School of Information Sciences -- Faculty Publications and Other Works


The Use and Value of Scientific Journals: Past, Present and Future.

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Although scholarly journals have enjoyed three and one-half centuries of valued use, there is a great deal of ambivalence and controversy concerning their use and value. Otherwise careful researchers may repeat the myths that scholarly journals are seldom used and are of little importance. This paper presents some highlights from research studies that present insights into how scientists use scholarly scientific journals and the value they derive from reading journal articles. The studies summarized here were done mostly in North America, with some respondents in the United Kingdom and other European countries. Details of these studies are found in Towards Electronic Journals: Realities for Scientists, Librarians, and Publishers (Tenopir & King, 2000). The information presented here is the result of three decades of surveys -- first by King Research under grants from the U.S. National Science Foundation and contracts with many organizations, and more recently by grants from several organizations, including the Special Libraries Association. This past year, we conducted additional surveys of scientists as we continue to bring our data up-to-date. Results from two of these recent surveys, a survey of scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the medical faculty at the University of Tennessee, are compared to results from earlier surveys. In all, the surveys from 1977-2001 include responses from nearly 14,000 scientists in all fields of science, including physical, life, social sciences, and engineering, and from both university and non-university settings (including industry and government laboratories). We also have data from over one hundred publishers, both for-profit and not for-profit, and libraries. Since decisions for the future are best made with an understanding of the realities of both the past and the present, all participants in the scholarly journal system must work together to resolve problems to make a better future. We have aimed our work at four main audiences: 1) scientists; 2) publishers; 3) librarians; and 4) the funders and funding agencies of these three. All are participants in scholarly communication. This article addresses only the use and value portions of our studies (although Tenopir & King includes data on cost and pricing as well). The findings address some key myths about the use of scholarly journals, including: Myth #1: Scholarly journals are not read; Myth #2: There are too many journals being published; Myth #3: Journals are only for authors, not for readers (and mostly for university tenure and promotion); Myth #4: Researchers always know the information before it appears in a journal, and Myth #5: Electronic journals make editors, publishers, and librarians obsolete

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