Tuesday, 30 October 2007

A few brief words about journal names

If you solved the cryptic crossword that is today's blog title, you will have realised that I'm talking about journal abbreviations. For some reason, almost all journals require you to abbreviate the names of the journals you cite, while simultaneously (and this is the bit that really gets me) not letting you know what abbreviations you should use: it is "J. Mol. Struc." or "J. Mol. Struct." or even "J. Mol. Struct. THEOCHEM"?

Perhaps you do as I do; in that last-minute tidy up of citations, I google "journal abbreviations" and try to find suitable abbreviations for the last few remaining articles. Or sometimes I spend a quiet afternoon searching through the list of citations in recent articles from that journal just to find how out to cite that particular journal!

But sometimes a little voice inside me cries "Why!" - why am I wasting the best years of my life solving the non-problem that is how to abbreviate the title of a particular journal? Don't journals want to be cited correctly? In this age of electronic linking of data, misspelling the journal abbreviation could mean that a citation to a particular journal would be missed. Since journals seem to think that Impact Factors are so important, couldn't they at least give some hint what abbreviation they think you should use?

So, on to my favourite part: "The Case Study", aka "The one that pushed me over the edge". I wanted to cite a paper from Nucleic Acids Research. This is commonly known (to me) as NAR. Indeed, the website, is nar.oxfordjournals.org. And the blurb on the front page says "Nucleic Acids Research (NAR) is a fully Open Access journal". Fantastic, NAR must be the accepted journal abbreviation. Job done.

Just to be sure, let's check the Instructions for Authors. Here they give an example of how they wish references to be formatted. The great thing is that the examples they give are from NAR:
1. Schmitt,E., Panvert,M., Blanquet,S. and Mechulam,Y. (1995) Transition state stabilisation by the 'high' motif of class I aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases: the case of Escherichia coli methionyl-tRNA synthetase. Nucleic Acids Res., 23, 4793-4798.
...but wait a second, that's "Nucleic Acids Res." not "NAR"!

Now our curiosity (aka annoyance) is piqued, so let's check out the current issue of Nucleic Acids Research. But what's that in the title of the page, "Nucl. Acids Res. -- Table of Contents...".

So NAR, or "Nucl. Acids Res." or "Nucleic Acids Res."? And don't even get me started on why journals require these abbreviations in the first place even if they are web-only...

Image credit: ex_libris_gul


Michael Lerner said...

I bookmarked this page a while ago.

I switched over to EndNote recently. I was pretty surprised to find out that EndNote doesn't do this by default. However, it does let you use "term lists" to take care of it. I've just started using the biosciences term list from here, and it looks pretty good so far.

baoilleach said...

Yes - that's one of the pages that comes up when you google "journal abbreviations". Still, I can't see why the journal itself doesn't just tell you. The list you refer to, for example, doesn't have "Chemistry Central Journal".

I hope your EndNote comment will help users who have access to it. I have an alternative solution which I am working on...

Mr. Gunn said...

Can you use the pubmed API to return a journal abbreviation?

I know, not everything is in pubmed. ;-)

baoilleach said...

I've just come across an example where a paper published in J. Mol. Graph. Model. references other papers from the same journal, but with the 'wrong' journal abbreviation: Smith et al., J. Mol. Graph. Model., 2003, 22, 41. More evidence that journals don't want to be cited.