Re: Request for journal/article/field statistics from Ulrichs and ISI

From: Carl Tenopir <>
Date: Thu, 29 Jan 2004 13:09:07 +0000

Stevan, I can't remember if I sent you my Feb. 1, 2004 column for Library
journal on the topic. Here it is in case I didn't. Carol

Online Scholarly Journals: How Many?

It should be easy to determine the exact number of scholarly journals that
are available online. Surprisingly, it is a challenge. Even how many
scholarly journals are published in print isn't easy to figure out. Coming
up with these numbers is a tale that information specialists will

Straight to the source

Ulrich's publishes its serials directory in many formats; the most
up-to-date and complete is (tm). According to Yvette Diven,
Director, Product Management, Serials for R.R. Bowker LLC, "
is the version of Ulrich's that contains the largest numbers of publications
pulled from the Ulrich's contains the active,
ceased, suspended, and forthcoming titles from Ulrich's as well as records
for titles announced but never published and records for which supplemental
research is required in order to confirm the latest information." It is
updated weekly. Luckily, searches can be limited to "active"

This is pretty unambiguous. In mid-November, 2003 there were over
180,200 active serial records. Restricting these to just scholarly
journals gets more complicated. Ulrich's has two field designations
that might be relevant; "academic/scholarly" and "refereed". Refereed
designates refereed and peer-reviewed periodicals and is assigned mostly
on information gathered from the publisher. Here is where the problem
begins. Genuine academic publishers understand the process of peer review
but others may not.

According to Diven, "on occasion...a publication confuses peer-review
with the fact that the publication is frequently consulted by readers
of its peers in the marketplace. There is also a misperception among
some publishers that a publication is necessarily peer-reviewed if it
has an editorial board. Ulrich's editors make a concerted effort to
clarify our definitions." Academic/scholarly is a term that publishers
pick from a list that describes audience or focus (it includes Trade,
Consumer, and Newspaper.) It refers to publications intended for an
academic audience or which contain materials with a research focus.

For active refereed periodicals we get just over 21,000 titles; active
academic/scholarly weighs in at nearly 43,500. Most of the refereed are
within the academic set, so the final answer to active and (refereed or
academic/scholarly) comes to just over 43,500.

Narrowing to online

How many of these are e-journals? Ulrich's actually provides two
digital designations: "online" or "CD-ROM". Online in Ulrich's means
full text online but "does not necessarily mean online-only," according
to Diven. In fact, most of the online periodicals are also published in
print, with only about 4600 e-only publications. Many e-only publications
are newsletters, consumer publications, or web-based zines rather than
scholarly publications. CD-ROM availability is not included under online,
although some titles may have both designations.

Ulrich's lists over 34,500 online, active periodicals of all types
(remember, this includes a few e-only, but many more publications have
both online and print versions.) CD-ROM is far behind. Only 6500 titles
have active CD-ROM versions. As expected, there is some overlap, so the
total number for digital periodicals in Ulrich's (either CD-ROM or online
and also active) is nearly 37,500.

Restrict that to only online active refereed and you get 11,000; online and
active and (scholarly/academic or refereed) yields over 14,600. CD-ROM may
add another couple thousand titles.

Limiting by subject

It is more difficult to calculate how many are science, technology, or
medical titles. Restricting searches to appropriate LC or Dewey
classification numbers seems the best bet, but even that demands caution.
Peter Jacso, well-known author and database reviewer, explains that as of
summer 2003 over 80 percent of Ulrich's database records have no information
in the LC field. Such "errors of omissions can be more dangerous than errors
of commission because they are, well-invisible, and you don't get adequate
warning about large scale omissions," says Jacso. Luckily, all Ulrich's
records include at least one Dewey Decimal number.

Restricting the search by Dewey classification can be time-consuming as
fields vary considerably. Many of the online active titles are science,
technology, or medicine, but by no means all. The humanities and social
sciences have many online titles as well. On average, in Dewey 500s and 600s
only one-quarter to one-third active peer reviewed titles are online. In
some subfields, such as astronomy and medicine, the number of titles online
is closer to 60 percent. Others are obsessed, too

The American Scientist e-forum (run by Stevan Harnad) recently had a
several-days debate on this topic, with some claiming that there are as many
as half a million scholarly journals published today. Both librarians and
publishers benefit from knowing the true scope of serial titles and online
penetration. I can say with confidence that as of the end of 2003, there are
just under 50,000 scholarly journals and somewhere between a third and just
over half of them are in digital form. One thing I've learned is that these
numbers are a moving target and somewhat suspect. Keep checking and keep
definitive statements necessarily vague.


Yvette Diven of Ulrich's
provided the following concerning the Ulrich's definition of "electronic"

    "In Ulrich's, the term "online" is used to denote "online full-text"
    or "online full content"... As used in Ulrich's, online does not
    necessarily mean online-only, although there are approximately
    4,600 e-only publications in Ulrich's that are included in the
    total number of online publications. It should be noted that not all
    online periodicals in Ulrich's are academic/scholarly publications.
    Ulrich's also includes, for example, online consumer publications,
    newsletters, and web-based 'zines that fall outside the scope of
    academic and scholarly publishing (many of these are e-only)."

Carol Tenopir, Professor
School of Information Sciences and
Interim Director, Center for Information Studies
University of Tennessee
1345 Circle Park Drive, 451 Communications Bldg.
Knoxville, TN 37996-0341
(865) 974-7911 FAX (865) 974-4967
Received on Thu Jan 29 2004 - 13:09:07 GMT

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