chapter  18
Journals of the Century in the Basic Sciences, Part II: Life Sciences
Pages 22

By the century’s end, there were few truly influential journals that attempted to deal with all levels of biological activity-from the whole Ecosphere, down to the individual living animal or plant, down to the single DNA molecule. Research journals that stayed within narrower subject ranges tended to do better, and readers did not cross boundaries that often. The Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B-Biological Sciences (1905) published the widest scope of topics and succeeded at attracting more interest across all three levels of biological study more often than most. The FASEB Journal (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology) had more modest goals. It revamped itself from the rather eclectic Federation Proceedings (1942) into a real competitor serving two levels particularly well: the mid-level of the physiology and pharmacology community and the microscopic level of cellular and molecular workers. Cell (U.S., Cell Press, 1974), however, was the most spectacularly successful life sciences journal founded in this century, despite its intended microscale appeal. It epitomized the accelerating post-WWII trend in biology to add molecular arguments in debates at larger scales of biological activity. Not only is Cell cited by more journals at its own molecular and cellular level of biology than any other, its also become more cited by journals at larger levels of biological organization than anyone had anticipated, given its primary scope. Getting a paper into Cell is at least as important for biologists today as getting a paper into any of the three major multiscience journals: Nature, Science, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.