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Hypermedia Online Publishing: the Transformation of the Scholarly Journal

9.3.2 Insights from research literature

Julene Butler's study [Butler, 1995a] contained a number of questions relevant to journal function. The two most frequently selected disadvantages were the perception that e-journals were not real publications (63%) and that they were less prestigious (54%). These perceptions will inhibit the ability of e-journals to communicate effectively. High-ranking advantages were that e-journals allowed the author to reach the best audience (55%) and enhance scholarly dialogue (48%), both critical journal functions. Importantly, only 22% of Butlers respondents felt that their superiors rated e-journal publication as equal to or better than print. If not changed, this will act as a significant brake on any transformation of the journal.

Harter and Kim's citation study looked by implication at whether e-journals were fulfilling the function of acting as an accessible journal of record and effective means of communication. One of their significant findings was that the citation styles of the online references in the e-journals they were considering was frequently inconsistent, incomplete and/or inaccessible [Harter and Kim, 1996b]. This means that they were deficient in contrast to print publications. As they point out, "clearly the accessibility of cited online resources is potentially a very serious problem in the conduct of research and scholarship" [Harter and Kim, 1996b]. Moreover, even among e-journals, there was very little citation of the e-journal literature. Their conclusion: "e-journals presently play almost no role in scholarly communication, as measured by references cited" [Harter and Kim, 1996b].

One of the assumptions made in the design of IPCT Journal and reported by [Berge and Collins, 1996] was that scholars read articles, not journals. This has implications for the future of the journal itself, and the bundling of articles into issues. If scholars are primarily interested in articles, then what function does the journal now have? Only 10% of their respondents indicated that they would be retrieving all the articles in a specified issue. Only one article was named by over 50% of the respondents. This fits with anecdotal and citation study evidence from the print world that most scholars do not read entire articles and that most articles are read very little. The implications of this will be taken up in the Conclusion to this thesis.

[Hitchcock et al., 1997] cites one example of a publisher that is using the potentials of online publishing to broaden the functions of the journal into wider support for the activities performed by a scholarly community (as discussed by Agre). The Institute of Physics (IoP) is providing a range of online services in conjunction with its delivery of the full text of its journals. These include:

Highwire Press is also working with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to extend their online version of the prestigious journal Science (available at <> ). Science Online now offers Science Now (daily articles that will appear in the next issue of Science as well as additional material), Next Wave (a range of resources for the next generation of scientists), Science Careers (with links to employers, job listings and a resumé bank), and Science E-MarketPlace (which provides information about products and advertisers appearing in Science ). This is a deliberate move to transform the Science World site into a location that can provide a range of additional services for the scientific community. A number of scientific professional societies (the American Society for Biology and Molecular Biology, the American Chemical Society and the American Meteorological Society) have found this additional content sufficiently useful that they have licensed access to Science Now and Next Wave for their own members.

It will be interesting to see if other publishers take up this initiative. It is certainly in line with the current trend for general web directories like Altavista and Yahoo and Web-focused organisations like Netscape to transform themselves into Internet 'portals' for their user communities.

[Hitchcock et al., 1997] also points out the general trend of publishers changing the functions of the journal by providing a range of integrative services as part of their offerings. Three of the current eLib projects he describes that as taking this tack are:

Last modified: Monday, 18-Sep-2017 03:26:51 AEST

© Andrew Treloar, 2001. * *