Every few weeks I read another journalist’s jab at the value and quantity of scientific journals.

When discussing the ever-expanding literature, reporters of the popular press frequently indulge in superficial analyses that distort reality, whether through misunderstanding or exaggeration. Nancy Jeffrey revealed profound misunderstanding in “Mollusks, Semiotics and Dermatology: Narrow Scholarly Journals Are Spreading” (Wall Street Journal, August 27, 1987, p. 25). She invites readers to check out college library shelves and tells them “some off-beat periodicals are bound to jump out at you.” A litany of journal titles—one carefully drawn up to invite ridicule—follows. This serves only to reinforce a contempt for specialized knowledge and reflects an increasing anti-intellectualism I see in the press and among the public.

How does Jeffrey explain journal proliferation? She says nothing about twigging, the natural fractionation of knowledge and its embodiment in new journals. Nor does she note that more scientists are alive...

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