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

There are many aspects to maintaining quality. As I see it:

The referees are responsible for the quality of an individual paper. (How
effectively they do this is a subject of much discussion elsewhere.) The
editor is responsible for selecting the referees, evaluating their
comments, and deciding which papers to publish.  The publishers are
responsible for selecting the editor and for producing and pricing the
journal so it reaches the appropriate audience.  The users are the ones
who actually evaluate the quality of the journal as a whole, and indeed of
the individual articles, by deciding which papers to read and which to

The librarians' role is to provide the material that the users most need.
They do this based traditionally on the explicit evaluations of the users,
but now more often (I hope) by objectively measuring the local use as
judged by accesses and citations.  This is not a mechanical process, as
the use and citation patterns and criteria vary with fields.

Librarians use non-numerical criteria as well, especially in judging new
titles. We basically use criteria that do not require actually reading and
judging the scientific content of the individual articles, such as noting
the institutions where the authors are located, looking at the authors'
previous citation record, checking reviews when available, looking at the
number of articles and regularity of publication; observing relative
content of individual articles compared to symposia, observing the
congruity between the apparent specificity of the journal and local
research interests.  As needed, we also typically ask the opinion of
appropriate faculty about the quality of the articles. But many of us have
learned to make rough evaluations of the merit of scientific articles in
the fields in which we specialize--at least well enough to identify the
trivia. The distinctive marks of bad work are not that difficult to
recognize. Some of us have the initial advantage of advanced degrees in
our subjects; more important, all of us learn from our users. Part of the
art of the librarian is the ability to work approximately over a very wide
range of fields, much wider (and of course much shallower) than the
typical scientist or physician.

David Goodman (Ph.D., Molecular biology)
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

Norm Frankel wrote:
> 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
> publishers.