The first Secretary of the Smithsonian emphasized publication of research as a means of “diffusing knowledge.” In his formal plan for the Institution, Joseph Henry outlined a program that included the following statement: “It is proposed to publish a series of reports, giving an account of the new discoveries in science, and of the changes made from year to year in all branches of knowledge.” This theme of basic research has been adhered to through the years by thousands of titles issued in series publications under the Smithsonian imprint, commencing with Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge in 1848 and continuing today with the following active series:
In these series, the Institution publishes papers and monographs that report on the research and collections of its various museums and bureaus. All are distributed internationally to libraries, universities, and research institutions via Smithsonian Libraries’ exchange program.
As of 2013, SISP also is the publisher for the Atoll Research Bulletin, formerly published by the National Museum of Natural History.
SISP requires that each manuscript be evaluated by peer reviewers identified and approved by its Editorial Board. Reviewers are selected based on professional qualifications and may or may not be employed by the Smithsonian.
Typical time for completion of peer review and return of the reviewers' comments and Board feedback to authors is 2-3 months, although some reviews may take longer depending on various factors (e.g., length of manuscript, limited availability of reviewers).
SISP provides open access to its content to support the mission of the Smithsonian Institution "to increase and diffuse knowledge" and on the principle that making research accessible supports a greater global exchange of knowledge.