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

David Goodman raises some very interesting points.  I am concerned with
his suggestion that "the differences near the top may be so small and so
difficult to judge that it would be of almost equal quality."  This is a
decision that should be made by the peer reviewers, i.e., physicians and
scientists.  It is definitely not a decision to be made by librarians and

Norm Frankel/AMA

>>> David Goodman <dgoodman@Princeton.EDU> 10/23 12:32 PM >>>
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