ARCHIVED - NRC Research Press Celebrates 75th Anniversary

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September 04, 2004— Ottawa, Ontario

Peer-Review Process

The peer-review process is a widely-used tool in the sciences. It is used not only to decide what papers should be published, but is a requirement in funding decisions for R&D projects. The process involves the use of “peers”, persons expert in the field in which an author is writing, for example, who are given a copy of the submitted paper. The job of these reviewers, who have no connection with the scientist(s) and, typically, are anonymous, is to judge the merit and completeness of the information presented and to provide recommendations for changes in cases where the paper is accepted for publication.


Established in 1916, NRC has been Canada’s leading R&D organization for over 85 years. In the 1920s, then NRC president, R.A. Ross, embarked on a tour of government-based research institutes in other countries to learn more about best practices of these organizations. The result was a far-reaching building campaign that helped transform NRC from its early role as an advisory body into an active R&D organization capable of leading and performing world class scientific research. In addition to the creation of new laboratories (construction began on Ottawa’s

Sussex Drive

labs in 1930, facilities that continue to be used) Ross also promoted the creation of world-class peer-reviewed journals to publish the results of research and investigations (see sidebar for definition of the peer-review process). 75 years later, the NRC Research Press continues to play an important role in helping NRC put science at work for Canadians.


The NRC Research Press (part of the NRC Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information) is the largest Canadian publisher of scientific and technical information. The Research Press publishes 15 journals in fields as diverse as genomics, chemistry, physics and civil engineering. All of these journals are available free on the Web to researchers working in Canada and Canadians. The NRC Research Press also publishes scientific monographs, conference proceedings and 14 other journals on behalf of Canadian scientific societies such as the Agricultural Institute of Canada and the Mineralogical Association of Canada.

Canadian Journal of Zoology Canadian Journal of Botany Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences

A number of Research Press journals trace their origins back to the 1920s and, testament to growing specialization in the sciences, have undergone several name changes along the way. For example, in the early years, all publishing activity was contained under the general title Canadian Journal of Research. During the Great Depression, the Research Press divided the journal into different lettered sections (A-E) for Physical Sciences, Chemical Sciences, Botanical Science, etc. These divisions persisted until for the next 15 years when, in 1950, the different sections, i.e Canadian Journal of Research, Sect. A. Physical Sciences, had grown to the point where they earned their own name, such as the Canadian Journal of Physics.

Not surprisingly, each journal has its own unique communities, with certain preferences. To meet the needs of these diverse audiences, each journal has an editorial board composed of members from Canada’s universities, other government agencies as well as numerous representatives from the international scientific community. For example, the journal Genome counts 16 different editors responsible for different subject areas. Out of this group, seven (7) editors are from outside of Canada and tap into expertise from Australia, Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland. The Research Press also counts on international sources for revenue; 80 per cent of revenues come from international subscribers such as academic libraries, research centres and universities.

The Research Process provides an important publishing avenue for researchers in Canada and around the world. In 2003 the NRC Research Press received 3,941 research papers from authors in Canada and around the world. Following the process of peer review 1,841 papers were published. Since most papers are signed by multiple authors, the published material represents the work of literally thousands of researchers. In general, all of the Research Press journals are well-rated in terms of impact factor; impact factor is determined by counting the number of times papers from specific publications are cited by other authors — Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences and Biochemistry and Cell Biology have very high impact factors; in addition, the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences and the Canadian Journal of Forest Research are listed among the top four publications in their fields.

The Research Press has moved a long way in the past 75 years. Future directions involve speeding up the publishing process, and making the published results available as widely as possible. For example, the Research Press, in collaboration with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, recently built an on-line system for peer-reviewing articles submitted for publication. The process, which takes place entirely on the Web, saves time and helps speed the publication process. The Research Press has also allowed the popular search engine Google to “deep index” its publication archives, with the result that users will get fast and precise access to valuable content. According to Research Press Director Cameron MacDonald, this 75-year old institution “won’t look the same in 5 years.”

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