I would like to cite journal articles published by the Royal Society, specifically in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. Apparently, sometimes an of London is included in the name, and I have seen the journal’s name abbreviated as both:

Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond.
Philos. Trans. R. Soc.


A prominent example is the Wikipedia page of the journal, citing amongst others:

  • Maxwell, J. C. (1865). "A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. 155: 459.

  • Hawking, S. W. (1983). "The Cosmological Constant [and Discussion]". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 310 (1512): 303.


Should I simply remove the of London (resp. the Lond.) whenever I see it in order to be consistent? Or is there any specific reason to include of London in some cases?

Remark on standardized abbreviations

According to Wikipedia, the ISO 4 Abbreviation of the journals in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society series is

Philos. Trans. Royal Soc.

This raises three sub-questions:

  1. Why do I see Royal abbreviated to R. so often? Is it wrong?
  2. What is the correct way of including the series names (such as B: Biological Sciences) in the abbreviation?
  3. Was there another official abbreviation in the past, possibly including Lond.?
  • My American Institute of Physics style manual (4th edition, 1990) lists it as 'Philos. Trans. R. Soc. London' or 'Philos. Trans. R. Soc. London, Ser. A' (for Series A). Clearly, this applies to AIP journals, not the bio journals. But, check with your journal's style manual. – Jon Custer Feb 12 '18 at 16:35

I wrote to the Royal Society out of curiosity, and received a very helpful answer, along with the permission to post quotes from it here.

So here is part 1, referring to Background in the question:

The answer to the first part of your question is easy. The “Lond” or “London” was dropped from the journal titles a long time ago. Although the Society’s official, legal title is “The Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge” we now call ourselves just “The Royal Society” and the journal titles reflect this.

And here is part 2, referring to the Question:

As to the abbreviations, there is a huge variety of these and no single standard has been adopted across all publishers for any journal abbreviation system. For example, "Royal" can be shortened to either R. or Roy. [...] Our preferred abbreviations are stated on our journal websites, for example.

And I was even provided with some additional hints:

Most science publishers use the National Library of Medicine (formerly Index Medicus) system. Some use ISO4.

Fortunately it no longer matters very much which abbreviation people use, as citations now use the DOI (which carries all the relevant information).

To complete this answer, I looked up the record entry of Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci in the National Library of Medicine Catalog. The record entry lists 18 alterntive names/abbreviations for the journal, and contains a note explicating when in the past some of the alternative names were in use.

Lastly, some relevant information could be found in the Fact Sheet: Construction of the National Library of Medicine Title Abbreviations:

If a journal title undergoes minor changes that do not require a new bibliographic record, the existing title abbreviation continues to be used.

Once the title abbreviation has been assigned, NLM and the ISSN Centre do not go back and change a title abbreviation qualified by place name, even if the place of publication changes over time.

So the conclusion is: someone who decides to use the National Library of Medcine Title Abbreviations consistently will abbreviate

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences


Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci

with a Lond reappearing from its misty past.

  • 1
    This seems to be the authoritative answer. Outstanding! – henning Feb 16 '18 at 10:30
  • I really appreciate questions on any of our sites where the OP posts an answer.. It is, in a way, more authoritative than accepting someone else's. Also, far too many people people find an answer and think "well, my problem is solved" - and we never hear from them again. It goes the extra mile to come back and post something which can no longer help yourself, only those who read the question in future. Thank you! And, let's all emulate this, across all sites – Mawg says reinstate Monica Apr 14 at 7:46

In bibliographies you should always use the standardized abbreviations for journal titles. It just gets confusing if everyone starts making up their own abbreviations.

(Informally or in talks it’s ok to use well-known but not standardized nicknames or abbreviations like JAMS or Crelle.)

Edit: I usually use two ways to find the standard abbreviation: mathscinet's journal search and the journal's webpage. Embarrassingly for my answer, in this case the two sources disagree, mathscinet (subscriber link) gives "Philos. Trans. Roy. Soc. London Ser. B" while the journal's webpage gives Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B. So you're probably fine either way.

  • 11
    How does one determine what the standardized abbreviation is? – Nate Eldredge Feb 12 '18 at 15:15
  • That's what the Harvard or APA standards for example help control isn't it? – Solar Mike Feb 12 '18 at 15:20
  • 1
    My impression from using mathscinet had been that their was a single clear standard for abbreviations. It appears that I was wrong. Edited to reflect that. – Noah Snyder Feb 12 '18 at 16:17
  • Some publishers have their own lists of journal abbreviations that they use. This kind of thing is typically dealt with during the production process after a paper has been accepted. As long as the abbreviation you use is reasonable and can be recognized by reviewers and editors, you're probably fine. – Brian Borchers Feb 12 '18 at 16:21
  • I totally agree that it is confusing if everybody makes their own abbreviations, so maybe the questions are really "is there an accepted official standard for journal abbreviations", "should one use the official-standard abbreviation even if the journal itself suggests a different one", and "what were these abbreviations in the past" – leitungswasser Feb 12 '18 at 16:27

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