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Everything you need to know about ISSN

What is the ISSN?

ISSN means International Standard Serial Number. It is a “code of 8 digits used to identify newspapers, journals, magazines, periodicals of all kinds and on all media, both paper and electronic”. Each ISSN corresponds to a title, necessarily unique.

Open Geomechanics = e-ISSN : 2644-9676

Who assigns ISSNs?

The ISSN is assigned by the ISSN Network, which assigns codes and maintains a global database of serial publications and ISSNs. The National ISSN Centres assign ISSNs and maintain local databases. The International ISSN Centre is the coordinator.

Compulsory indication

The ISSN is one of the compulsory indications on a serial publication. It must be indicated, whether on a print or digital publication.

Here are the recommendations of the International ISSN Centre for the printing of this code:

“For a print publication, the ISSN must appear:

  • preferably in the upper right corner of the cover,
  • failing that, on pages containing editorial information (publisher, periodicity, print completion, etc.).

For an electronic publication, the ISSN must be indicated:

  • on the homepage or on the main menu if it is an online publication,
  • on any part that can be read with the naked eye (header of a microfiche, label of a CD-Rom or DVD, case, etc.), if it is a publication on a physical medium

It is important to choose your title carefully: any change will result in the creation of a new ISSN.

For example:

  • 1975-1980 – Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l’Académie des sciences Séries A et B , Sciences mathématiques Série A, Sciences mathématiques, ISSN 0151-0509
  • 1981-1983 – Comptes rendus des séances de l’Académie des sciences Série 1, Mathématique, ISSN 0249-6291
  • 1984-2001 – Comptes rendus de l’Académie des sciences Série 1, Mathématique, ISSN 0764-4442
  • 2002-… – Comptes rendus. Mathématique, ISSN 1631-073X

Conditions for the attribution of an ISSN

Printed publications

Conditions for the attribution of an ISSN by the BNF, national ISSN centre for France:

  • publish a periodical
  • the publisher is located in France
  • the publication does not fall under the list of exceptions. Indeed, the attribution of an ISSN concerns all serial publications except for: free classified ads, event programmes, school publications… The complete list of exceptions is available on the BNF website.
  • the first issue has already been published: it is possible to publish the first issue without ISSN by indicating “ISSN in progress”.

Online publications

In addition to the above, the following conditions apply:

  • “a permanent and easily identifiable title
  • substantial editorial content
  • content updates and increments
  • mention of the name of the publisher or producer
  • mention of the city of publication or, failing that, the country of publication
  • valid URL
  • subject of general, scientific or technical interest and/or intended for a specific audience”

How to apply for an ISSN?

The attribution of an ISSN is free of charge. The steps to be taken by the publisher depend on the medium of the publication concerned (physical or digital) and its status with regard to legal deposit.

Printed publications

For printed serial publications subject to legal deposit, there is no particular procedure to follow: an ISSN is automatically assigned when the first issue of the series is legally deposited.

For more information, see step 3 of the BNF instructions.

Online publications

For online publications, harvested directly by the BNF and therefore not subject to legal deposit, the publisher can apply for an ISSN for online resources.

What is an ISSN used for?

Document identification

The ISSN identifies a periodical document “unambiguously and unmistakably”. It allows, for example, to remove the ambiguity in the case of two homonymous titles. It has no meaning and contains no information about the content of the publication.

DOI identifiers

The International ISSN Centre recommends that publishers use the ISSN as part of their title-level DOI linking to the journal: “It is strongly recommended that publishers use the ISSN as part of the title-level DOI they use to provide a persistent and clickable link to their journal”.


Having an ISSN is necessary to be indexed on scientific journal platforms, such as the DOAJ. Ainsi, nous pouvons lire dans les critères d’inclusion au DOAJ : “A journal must have at least one ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) which is registered and confirmed at“.

Data exchange tool

The DOI is a tool for professionals dealing with serial publications: libraries, booksellers, suppliers, publishers, etc. By uniquely identifying a title, the DOI facilitates exchanges with suppliers, the management of journals in libraries, checks in catalogues, electronic archiving, etc.