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Stephen Harter and Hak Joon Kim have been funded by the Online Computer Library Center, Inc. (OCLC) to perform a study of the characteristics of e-journals as measured by number of articles published, frequency of publication, administrative policies, access issues, and references. The main stated purpose of their research was to "assess the impact of scholarly and peer-reviewed (or refereed e-journals) by studying citations to, and references in, e-journal articles as of the latter part of 1995" [Harter and Kim, 1996a, p. 442].
A major component of their work published so far has been an analysis of the citations to and in e-journals. This research was carried out in the latter part of 1995. Two published directories of electronic journals were used to select all peer-reviewed or refereed e-journals available at that time for a total of 131 e-journals. This sample was used for an access and demographic study.
The sample was narrowed to e-journals containing articles that reported the results of research or scholarship which resulted in a sample of 77 scholarly e-journals used for a reference study [Harter, 1996] which examined the patterns of citations to e-journals to identify the most cited e-journals. This study also compared citation and publication data for e-journals in the study with print journals in the same fields. Because of a range of factors, citation counts are not directly comparable between e-journals and print journals analysed in this study. The ISI impact factor was used instead. Because there is in general a direct linear relation between journal production and the impact factor [Rousseau and Hooydonk, 1996], journals with low publication rates will have a lower impact factor. This study found that despite the small number of articles published to date by e-journals, Online Journal of Current Clinical Trials (OJCCT), Public-Access Computer Systems Review (PACS-R), and Psycholoquy all ranked highly in impact factor relative to print journals in their field. The overall conclusion was that the overall impact of e-journals would not increase until publication rates also increased. This requires that authors regard publication in such journals as a legitimate and rewarded activity.
A further study focused on the rate at which e-journal articles referenced other journal articles, as well as looking at problems in accessing such referenced articles from the point of view of users [Harter and Kim, 1996b], [Harter and Kim, 1996a]. To allow time for scholars to have read e-journal articles the sample was restricted to 39 e-journals that had commenced publication in 1993 or earlier. The study found very low citation rates from e-journal articles to other e-journal articles, a bias towards a few influential titles, and significant problems in accessing cited articles.
The latest extension of this work has examined the extent to which scholars and researchers are aware of or building their own work on research that is published in e-journals [Harter, 1998]. This study sampled scholarly peer-reviewed e-journals and conducted a range of citation analyses. The data showed that the impact of e-journals on scholarly communication has been minimal to date.
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