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Re: Journal start-ups---and the current journal scene (fwd)

The possibilities than Alan suggests are certainly relevant, and it is
good to have them so well stated. (A related possibility is a more
rational separation of articles by subjects.)

If editors select the papers they do find room for on the basis of
quality, it is simply not possible that the journal would be of quite the
same level if they publish some of the articles they currently do not.
However, for the best journals it may often be the case that the
differences near the top level may be so small and so difficult to judge,
that it would be of almost equal quality.

As long as journals are published in issue format, even electronically,
there is also an advantage in not exceeding a certain issue size, and many
titles are already at or beyond the tolerable extent. One of the defects
of electronic publication is that no table of contents that I have yet
seen is quite as good an equivalent for scanning as the same journal's
printed version--I think it's primarily a page size problem. And the issue
format, though of course not intrinsically necessary in an electronic
format, has advantages: many users like having new papers presented to
them in manageable chunks. Of course issues could be published more
frequently electronically--but imagine facing a PNAS-length table of
contents twice a week instead of twice a month. Certainly a key virtue of
titles like Nature is their small size. Even if all the articles were the
same quality and interest as now, would it be as widely read if it were 10
times the size?

These difficulties in presentation will surely be solved, partly by
improved design, partly by improved technology, but mostly by change in
reading habits to meet the new conditions. Possibly improved subject and
citation based alerting will replace scanning for all users, not just
those who now prefer it. As the librarian of a library about to receive a
number of important titles in electronic format only, I expect the change
to require much work with both the users and the systems.

David Goodman
Biology Librarian, and
Co-Chair, Electronic Journals Task Force
Princeton University Library
dgoodman@princeton.edu         http://www.princeton.edu/~biolib/
phone: 609-258-3235            fax: 609-258-2627


> Date: Thu, 21 Oct 1999 21:58:16 EDT
> From: Alan Edelson <amedelson@topnet.net>
> Reply-To: liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
> To: liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
> Subject: Re: Journal start-ups---and the current journal scene
> ...

> But must it now be so? Suppose that the most respected journals did not
> have to turn away articles that meet their standards of excellence merely
> because of the severe constraints of page budgets. Suppose instead that
> they took the fullest advantage of the economies inherent in electronic
> publishing and expanded to include far more quality articles than they
> currently do, without lowering their standards. And suppose that tenure
> and grant committees eventually had to place as much weight on an article
> published electronically as they do on one published on paper. Suppose
> that all this took place even if it meant that publication of these
> journals on paper were suspended. Think then of the possible consequences.
> With more quality articles accepted by the most prominent journals, those
> journals would become even stronger, and would offer much greater exposure
> to articles that would otherwise have gone elsewhere, and possibly have
> been overlooked. The flow of articles to less prominent journals would
> significantly diminish, placing them under pressure to question their need
> to continued their existence in their current format. But the articles
> they publish could still find an outlet under a Varmus-like proposal,
> which would make them available in electronic form, at lower cost, and
> with greater accessibility. In time it is reasonable to expect that the
> major journals, become electronic, would co-operate with a universal
> database of journal articles, maintaining their peer review standards, but
> accepting the altered financial implications of the change.
> Alan M. Edelson, Ph.D.
> (Retired) President and CEO
> J. B. Lippincott Company