Astronomy and Astrophysics: A European Journal
- Published on 27 March 2006
The financial situation of each of the European journals was different. The French journals were completely financed by the government (CNRS). The ZfAP was owned and financed by a private publishing house (Springer Verlag). The Dutch journal was financed from the budget of the individual Dutch observatories. The Monthly Notices was owned and financed by the Royal Astronomical Society. The choice of the editor, and the editorial policy was thus not always in the hands of astronomers.
When I came to Groningen University in 1963 I was appointed Editor-in-Chief of the BAN by the directors of the Dutch astronomical institutes. In the course of the first year in this function, I became aware of several important shortcomings in the journal. First of all there was not an adequate refereeing system. The articles were submitted through the directors of the astronomical institutes who were responsible for the scientific content. This is a form of refereeing which works better in small institutes than in large ones. Secondly the publication time was sometimes long. This was because it was necessary to wait with publication until sufficient articles were submitted to fill an issue. This could cause a delay of six months in publication, but it was unpredictable. Thirdly, because the Dutch astronomical community was small and specialized, the BAN was read more often only by astronomers in these fields. This led to a growing feeling that the journal was not widely read, and that when one had an important result it should be published elsewhere. A final difficulty was that the journal was distributed free of charge to the staff and students. Because of the easy access the students consulted the BAN too often, and the other astronomical journals too little. It generated `inbreeding'.
Jean-Louis Steinberg became Editor-in-Chief of the Ann.d'Ap. at about the same time (1963). We knew each other quite well since 1959 when I had worked at the Meudon Observatory. We met several times in the course of the following years to discuss the problems of publication. The Ann.d'Ap. had problems similar to those faced by the BAN with the additional problem that the widespread use of the French language discouraged certain groups of astronomers from reading it. We decided to investigate the possibility of combining the two journals, and initiated discussions in our respective countries. As might be expected, the initial reactions were reserved, but still encouraging. One of the reservations was whether the combination of only the two journals was a big enough step considering the difficulties which were involved. One encouraging reaction was from the director of publications of the CNRS, Y. Mazière, who saw the possibilities in internationalizing French publications and who lent his full support to the project.
At about the same time I received an invitation from A. Reiz, at that time the director of the Copenhagen Observatory, to visit with the purpose of discussing the possibility of combining the Scandinavian journals and Observatory publications with the BAN. The spontaneous interest of the Scandinavian astronomers led to contact with the Swedish ministry, whose representative, Dr. G.W. Funke, immediately took an active interest in the formation of a European journal. A meeting took place in February 1967 in Copenhagen. Present were the directors of all Scandinavian astronomical institutes (4 Swedes, 3 Danes, 2 Finns, Jensen representing Oslo and Funke) and myself, representing the Dutch. There was agreement in principle to establish a joint Scandinavian-Dutch journal, and a meeting to work out the details was to take place later in the Netherlands. This meeting never took place because the possibility of establishing a larger journal took precedence. The Scandinavians made it clear however, that if a larger journal was not set up, they would establish their own journal.