The Place of the Journal BIOSPHERE in the Infosphere

The period from the emergence of the idea to launch a journal entitled “Biosphere” to its realization in the form presented here was long enough to thoroughly discuss the idea with many peopled involved in relevant research areas and in publishing business. The question ever coming to light in the course of these discussion was like this: “What is another scientific journal for when, even now, nobody is able to survey the enormous amount of information about current threats to the biosphere and about approaches to fighting them, which is presented by the already existing journal and, since recently, is allocated to the Internet at overwhelming rates?”

                However, the point is that all this information is scattered in innumerable publications related to an indefinite range of research fields. Meanwhile, any real interventions against the threats endangering the Biosphere, including the most commonly known ones, such as global warming, ozone depletion, acid rains, reduced biodiversity etc., are possible only on a broad interdisciplinary basis.

                Indeed, it is plain to see that all of the above problems were brought to recognition and appreciation by special studies carried out by geophysicists, geologists, ecologists, botanists, and other naturalists; however, all these problems result from the industrial activity of humans[1]. Therefore any relevant intervention must be political, sociological and/or psychological in essence, i.e., be dealt with by disciplines traditionally related to humanities[2]. At the same time, the forecasting and monitoring of the results of these interventions is possible only by means of the natural sciences. In this sense, threats to the biosphere are radically different from other global threats, such as new and newly emerging infections. In the latter case, interventions (such as antibiotics, vaccines, antiviral drugs etc.) are developed within the natural science disciplines that are involved in the detection and investigations of these threats. The political, sociological, and other humanitarian issues emerge largely only when it comes to the implementation of the interventions suggested by the natural sciences.      

                Less obvious issues may be also envisioned. Differentiation in science has reached a level making specialists to see a specific problem from quite different standpoints and even to describe one and the same aspect of the problem using so different languages, within so different research traditions, and basing on so different concepts[3] that they often fail to understand each other. In fact, within even very closely related disciplines, e.g., in biology, one can find very different cultures with different etiquettes and publication policies. A hard-core biologist may well regard a geochemist or mathematician who dare to tackle a bilogical issue as an intruder who cannot even behave himself properly and shows his ignorance by paying no due respect to authorities by not including them in references. Such attitudes may well result in dismissing of potentially interesting ideas coming from aside. Here one may see a trend warned about long ago by N.V. Timofeev-Resovsky who called it “brutish seriousness”[4]. This trend is often expressed as propagation of formal sciolism instead of substantiveness, the latter being invariant irrespective of  the way it is expressed, whereas the former may be quite variable. In a multidisciplinary journal, the formal requirements should be reduced to some common denominator.

                Now let us examine, basin on the above, the contents of the first issue of BIOSPHERE First of all, let us check where the authors who are presented  in this issue published their papers earlier. To this end, the Russian Electronic Library (eLibrary) will be used with its access to about 1200 Russian scientific periodicals and to much more periodical published abroad. The resulting list of 66 journals, which may be found on page XXXIII in (ссылка) provides an idea about the broadness of the informational base presented in a single issue of the journal, which is not intended to represent the whole science but is quite specific, in a sense. It is also noteworthy that not more than a half of these journals are included in eLibrary in the category “Environmental Protection and Human Ecology”, which is relevant to the scope of the journal. The category contains 146 periodicals, of which Russian ones make about a half. The foreign periodical are mainly those published by Elsevier and Springer; therefore, their list is far from being exhaustive. Thus, a very modest estimate of the number of scientific periodical related to the above category in the world must be no less than two hundred. Who is able to fully comprehend everything published in them?[5]

                One may argue that at present nobody reads scientific journal from cover to cover. When one wants to have an idea about something, he addresses Internet, including the above eLibrary. Let us address it too and use the term biosphere search through all fields. As a result, among 11941856 articles deposited in the database, 15949 will be found, including Russian sources having English summaries. By limiting the enquiry by the Russian term “биосфера”, we will find 1743 papers, of which 194 were published within one year before the enquiry (June 2009). It is unreal to read them all even without doing anything else. One may pay attention only to what seems most significant. At present, the only valid criterion to judge about such significance is the citation index in its different embodiment.

                One should not expect to be much cited within the year following the date of publication. Let us see, therefore,  how it is with papers published in Russia 10 years ago, from 1 January 1999 to 1 January 2000. Only 13 papers will be found in this case suggesting that a notable increase in interest towards biospheric themes occurred over the last decade. As to citing, on two of the papers were sited once, and both of them, upon a closer examination, bear little relation to any research.  

                Five years later, in 2004, the situation became somewhat better. Seventy five papers were publishes, of which two were cited once, and two, four times each. One of the latter was cited exclusively by its authors. Thus, only one paper is cited by other scientists and, therefore, should be acknowledged as an exceptional achievement being the only Russian peer-reviewed research article published in 1999-2004 to be explicitly related to the biosphere and, at the same time, to have any real sense. 

                Similar pictures emerge when other years are examined in this way. It seems, therefore, that the vast majority of papers using the concept of biosphere in whatever context could well be not published at all, because their impact is zero. However, this does not invariably mean that their inherent significance is zero. It is possible that some of them were quite decent but were published in inappropriate journals, even respectful ones, where nobody will search data about the biosphere.

                What makes one to expect that the journal Biosphere will ameliorate rather than aggravate this situation?

                First, authors will be met by adequate readers because it seems natural to read about the biosphere in the journal entitled “Biosphere”. Therefore, submissions to the journal will not be obscured by publication in an inappropriate journal. Of course, the quality of the submissions is what matters in the first place. In this regard, the Editorial Board of the journal (, which includes leading Russian and international authorities, must guarantee the adequacy of reviewing of submissions to the journal.  

                Second, specialists in specific aspects of biospheric problems will be not merely enabled but, moreover, encouraged to learn about advances in related fields, which must facilitate their mutual understanding, so that, hopefully, sociologists or politicians will take more account of bilogical or physical limitations to their ideas, whereas as biologists will  be more aware of the legal and economical aspects of the environmental issues they strive to settle. The convergence of the positions of different parties may be facilitated by better understanding of the general concepts related to biosphere that are intended to be discussed under the headings Methodology and Theory.  

                That is where one may envision advantages of a real journal over the enormous informational resources available via the Internet. The Internet is indispensable when a set of keywords is used to gather scattered information related to a specific issue. However, this locks each researcher within his/her inquiry and thus promotes further disintegration rather than consolidation of science. This trend may be counteracted by interdisciplinary periodicals, such as the journal Biosphere.

                The Editorial Body of the journal will appreciate any advice helpful in the realization of this mission.  


[1] “The XX century biosphere is turning into the noosphere, which is primarily developed by human science and science-driven social activity of the humankind (V.N. Vernadsky). This and other quotations are translated from Vernadsky’s treatise “Scientific Thought as  Planetary Phenomenon” as presented at

[2] «… biogeochemistry must be intimately intervened with sciences related not only to life, but also to humans, i.e., with humanitarian sciences” (V.N. Vernadskiy).

[3] Vernadsly called this mental habits.

[4] “The main principle is: no brutish seriousness. Serious advances in serious sciences need humor and some degree of mocking yourself and your science. That is then everything will thrive”. This assertion is corroborated by Niels Bohr: “There are so serious things in the world that they may be discussed only by joking”.    

[5] “At an ever increasing rate novel research techniques and research areas emerge to unveil million of facts and phenomena of which we were ignorant just yesterday. With great difficulties and incompletely as never before, a single scientist can follow the advances of science” (V.N. Vernadsky).