Re: How to compare research impact of toll- vs. open-access research

From: Jim Till <>
Date: Mon, 26 Apr 2004 03:01:10 -0400 (EDT)

Comments on David's message are inserted below. (BTW, the subject heading
for my previous message, to which David responded, was chosen by Stevan,
not by me). --Jim

On Mon, 26 Apr 2004, David Goodman wrote:

> For one thing, listing in Cogprints is more of a recommendation to a
> searcher with interdsciplinary interests than publication in this very
> obscure journal, which isn't even in PubMed. For another, people who
> have used it know that Cogprints leads to full text, unlike the journal's
> abstracts-only link.

Yes, David, the JCIM is a still-obscure new journal, in a rather new (and,
still quite controversial?) field. But, I'm one of those odd folks who
believe that it's the perceived merit of the *article* itself that should
(if possible) be evaluated, as directly as possible, rather than via more
indirect proxy-indicators (such as the perceived merit of the *journal*
in which the article is published).

I responded positively to an invitation from JCIM to provide a commentary,
mainly in order to take advantage of the opportunity that it provided
to do a small experiment on self-archiving. The editorial board for
this journal is, I think, a credible one, and my topic (cancer-related
electronic support groups) was a suitable one for this particular journal.

BTW, I'd already published, about a year earlier, a previous invited
commentary on this same topic, in another new journal, Health and
Quality of Life Outcomes (HQLO), one of the set of journals published
by BioMed Central. There was no need to self-archive my previous
commentary, because the published version is openly accessible, via:

An initial step in my little experiment with JCIM was to test whether
or not the editors and the publisher would permit me to retain copyright
(and, the right to self-archive a postprint). After a brief exchange of
emails, this negotiation was successful. A later step in this same small
experiment was to self-archive versions of the same postprint at three
different locations, one of which was the CogPrints archive. The URLs
for the other two alternative locations are available via the CogPrints
location, see:

Another step in my small experiment is to compare the evolution of the
Google page ranks for the three self-archived versions (they differ
in some very minor ways; another somewhat controversial topic?). What
I *didn't* expect was a high early ranking for *any* of the three
self-archived versions.

Could it have been simply the number of visits to the site that led to
a relatively high Google page rank for the CogPrints location, within
a few days after the postprint was posted there? My test search was
for "electronic support groups" (note that I *didn't* include the word
"cancer" among the keywords that I used in my test search). At present,
I have no credible explanation for the almost-immediate high rank that
the Google page ranking algorithm gave to the CogPrints version.

> The first question I have, is what is the justification for this
> journal existing in the first place? The second, Jim, is why, as
> a senior scientist not seeking promotion or tenure, did you bother
> publishing it there? Did you think that the imprimature of this unknown
> journal's peer review would add anything to your name in this field as
> an indicator of quality? The principle reason I can see would be the
> desire to add its regular readership, however small, to those who would
> see your paper. It can't be just to get the paper indexed in Medline,
> because Medline doesn't yet include the journal.

David, I've tried answer to your question (please see above) by sketching
out the design of my little experiment on the self-archiving of a
postprint, at different locations.

> Could we concentrate better on the need for open access repositories if
> we did not waste effort on unnecessary journal publication? Everyone will
> I hope understand that this is not primarily intended for Jim personally,
> but to authors in general.

My commentary in JCIM does contain some novel material (including some
comments on Internet research ethics), in comparison with the commentary
on the same subject that I published last year in HQLO (again, see
above). And, I expect that the JCIM will reach quite a different group
of readers than does HQLO. So, I (of course!) don't regard it as an
"unnecessary publication". But, my primary goal was to undertake a small
experiment on self-archiving (*not* one on self-promotion). :-)

Jim Till
University of Toronto
Received on Mon Apr 26 2004 - 08:01:10 BST

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