29-Mar-2005 - BioInformatics, LLC

Online Journals Have Room to Create More Value for Scientific and Medical Professionals

While online versions of "Nature", "Science" and "Proceedings of the National Academy of Science" enjoy widespread readership in the scientific and medical communities, a recent survey shows that researchers most often read specialty journals that are closely associated with their particular field. Additionally, the prestige of a journal and the size of its overall readership do not always result in exceptionally high levels of user satisfaction.

"While the future of online journals and their associated business models have sparked much debate among commercial publishers, libraries and scientists, the success of a journal ultimately depends on the value it delivers to its readers," said Bill Kelly, President of BioInformatics, LLC.

To help Scientific, Technical and Medical (STM) publishers identify new opportunities to create value and gain a competitive advantage, BioInformatics, LLC has published its latest report "Scientific and Medical Journals on the Web." Based on a 33-question survey of more than 1,900 scientific and medical researchers, this report explores reader preferences relating to specific forms of content, search functions and additional information features unique to the online medium. It also measures reader attitudes towards major issues confronting publishers such as open access, pay-per-view and CrossRef, while analyzing the results by key market segments and regions.

According to the report, a great deal of the value derived from online journals is directly related to the journal's ability to aid the career advancement of the user. For example, scientists and clinicians do not want cost to constrain their ability to publish papers or review others' work, and thus they indicated that fees related to these activities should be relatively small. This value-consciousness played into respondents' opinions regarding the open access publishing system where there was a negative bias towards authors' fees. Despite these opinions, fees are not a key determinant for authors when deciding where to submit their papers. Prestige-in the form of the journal's impact factor and reputation-and the subject matter of the journal are more important. "By publicizing impact factors and developing the image of the journal, publishers can potentially increase both the number and quality of papers submitted for publication," noted Kelly.

Another opportunity for publishers is leveraging the increased acceptance of online journals. In fact, roughly 25% of the survey respondents indicated that it was "not at all" important to receive the print edition of a journal if they have access to the online version. Additionally, greater use of online resources in recent years has lessened the importance of promoting new online journals in paper journals; instead, respondents typically learn about new journals through references in other articles or by searching for articles on a certain topic.

In light of these trends, publishers who create a superior online experience for readers can potentially gain an advantage over their competitors. "By benchmarking the major journals in terms of satisfaction with additional information features and searching capabilities, the information in this report can be used to determine industry best practices and the key functionalities needed to enhance the value online journals deliver to their readers," concluded Kelly.

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