Materials science is a complex field that encompasses a wide range of materials, from cement and glass to plastics and rare-earth elements. The institutions that cover this field, such as journals, laboratories, and institutes, are equally diverse and ever-changing.

In the book “Between Science and Industry: Institutions in the History of Materials Research,” edited by Robert P. Crease, physicist and philosopher Daniel Ucko coined the “rule of three,” which highlights the different paths that scientific journals in materials science can take. Some are born as materials science journals, some achieve it, and others are driven towards materials science.

Ucko examines journals that have transitioned from other disciplines to materials science, as well as those that have always focused on materials research. He highlights the broad scope of scientific journals in materials science, from specialized subfields to more general publications. Interestingly, there are even scientific journals in materials science that do not have the word “materials” in their name.

Furthermore, Ucko explores how journals shape the communities they serve through their editorial content and focus. Some journals, like the Journal of the American Chemical Society, publish significant materials science research without explicitly labeling themselves as materials science journals. Others, like Nature Materials, are more direct about their scope.

Materials science societies, as described by physicist Linn Hobbs, also play a crucial role in shaping the field. They provide a platform for researchers to communicate and collaborate, fostering a sense of community and shared interests. Materials science societies often have a more interdisciplinary focus compared to societies in other scientific disciplines.

The “rule of three” reflects the emergence of materials science as a distinct discipline in the late 1950s. Advancements in instrumentation, the demand for suitable materials for missiles, and the unification of previously separate areas drove materials science to become a unified field. However, with the continued development of new materials such as biomaterials and nanomaterials, as well as the blurring of boundaries between “hard” and “soft” materials, the future of materials science remains uncertain.

– Book “Between Science and Industry: Institutions in the History of Materials Research” by Robert P. Crease.