Carol Tenopir (2000) Electronic Journals: Current Analysis, not Forecasting. Psycoloquy: 11(125) Electronic Journals (8)

Volume: 11 (next, prev) Issue: 125 (next, prev) Article: 8 (next prev first) Alternate versions: ASCII Summary
PSYCOLOQUY (ISSN 1055-0143) is sponsored by the American Psychological Association (APA).
Psycoloquy 11(125): Electronic Journals: Current Analysis, not Forecasting

Reply to 6 Reviewers on Electronic-Journals

Carol Tenopir
School of Information Sciences
University of Tennessee
804 Volunteer Boulevard
Knoxville, TN 37919

Donald W. King
4915 Gullane Drive
Ann Arbor, MI 48103


The primary purpose of "Towards Electronic Journals" (Tenopir & King 2000a,b) was to report the current state of scientific journal publishing, not to predict the future of the field. We respond to charges that our work treats scientific publishing as a homogenous entity rather than differentiating among individual subject areas. We defend the validity of our data and models as benchmarks, rather than predictors. Despite the weaknesses identified by the critiques, the book develops several themes for future consideration and provides sound indicators of scientific journal publishing and its affect on scientists' readership, authorship, information seeking patterns, and on library and intermediary services.


copyright, citation impact, digital library, electronic archives, electronic publishing, electronic journals, peer review, publication costs, research funding
1. Below we present a preliminary response to the first six of potentially eighteen individual reviews of "Towards Electronic Journals" (Tenopir & King 2000a,b). First, let us say that we were pleased that 18 persons indicated their willingness to review the book. This number, and the range of backgrounds represented by the first six reviewers, is a tribute to PSYCOLOQUY. We want to thank each reviewer for the time and thoughtful effort put into their reviews. Each has proven to be helpful to us, albeit for different reasons. It is interesting that each has focused on somewhat different aspects of the book and general topics covered by the book.

2. The reviews can be characterized as one very favorable, one very unfavorable, and four generally favorable, but pointing out lapses in the book's coverage -- particularly the inadequate extension into the future. To re-emphasize our objectives in writing the book, we felt that our primary role should be as observers or reporters of events and processes and not as interpreters or editors. Ebenezer (2000, para. 5) notes that the book partially serves as a reference tool and also correctly points out that our 'perspective is analytic, not visionary' and that our 'prognosis for the future of scientific publishing is clearly one of incremented change, not of radical shifts in the pattern of scholarly communication.' Miller (2000, para. 3) also indicates that 'Only 30% of the book deals directly with electronic journals; the reminder is about the first word of the book's title 'Towards'. This was our intent.

3. Several of the reviews suggest that the book didn't go far enough into the future and the reviewers provide their own perceptions based on their experiences. This is a welcome extension to our work. For example, Algarabel (2000, para. 1) is an editor of a small academic journal (paper and electronic at the present time). He feels that electronic publishing can improve the publishing process (para. 6) by accelerating the publishing time (i.e., reducing time by as much as 50%) and changing the refereeing (quality control) by making it more open and transparent (para. 7), while keeping costs down (para. 8). Shum (2000, para. 11), a co-founder and editor of an advanced journal, also regrets the limited extent to which the book covers the peer review process because 'the quality control function is what distinguishes it from the vanity press and anything else that can be placed on the internet' and suggests the need (para. 12) for 'a detailed discussion of the pros and cons of new, electronically mediated peer review models.' He seems to be skeptical, as we sometimes are, about the viability of some proposals due to the burden in time and effort of scientists. He also points out (para. 10) that we list some examples of new functionality that ejournals could offer, but little on their time potential. Miller (2000), editor emeritus, Ecology and Ecological Monographs and founding managing editor, Conservation Ecology Peer Review and Publishing Software Consortium, focuses on some of the economic costs and pricing aspects of the book. He presents publishing cost data, partially based on the cost model in the book, that suggests that the fixed costs for ejournals should be far less than the values given in the book (para. 9). He is also an advocate of online self-archiving of articles by their authors (para. 10) and describes how he feels this will work (paras. 11, 12).

4. Bookstein (2000), in his harsh critique of the book emphasizes a valid weakness in our presentation, a point that Ebenezer also makes (para. 4), which is that 'Scientific publishing is treated as an essentially undifferentiated entity; there is little discussion of trends within individual subject areas or of the possible significance of differences between the information cultures of particular fields.' Bookstein (para. 4) 'is a methodologist of biomedical visualization and statistical analysis.' His own work (oara. 7) 'deals with the application of mathematics of one single biomedical data set, the 47-gigabyte Visible Female, Eve, from the National Library of Medicine.' According to Bookstein, his 'first goal is to attach as much specific medical knowledge as possible to this single simulacrum. The longer-term aim is to organize that same multiterabyte medical knowledge base onto an extended archive of solid forms like hers, represented at steadily greater spatial resolution as microphotographic techniques permit, all linked from specimen to specimen according to empirical anatomical, physiological, and pathological knowledge.' He then goes on to say (para. 8) that 'Such a shared data structure does not conduce to piecewise publication in traditional print journals. Publication by linking to the solid photographic record of Eve is not "adding value" to a previous journal literature. It is, instead, a reversion from the agonistic domain of today's journals to the earlier domain of value-rich scientific communication by direct demonstration.' For this type of highly specialized information his comments are apropos.

5. [One of us (DWK), a retired statistician living in Ann Arbor, is somewhat familiar with this fascinating area of research being done at the University of Michigan. Here, again, even as statisticians Bookstein and DWK came from different cultures and experiences. In DWK's early career, particularly as co-founder of Westat, Inc. and later at King Research, Inc., DWK was involved in doing surveys for the Federal government. Those surveys were viewed as observations to be interpreted by others; much as the U.S. Census Bureau does. Thus, Bookstein and DWK we observe, analyze and communicate quite differently.]

6. There is always a danger in presenting averages in an environment as diverse as journal systems among fields of science. As observers and reporters of system data over time, we welcome others treating some of the results as assertions that ought to be tested or replicating the models and analysis in narrower scientific fields and specialties. We suspect that much of the 'dynamics' of the system analysis will persist, but to widely varying degrees. Furthermore, until future systems depart dramatically (as proposed by some) from the precepts of the traditional journal, the dynamics may hold for electronic journals and digital databases as well.

7. Bookstein clearly believes that the data have little meaning and gives examples (para. 10) of why this is so, as follows:

    "On page 242, for instance, we read about the sudden decrease in
    'journals published per scientist.' On its face, this is a ratio of
    arithmetic quantities:  total number of 'journals published'
    divided by 'total number of scientists,' each of which can be
    ascertained, by census or by survey, to some degree of accuracy.
    But whatever are we supposed to do with their ratio? That the
    number of journals is rising more slowly than the number of
    scientists does not imply the existence of any quantity named
    'journals per scientist' that is changing -- this is just the
    elementary logical fallacy of reification. If there were suddenly a
    thousand more scientists, there would not suddenly be any
    additional number of journals: the ratio has no role in any
    realistic forecasting. (In other words, it is articles that
    scientists produce, not journals.) The same paragraph goes on to
    invoke 'articles per journal,' 'article pages per title,' and
    'number of pages per scientist,' and earlier on the same page we
    encounter 'subscribers per journal,' 'price per article,' and
    'price per page.'"

8. During the 1960s and 1970s there were numerous references to the 'information explosion' and the contribution to it by scholarly journals. King Research's Statistical Indicators work for the National Science Foundation in the 1970s pointed out that the widely reported growth in number of journals was in fact closely correlated with the growth in number of scientists (and that each was also correlated with R&D funding, although lagged in time). So that communications researchers who latched on to growth as measured by number of journals would not misinterpret the decline, relative to number of scientists, we tried to make the same point as the one made by Bookstein, that number of articles per scientist is a better indicator for examining what is happening. All of these indicators have different meanings and some have a bearing on costs, as shown later in the book. They are not necessarily intended, as suggested, to be used in forecasting, but rather as a benchmark against which to compare as we progress into more electronic publishing.

9. We were careful to indicate that the models were 'rough' ones, we relied heavily on other sources of data to support or refute our findings (and reported both in the book) and we attempted to avoid spurious levels of precision which implied the data were more reliable than they are in reality. For example, our observation of an average of 900 readings per article could have been stated much more precisely, but in reality the average could well be anywhere from 500 to 1,500. On the other hand, the estimate is certainly more accurate than the 10 or 15 readings per article often reported.

10. We feel quite comfortable that we have provided sound indicators and relationships among them, and that we have shown the direction of authorship, publishing, library and intermediary services, and scientists' information seeking and readership patterns. We also attempted to develop some 'themes' that need to be considered in the future:

    Scholarly journals are important and need to be modified

    Their value extends well beyond the immediate academic community.

    Scientists' time and effort must always be kept in mind when
    considering alternatives and innovations.

    All participants must be considered in visualizing the future.

    Pricing of subscriptions and access to digital databases may be the
    most critical issue of all (and new paradigms may be warranted).

    Many of the alternatives to the traditional journal (paper-based,
    electronic and digital databases) may come into being as
    complements, not replacements of the traditional journal.

    Profound changes will take place, but their mix and timing are hard
    to predict.


Algarabel, S. (2000) The Future of Electronic Publishing. PSYCOLOQUY 11(092) psyc.00.11.092.electronic-journals.5.algarabel

Bookstein, F.L. (2000) On "Value-Added" by Electronic Journals: Infelicity of a Microeconomic Metaphor. PSYCOLOQUY 11(090) psyc.00.11.090.electronic-journals.3.bookstein

Ebenezer, S. (2000) Electronic Journals: Incremental Change or Radical Shift? PSYCOLOQUY 11(091) psyc.00.11.091.electronic-journals.4.ebenezer

Medeiros, N. (2000) Publication Costs: Electronic Versus Print. PSYCOLOQUY 11(089) psyc.00.11.089.electronic-journals.2.medeiros

Miller, L.N. (2000) Will Electronic Publishing Reduce the Cost of Scholarly Scientific Journals? PSYCOLOQUY 11(093) psyc.00.11.093.electronic-journals.6.miller

Shum, S.B. (2000) Research Needed on Online Usage and Peer review. PSYCOLOQUY 11(094) psyc.00.11.094.electronic-journals.7.shum

Tenopir, Carol, and Donald W. King (2000a) Towards Electronic Journals: Realities for Scientists, Librarians, and Publishers. Washington, D.C.: Special Libraries Association.

Tenopir, Carol, and Donald W. King (2000b) Precis of: "Towards Electronic Journals." PSYCOLOQUY 11(084) psyc.00.11.084.electronic-journals.1.tenopir

Volume: 11 (next, prev) Issue: 125 (next, prev) Article: 8 (next prev first) Alternate versions: ASCII Summary