Re: Replies to questions about "electronic journals"

From: Steve Hitchcock <sh94r_at_ECS.SOTON.AC.UK>
Date: Mon, 2 Oct 2000 10:43:01 +0100

At 12:02 29/09/00 +0100, Stevan Harnad wrote:
>---------- Forwarded message ----------
>Date: Fri, 29 Sep 2000 11:37:36 +0100 (BST)
>From: Stevan Harnad <>
> > Do you believe that electronic journals are more effective than print to
> > disseminate research? If so, why?
>Yes, much moreso, because:
> (1) they can be disseminated to everyone, everywhere, instantly (no
> advanced printing, no mailing), forever
> (2) they can all be accessed from a desktop (no walking to
> libraries)
> (3) they can be searched online, digitally
> (4) they take up no space
> (5) they can be easily cut/paste/quote/commented
> (6) they can be printed-off only if needed (a lot of journal use is
> just scanning/skimming: best done on-screen rather than on-paper)
> (7) they can be reference-linked online to the online papers they
> cite and are cited by (also to data and comments and responses and
> corrections and updates): see
> (8) the downloads, citations, and general "digital embryology" can
> be used to develop rich, new "scientometric" measures of impact,
> influence, time-course in the growth of knowledge: see:
> (9) most important of all: all obsolete access/impact-barriers of
> the costly on-paper medium can now be bypassed, and the refereed
> research literature can all be freed online, through author
> auto-archiving:
>But now that the established journals are going hybrid, authors and
>readers are getting used to the concept and use and advantages of the
>online version, and that will reduce the second count (the new medium)
>against new on-line journals. But as new journals, they will always
>face the first count. And whatever new online features the new
>online-only journals will try to lure authors with, the online-edition
>of the established journals will be able to offer too!

What you get online through the hybrid model is often a very poor
representation of a true online journal. Many of the advantages of the
electronic journals (1)-(9) cited above are either lost, or made more
difficult to achieve. There are strong reasons for this hybrid model to
evolve very slowly, or very expensively. Let's hope it's not the worst
examples, e.g. online print replicas, that authors and readers are becoming
used to, but rather better examples, such as BMJ.

>So I think that online-only journals will only prevail (almost by
>definition) if and when there is no more demand for the on-paper
>edition, and ALL journals become online-only. Brand-new online-only
>journal start-ups NOW are not an especially interesting proposition
>except when they happen to have unique features that the established
>journals lack (such as a specialty niche that would immediately benefit
>from online multimedia features, etc.)

This is a limited view of online-only journals. What about, e.g. JHEP?
Its niche is not unique; it's not primarily a multimedia journal. It
embodies most of the advantages of the electronic journals (1)-(9) cited at
the beginning of your mail.

Psycoloquy, D-Lib, etc., succeed but not because of specialty
niche/multimedia criteria either. We could do with more of these type of
e-only journals though.

The problem for many online-only journals is that they are electronic
*format* but print journal in concept, i.e. they only differ only in
delivery mechanism, which isn't sufficiently distinctive.

For different reasons, both the hybrid model and many online-only journals
are too reverential to the established journal model. Those who want
electronic journals to achieve (1)-(9), especially (9), have to be more
open to new models.

Steve Hitchcock
Open Citation (OpCit) Project <>
IAM Research Group, Department of Electronics and Computer Science
University of Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK
Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 3256 Fax: +44 (0)23 8059 2865
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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