Diplomacy and Scientific Cooperation: the ISSN Celebrates its 40th Anniversary



40 years ago, on November 14, 1974, the International Center for the Registration of Serial Publications (CIEPS, from its French acronym), was created as an intergovernmental body thanks to an agreement signed by René Maheu, general director of Unesco, and Pierre Maillard, French ambassador and permanent delegate to Unesco. In December of that year, the treaty was ratified by the French parliament.

The initial objectives of the CIEPS were as follows:

Develop and maintain an international registration of serial publications; define and promote the use of a standardized code, the ISSN (in English, International Standard Serial Number); facilitate searches for scientific and technical information in periodicals; make this information available and establish a collaboration network among libraries, information services, publishers and international organizations to promote standards of bibliographic description and formats for exchange in the realm of serial publications (UNESCO Bulletin for Libraries, 1973, vol. 27, n.° 2, p. 117).

Starting in 1976, the CIEPS acquired complete financial economy and its bylaws were published in the Official Gazette of the French Republic in March of the same year.

Bibliographical standardization

The CIEPS is the agency responsible for the document ISO 3297: 2007. Information and Documentation – International Standard Serial Number (ISSN), a standard of the International Standards Organization (ISO). Its first edition was published in 1971 and the fourth, issued in 2007, remains in force. This provides for the assignation of a unique eight-digit registration number for printed and online serial publications, along with frequently-updated websites. This standard also organizes the ISSN network around the CIEPS, which operates as the registration authority, and the national centres, which are called registration agencies and are adopted by the national libraries or scientific research institutes.

There are currently 88 ISSN national centres throughout the world. The CIEPS is responsible for identifying publications for international organizations and publishers in countries that do not have their own national ISSN centres. Each ISSN centre establishes the national inventory of serial publications pursuant to the criteria of ISO standard 3297 and forwards its bibliographical information to the CIEPS, which is responsible for administering the ISSN registration. The ISSN is an international bibliographical base of serial publications that has an inventory of more than 1.8 million printed and electronic titles as of 2015.

Access to information

Throughout its 40 years of existence, the CIEPS and the ISSN system have been financed by France, Unesco and the member countries. Sales of ISSN registrations and associated services, along with the wide range of libraries and actors in the world of publishing and scientific and technical information, supplement the budgetary resources of the CIEPS, which enables it to finance the ISSN along with actions for training and communications. Currently, the European governments, Unesco and other countries promote the use of free licenses to disseminate information produced by institutions financed through public funding. The national ISSN centres and the CIEPS frequently take part.

The 2015-2017 strategic plan of the ISSN network thus reemphasizes the importance of sharing ISSN data with the community of producers and users of scientific and technical information. This implies rethinking the organizational model of the ISSN network and finding a balance between access to information and its economic feasibility. The ISSN network will technically evolve to enable it to dialogue with the web applications developed by its associates. At the same time, a systematic review of ISO standard 3297 in 2016 will facilitate working with libraries and publishers to fulfill their expectations and continue a more productive collaboration.

The ISSN network currently contributes to the movement of open data using the ROAD service (Directory of Open Access Scholarly Resources) supported by Unesco and made available online beginning in 2013. ISSN data to identify open access and free resources (journals, repositories and blogs) are thus available in RDF format, which authorizes their reuse under a Creative Commons CC BY NC 4.0 license. ROAD illustrates the central role of ISSN to combine information from different sources and is also a test platform for future ISSN registration.

Numerical filing

The ISSN network is also committed to long-term preservation of numerical resources. The CIEPS and the EDINA National Data Centre of the United Kingdom have created a shared service for description of archived electronic journals, The Keepers Registry, using the ISSN Registry to make an inventory of the electronic resources preserved by the institutions responsible for keeping a long-term numerical file.

It is important to incorporate new filing and registration policies, mainly in Latin America, to guarantee the sustainability of scientific research sources and promote shared and quality conservation. The CIEPS and EDINA are therefore organizing an international conference to be held on September 7, 2015, in Edinburgh, United Kingdom.

To enlarge the ISSN network

There are national ISSN centres in the following Latin American countries: Argentina, Brazil Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela. Publishers from other countries communicate directly with the CIEPS to identify their publications.

In October of 2016, the CIEPS and the Brazilian Institute for Scientific and Technical Information will organize a seminar about ISSN in Brasilia aimed at nonmember countries to invite them to join the network. Additionally, in September of 2015, the CIEPS will renew its partnership with Latindex to foster information sharing among the two databases.

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Gaëlle Béquet

Dr Gaëlle Béquet is the Director of the ISSN International Centre since March of 2014. She began her career at the Ministry of Culture and Communications of France. She has led specialized and academic libraries and holds a doctorate in Information and Communications Sciences from the Sorbonne University. In 2014, she published the book Trois bibliothèques européennes face à Google: aux origines de la bibliothèque numérique (1990-2010).