Executive Director's Column

The Archival Literature

For those of us who work in science and research, reliable access to the archival literature is essential.

By Steven Breckler, PhD

For those of us who work in science and research, reliable access to the archival literature is essential. It is hard to imagine a thorough literature review, dissertation introduction, or graduate seminar that does not depend on journal articles published many decades ago. As scientists and scholars, the archival literature represents an important facet of our research infrastructure.

It is relatively easy to gain electronic access to journal articles published in the past 10 years - most are now produced electronically, and can be quickly located online. Getting hold of older literature can present a bigger challenge. Personal subscriptions only go back so far. Libraries are increasingly pinched for space, sending most of the older literature to storage facilities. If you quickly need a copy of the series of articles published by Thorndike and Woodworth in the 1901 issues of Psychological Review, you'll need access to an incredible library or otherwise count on speedy retrieval and delivery from storage. And if your luck is anything like mine, the one article you want will be missing from the archival volume.

Recognizing its responsibility to maintain the archive of psychological science, APA Publishing embarked on an ambitious project - to scan and digitize nearly all APA journals back to Volume 1, Issue 1. With little fanfare, APA announced in March of this year that the project had been completed. The historical collection of full-text APA journal articles was released, bringing the number of articles available to nearly 73,000. Still need those Thorndike and Woodworth articles from 1901? Not a problem - delivery to your desktop is just a few clicks away.

The historical collection is available right now through PsycARTICLES, along with the corresponding abstracts in PsycINFO. Many of the vendors who provide access to these APA database products have already updated their systems with the expanded library, and the others will be updated before the end of the year.

Creating electronic access to the historical collection of APA journals is an enormous contribution to the scientific community. We sometimes take for granted all that it takes to deliver high-quality scientific psychology journals, and to maintain that quality over time. APA has been doing it for over 100 years, creating a reliable infrastructure for scholarly publishing.

The historical collections project was completed as part of APA's mission to advance psychology as a science, which includes the diffusion of psychological knowledge through publications. It is offered without increasing the data fee beyond the current annual site license rates. It represents an investment in preserving our past so that our future remains bright.

The internet, search engines, and digital document formats have fundamentally altered the landscape of science and scholarly publishing. The ease with which digital content is now available can mask the cost associated with producing it. APA is committed to preserving the integrity of scientific publishing, leveraging advances in information technology in a way that also advances psychological science.