There is little written evidence of the early history of the journal Münstersche Forschungen zur Geologie und Paläontologie.

In the following Hermann W. Pfefferkorn recalls the founding years; published 2005.

The beginnings of the scientific journal Münstersche Forschungen zur Geologie und Paläontologie, 1963-1968
– a retrospective –


The "Münstersche Forschungen zur Geologie und Paläontologie" (abbreviated as “Müfos”) is something very special: a scientific journal edited by M.S. and doctoral students, which has been in existence for 40 years and is publishing it’s hundredth issue this year.

When we, the students at that time, founded this journal, we were well aware of the unusual step, but we were convinced of the necessity, saw an opportunity, and were successful. It was not an easy process; it dragged on for several years. Many students and almost all professors and assistants were involved in some way in the discussion or the magazine. The problems and arguments we had to struggle with then, are still relevant today. Therefore, what happened back then, is of interest today. I describe here my participation as founder of the Müfos on the basis of my memory, because there are very few written documents, most of the discussions were conducted orally, and even in the final founding phase no memoranda were written. The written documents consist mainly of invoices for the printing of the first issues.

The foundation of the Müfos was the result of a very specific situation that was created by several historical circumstances and very specific characteristics of the Department of Geology and Paleontology in Münster. I must go a little further into this. There was a long tradition in Germany that doctoral theses had to be published. This requirement guaranteed a public quality control and also ensured that the results of the candidates long and intensive research were not simply lost. Before the Second World War, every doctoral candidate had to have his or her thesis printed and made available at his or her own expense in a minimum print run of 250 copies. This work was then sent to other universities and research institutions around the world. I was able to see this for myself when a university library in the United States presented me with the German and Dutch doctoral theses in the Earth sciences, dating back to 1900, with the question, which of them should be kept in the library. It is obvious that the requirement to print at least 250 copies of a doctoral thesis was a considerable financial burden, but it ensured that the results were adequately disseminated. Immediately after the end of the Second World War, students did not have the means to finance such a printing. Therefore the number of compulsory copies was reduced to seven. In the sixties of the twentieth century (= "Pre-Xerox") the text of the thesis was written on a foil with a typewriter and duplicated in about ten copies. Line drawings were inserted as blueprints and photographs and coloured geological maps or profiles represented originals which were pasted in. Even this process was not cheap, but of course much less expensive than conventional printing methods. However, in order to maintain public accessibility, one of these copies was lend by the University Library through inter-library loan, even to foreign libraries. At that time, the Department of Geology and Paleontology in Münster did not have a "house journal" to publish doctoral theses, as was the case at many other German departments. This was probably due in part to the fact that Professor Lotze, the chair of the department, was the editor of several scientific journals published by a commercial publisher. A "house journal" would have been regarded as competition by the publishers of these journals. This also meant that the departmental library could only offer reprints in exchange, which were of course less desirable. An "in-house journal" was and still is the cheapest and simplest means of exchange for obtaining equivalent series, but also publication series from museums and academies, especially from abroad, and at the same time enables exchange with countries where financial transactions are difficult or very expensive.

However, students in our department were not encouraged to publish shorter versions or parts of their doctoral theses in other journals at the time, as many of the studies were seen as preparatory work for a major work on the Iberian Peninsula. It has to be said that the work on the Iberian Peninsula was real pioneer work, because at that time large parts of the two Iberian countries represented geologically unmapped areas, which were only recorded in general maps. In a geological map of the Iberian Peninsula from the fifties, Silurian strata were transformed into Devonian strata along strike at the border between Spain and Portugal, which is a classic example of a "political sheat edge fault". About the area I worked on in southern Portugal from 1964-68, there were a few lines in two different publications before I started my field work, because the authors had stopped in transit and looked at an interesting outcrop. The only exception was a work on the Quaternary river development. Our doctoral theses on the Iberian Peninsula first had to work on stratigraphy, tectonics, petrography, paleontology and all other aspects of the geological history of the respective area, and they still form the basis of our knowledge of these areas today. Since then, Spanish and Portuguese colleagues have made enormous progress in the knowledge of these areas. We students were well aware of the fact that our work was not published. This awareness had been reinforced by the fact that stratigraphic columns had appeared in publications from other countries and in other languages which had been similar in every detail to those from previous doctoral theses of our department. In addition, it was discovered that our university library had lend the works in question to an institution of that country several years earlier. It is not surprising that those of us who were still studying and had to expect to "publish" our work in a simple copying procedure were dismayed. This was the reason for the discussion of a “house” journal for the publication of doctoral theses. It will probably be impossible to find out when this idea first appeared, or how often it was discussed. I vividly recall the remark of an assistant that the project would fail due to the resistance of the “boss” (i.e. the chair), who would see it as competition to the journals he edited. Since such a veto was to be expected, an "official" petition to found an institute-owned journal did not seem to be the right way.

However, the wish was kept alive and the discussion continued. Soon the alternative solution was suggested, that the students of geology could be the editors themselves. The fathers of this idea can hardly be identified anymore. It may have emerged from a group discussion. In a survey, probably several alumni would come forward as "father" or "mother" of the idea. In 1964 the discussions became more intense and took on more concrete forms. Willi Sommer, who had just completed his doctoral thesis, had it printed as issue 1 of a new series. This first issue was followed by a hiatus, due to the lack of structures that would have been necessary to establish the series permanently within the department. Thus, the debates were revived. It was clear that the costs were too high both for the individual student and for the student body, and that we needed the approval of the director of the institute, our esteemed “master” (Meister), Professor Franz Lotze. - When we used the word “Meister”, it meant how we felt as students: We admired him for his geological skills and his extensive knowledge. While these discussions were going on and our plans became more and more concrete, one of the assistants bluntly said to me: "The boss does not want this magazine". At first, I was astonished by this direct form of torpedoing our efforts and then replied: "He'll have to tell me himself", which never happened. There was no shortage of negative opinions and objections from professors, assistants, lecturers and students, which were expressed in many different ways and often came down to the fact that students simply could not or should not do such a thing. Fortunately, we were not the first with such a project in the German-speaking world. The geology and mining students in Vienna had been publishing a scientific journal for many years at that time. So, I was able to point out that there was even a role model, which amazed quite a few people.

Another objection was that there were already too many scientific journals anyways. This objection was "correct" at the time and still is, in a certain sense. We, that is, the group defending the publication, had considered this point carefully and were therefore prepared to give an answer, namely that the Müfos, i.e. our journal, were fulfilling a task that was not covered by any existing journal. In other words, we were not competitors. This was also confirmed, because what other journal would print entire doctoral theses. And some of the other types of publications that the Müfos pioneered were only later adopted by national or international journals. Our arguments, which we had worked out at that time, have proved themselves in the long run. All of us who started the Müfos back then, can be proud of it, and so can all of those who continued and continue it.

At this point in the discussion, I was elected as the chair of the student council and announced that my main goal was to ensure the publication of doctoral theses. I developed a financing model for the printing costs, which consisted of several parts: (1) each student would contribute the amount it would cost him or her to produce seven copies; (2) the student council would provide a grant and (3) the department was persuaded that it would be advantageous to buy a certain number of copies to have them available for exchange with other departments. All work on the journal was to be done on a voluntary basis and the price was to be kept as low as possible. We were able to achieve this because there was a printing house within the university which could print relatively cheaply using the offset process. Thus, we had found a working model of financing the endeavor.

I clearly remember one of the last discussions that took place among those who were soon to finish their thesis and were interested in publishing their work in this series. After I presented the financing model, there was a surprising reaction from some students. They stood up and left the room saying that this was never intended. It had been expected that the authors themselves would not have to make a contribution. Even my objection that they would otherwise have to pay for seven copies was not accepted. Another kind of opposition came from students who misunderstood our aims and saw them as a new pressure to publish their thesis. However, the Müfos would never have been able to print all the doctoral theses. These fellow students saw their doctoral thesis as an examination paper necessary to obtain a doctorate, but did not want to see it published. My task now was to talk to Professor Lotze. As head of the student council, I made an appointment through Mrs. Neumann, the secretary, with the boss. When I presented our project to him, he realized that we had worked out realistic plans and that the student council would obviously publish the series. Although he was against our plans, he did not say no. I give him credit for that. He even reserved the right to rename the magazine because he did not like the series titles we proposed. He told me that he had to think about it. When I spoke with him again after a week, he told me the title he wanted for the planned journal was: "Münstersche Forschungen zur Geologie und Paläontologie". We didn't like this choice at first. The title was a bit long, but since it came from the "Meister", we accepted it. Very soon the abbreviation Müfos appeared. I had to get used to this nickname, but then I liked it, because it is funny, short and unique.

After these hurdles had been overcome, it was now time to produce the first issue. Since Willi Sommer's work already existed, we decided that nothing was more important than an "instant tradition". Therefore, we named Willi Sommer's work, which said "Issue I", Issue 1 of our series, even though the series title had changed in the meantime. The second volunteer was Lutz Krapp, who had finished the year before and who contacted us from Saudi Arabia to ask if we were willing to publish his work. I gladly agreed and he was also willing to pay a little more than suggested, which made it easier for us to print the first issue. He was also extremely helpful in other ways and when I told him that we also had to act as editors and take a critical look at the work before it was published, he agreed without further ado. I was then the editor for the first year and introduced what we now call "peer review". Each paper was read by two fellow students and also by Professor Rosenfeld, who kindly agreed to help us publish the journal. So, after changes had been made, Lutz Krapp's work appeared as issue 2. But then came the next protest. Fellow students said: "How can you mess with the author's work by editing? What the author writes is sacrosanct and must not be changed". But we prevailed and the improvement through criticism was very much appreciated. In the doctoral theses it had become common practice that the country and its people were also described, and techniques were described in such detail as if one were addressing first-year students. But that would not have left the right impression outside the department. From my current point of view, too, the suggestions for improvement were all very appropriate and helped to make the work more professional. At that time, however, some fellow students decided not to publish in the series because they could not accept any interference in their autonomy.

From then on, there was a continuous series of students who were interested in publishing their work in our series and it was a pleasure to work with them and publish the issues. After one year it was time for me to focus more strongly on my own doctoral thesis. At that moment it had to be seen if the journal had broad support, because a successor had to be found. For a while it looked as if nobody would be ready, but I was determined to hand over the publication due to my own lack of time and the conviction that the succession had to be secured. Fortunately, Peter Meiburg was willing to take over as our next editor. I was very pleased to see that students continued to volunteer afterwards, thus ensuring the continuity and success of this unusual venture of graduate students publishing a scientific journal. Up to issue 10, only doctoral theses were published. Issues 11 and 12 were a fossil catalogue and an anthology.
With the Müfos, the Department had a better exchange organ and soon increased the number of issues it bought. It must be said that the financing of the first issues was "topped up" and that the student council also submitted applications to the student council of the university. We received subsidies because students from other faculties were impressed that we produced scientific publications, especially against the will of some university teachers. At that time, however, it was not possible to write in a magazine that the editor was a student. We simply had to remain invisible in order not to provoke a negative counter-reaction. That's why it was only written on the back of the booklets: "Herausgegeben von der Fachschaft Geologie in Münster; Druck photo-technische Zentralstelle der Universität Münster". At a conference in 1968, the head of the publishing house that printed the journals edited by Professor Lotze, expressed very negative views about the Müfos and criticized Professor Lotze for allowing this "competition" within his institute. It was a nice acknowledgement of our efforts to hear Professor Lotze defend the Müfos and say that he was proud of this success of his students. In this indirect way we learned that Professor Lotze had come to a positive evaluation of the Müfos.

Others will have to tell about the development of the next few years, because I received my doctorate in 1968 and left Münster. But, three years later, I came back to work at the institute for two years with DFG funding. During this time something happened that is worth mentioning and influenced the further course of events. At that time, 1971-72, the student council (Fachschaft) was 8 years old, but there was a development at German universities that Fachschaften became politicized. Geology students, who were running the Müfos at that time and were very successful (for example, they had bought an electronic typesetting machine from Müfo's own funds), were concerned that student council funds, which mainly came from the Müfos and were supposed to be available for the Müfos, could be claimed otherwise by politically committed students. They came to me to discuss the problem. In the meantime the professors had also seen how positive the Müfos were and were interested in taking them on for the department. On the other hand, the students wanted to continue publishing them themselves. One of them suggested that an association should be set up that would take over the sponsorship of the journal from the student council. We thought that was a good idea, seven of us appeared at the district court and created a registered association with statutes, board of directors etc. Since then, the Müfos have been published by the Verein der Geologiestudenten zu Münster, and it is gratifying to see how students have become a visible part of the institute and how much this series has helped in various ways to make publications possible in a form that did not exist before.
I would like to thank everyone who has worked with us over the decades and I am pleased that the idea has taken off. I wish the Müfos many more successful decades and I hope that in the future there will always be graduate and doctoral students who will voluntarily take on the task of editing, publishing and managing the journal series of the Department of Geology and Paleontology at the University Münster for the benefit of all members of the Department and of geology.

Glückauf! [traditional greeting used by miners]