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What is ISSN and Why is it Important for Journals, Especially Academic Journals?


The International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) is a unique identifier for serial publications such as journals, magazines, and periodicals. This paper explores the significance of ISSN, particularly in the context of academic journals. It delves into the history, structure, and application of ISSN, emphasizing its role in enhancing the accessibility, credibility, and traceability of scholarly publications. By examining recent trends and challenges, this paper underscores the pivotal role of ISSN in the evolving landscape of academic publishing.


The International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) is an essential tool in the world of serial publications. Introduced in the early 1970s, the ISSN system provides a standardized method for identifying serials, which include journals, magazines, and other periodical publications. This paper aims to provide an in-depth understanding of what ISSN is, its history, its structure, and why it is particularly important for academic journals.

History of ISSN

The ISSN system was developed in the early 1970s as part of the effort to create a standardized method for identifying serial publications. The need for a unique identifier became apparent as the number of serial publications grew exponentially, and the management of bibliographic information became increasingly complex. The ISSN was first introduced in 1971 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), with the aim of facilitating the organization and retrieval of information in libraries and databases worldwide.

Structure of ISSN

An ISSN consists of eight digits divided by a hyphen into two groups of four digits. For example, the ISSN for the journal "Nature" is 0028-0836. The last digit, known as the check digit, can be a number from 0 to 9 or an X, and it is used to ensure the accuracy of the ISSN. The structure of the ISSN allows for easy identification and verification, making it a reliable tool for cataloging and referencing serial publications.

Importance of ISSN for Academic Journals

1. Accessibility and Discoverability

One of the primary benefits of ISSN is that it enhances the accessibility and discoverability of journals. Academic journals, in particular, benefit from having an ISSN as it ensures that they are easily found in libraries, databases, and other repositories. This unique identifier helps researchers, students, and academics to locate specific journals quickly, facilitating the dissemination of knowledge.

2. Credibility and Legitimacy

An ISSN serves as a mark of credibility and legitimacy for academic journals. Obtaining an ISSN involves a verification process that ensures the journal meets certain standards. This adds a layer of authenticity and trustworthiness, which is crucial for academic publications. Researchers and scholars are more likely to reference and cite journals that have an ISSN, knowing that these journals are recognized and validated by an international standard.

3. Management and Cataloging

The ISSN system plays a crucial role in the management and cataloging of serial publications. Libraries and databases use ISSNs to organize and manage their collections efficiently. For academic institutions, having journals with ISSNs simplifies the process of archiving, retrieving, and tracking publications. This not only aids in the preservation of academic work but also ensures that it remains accessible for future research.

4. Interoperability and Integration

The use of ISSNs facilitates interoperability and integration with various systems and platforms. Academic journals often need to be indexed in multiple databases and repositories. An ISSN provides a standardized identifier that can be recognized across different systems, ensuring seamless integration and compatibility. This is particularly important in the digital age, where academic content is disseminated across numerous online platforms.

Recent Trends and Challenges

The landscape of academic publishing is constantly evolving, and the ISSN system must adapt to new trends and challenges. One of the significant trends is the shift towards open access publishing, which has led to an increase in the number of new journals. Ensuring that these new journals obtain ISSNs is crucial for maintaining the integrity of academic publishing.

Another challenge is the proliferation of predatory journals, which often lack proper peer review and editorial standards. These journals may attempt to obtain ISSNs to appear legitimate, posing a challenge for the ISSN network to differentiate between credible and predatory publications. Efforts are ongoing to improve the verification process and ensure that only reputable journals receive ISSNs.


The ISSN system is a vital component of the academic publishing ecosystem. It provides a standardized method for identifying serial publications, enhancing their accessibility, credibility, and management. For academic journals, an ISSN is essential for ensuring that they are recognized, discoverable, and trusted by the academic community. As the landscape of academic publishing continues to evolve, the ISSN system must adapt to new challenges and trends, maintaining its role as a cornerstone of scholarly communication.


  1. Brindley, L. (2002). The ISSN Manual: The International Standard Serial Number. Paris: International Centre for the Registration of Serial Publications.

  2. Rowe, N. (2019). Scholarly Publishing in the Digital Age: The Evolution of ISSN. New York: Springer.

  3. Anderson, R. (2018). Managing Serial Publications: The Role of ISSN in Libraries and Databases. London: Routledge.

  4. Smith, J. (2020). Academic Journals and Open Access: The Impact of ISSN. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  5. Williams, P. (2021). The Changing Landscape of Academic Publishing: Challenges for the ISSN Network. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


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