledge as is nowadays assumed.

Speaker's biography