[SJ Logo]SuperJournal Baseline Studies Report

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Contents:
1. Introduction
2. Objectives of the Baseline Studies
3. Use of Printed Journals
4. Use of the Library
5. Views on Printed Journals
6. Use of Electronic Media
7. Expectations for Electronic Journals

1. Introduction

At the beginning of the SuperJournal project, baseline studies were conducted with researchers at the university test sites to establish how academic researchers used printed journals and the library, and to explore their expectations for electronic journals. Firstly, this would establish a "baseline" of reader views at the beginning of the project to compare to their views at the end of the project. Secondly, their views on the advantages and disadvantages of print, in combination with their expectations for electronic journals, could be used to plan the features of the electronic journal application, and to plan the evaluation research generally.

Two techniques were used in the baseline studies:

This report summarises the results of the baseline studies and what the project learned about the current practice and future expectations of the readers who we hoped would become SuperJournal users. Where relevant, tables are included to summarise questionnaire responses. In addition to this summary, the following supporting documents are also available:

In reading this report, please keep in mind that:

This is therefore a summary of what readers told us about current practice and future expectations based on a large amount of source material. The report is organised by topic. Within a topic, questionnaire results are presented first, followed by points made in the focus groups, which in most cases help to explain the questionnaire results.

2. Objectives of the Baseline Studies

The overall objective of the SuperJournal project was to find out what academic researchers wanted from electronic journals and the factors that will make electronic journals and services successful. For electronic journals to meet user needs, it is first necessary to identify what those needs are. The overall approach used for the project research was to:

The purpose of the baseline studies was to:

However, the baseline studies were also an integral part of the overall project research, so an additional objective was to introduce potential readers to the SuperJournal project and to seek their active participation in using the journals.

2.1 Objectives of the Baseline Questionnaire

The purpose of the baseline questionnaire was to gather quantitative and qualitative data on the target audience for SuperJournal. Firstly, we wanted some facts and figures on how often they used journals and the library, what journals they read, whether they had network access, and what online sources they used. Secondly, we wanted qualitative data that would enable us to profile the target audience, their reading habits, and their expectations. The specific objectives of the baseline questionnaire were to:

2.2 Objectives of the Focus Groups

The questionnaire allowed us to collect very useful data on what researchers did and how frequently. Focus groups were used as a complementary technique to provide greater detail about patterns of use, but also to understand the context, motivations, and reasons behind them. Secondly, the focus groups were an opportunity to gather together a homogeneous group and explore issues relevant to their discipline and site that might influence use. As each journal cluster was launched, focus groups were arranged for readers in that subject area at those sites where there would be greatest interest. And as the focus groups were a part of the overall promotion for SuperJournal, an ulterior motive was to encourage potential users to register. The specific objectives of the focus groups were therefore to:

3. Use of Printed Journals

3.1 Importance of Journals

The questionnaire established that journals were important to respondents, and they read them on a regular basis, typically weekly. This is important as it establishes that the respondents are experienced journal users. We can therefore attach some importance to their views on journals.

Firstly, respondents were asked "Do you read journals on a regular basis?". 99.2% said "yes", and only one Social Science respondent said "no".

Secondly, they were asked "If `yes', on average how often to you read journal articles?". As the table below indicates, most read articles at least weekly, and 40% of the Scientists read them daily.

Q1b

Social Science

% Social Science

Science

% Science

Total

% Total

Daily

1

2.5%

37

39.8%

38

28.6%

Weekly

27

67.5%

49

52.7%

76

57.1%

Monthly

10

25.0%

4

4.3%

14

10.5%

Occasionally

1

2.5%

3

3.2%

4

3.0%

Never

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

No response

1

2.5%

0

0.0%

1

0.8%

Total

40

100%

93

100%

133

100%

Thirdly, they were asked to indicate to what extent they agreed with the statement "Journals are important to my work." As the following table shows, 98% either strongly agreed or agreed with the statement.

Q2

Social Science

% Social Science

Science

% Science

Total

% Total

Strongly agree

30

75.0%

82

88.2%

112

84.2%

Agree

8

20.0%

11

11.8%

19

14.3%

Undecided

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

Disagree

1

2.5%

0

0.0%

1

0.8%

Strongly disagree

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

No response

1

2.5%

0

0.0%

1

0.8%

Total

40

100%

93

100%

133

100%

For Scientists journals have traditionally been the way to disseminate research results, and journals are unquestionably important to their work. In the Social Sciences books have traditionally been more important, but journals are becoming increasingly more important. In the focus groups, participants noted that the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) has emphasised the importance of publishing research quickly, and journals have shorter publication times than books. They also said that library book budgets have been cut over recent years, making books less available than journals.

3.2 Reasons for Using Journals

In the focus groups, participants gave several reasons for using journals, e.g.:

The Social Scientists tended to be more task-driven in their use of journals, with a particular event (e.g. writing an essay) acting as the stimulus to visit the library and catch up on their reading. The Scientists tended to scan journals regularly to keep up to date, and a particular task (e.g. writing an article or preparing a presentation) would simply involve a bit more time and effort.

The questionnaire asked respondents about their reasons for using journals, but in an indirect way. An open-ended question was posed: "Is there a particular time when you tend to read journals, e.g. `only when preparing a literature review'?". Most of the Scientists (66.7%) said "no" and explained they used them all the time. On the other hand, half of the Social Scientists said "yes" and then listed specific tasks. For the Social Scientists, the most frequently mentioned tasks involved teaching (32.5%) and writing articles or essays (27.5%).

In the Social Science focus groups, participants frequently mentioned journals in connection with teaching. They felt it was important for students to become acquainted with journals, and spent considerable time preparing and updating reading lists. Undergraduates needed some guidance, so lists of pre-selected articles seemed the right approach. Postgraduates needed less guidance and were perhaps just pushed in the direction of journals and told to read them.

3.3 Techniques for Identifying Relevant Articles

The baseline studies indicate that the Scientists use online bibliographic databases and browsing journal issues as complementary techniques to identify relevant articles. The Social Scientists tend to be more opportunistic in their approach, and use a wider variety of techniques.

The baseline questionnaire asked respondents to "Indicate the three most common methods you use to identify relevant journal articles" and gave a list of seven methods from which to choose. Almost all of the Scientists used online bibliographic databases as a systematic technique, supported by browsing journal issues and following references they find in other articles. The Social Scientists depend more on non-systematic techniques, like browsing journal issues, following references they find in articles, and peer recommendation. The following table shows how they responded:

Q5a

Social Science

% Social Science

Science

% Science

Total

% Total

Online bibliographic databases

19

47.5%

86

92.5%

105

78.9%

Article references

32

80.0%

57

61.3%

89

66.9%

Browsing issues

27

67.5%

56

60.2%

83

62.4%

Journal abstracts

9

22.5%

23

24.7%

32

24.1%

Peer recommendation

14

35.0%

15

16.1%

29

21.8%

CD-ROM bibliographic databases

12

30.0%

12

12.9%

24

18.0%

Citation indexes

4

10.0%

5

5.4%

9

6.8%

Alerting services

2

5.0%

4

4.3%

6

4.5%

Response given

40

100%

93

100%

133

100%

No response

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

Total

40

100%

93

100%

133

100%

The questionnaire also asked them to indicate how frequently they used different types of databases. The Scientists tended to use online bibliographic databases weekly or daily, and CD-ROM databases occasionally if at all. Overall the Social Scientists used online databases less frequently than the Scientists, and CD-ROM databases more frequently:

Q14, Q15

Social Sciences

Sciences

Online Databases

CD-ROM Databases

Online Databases

CD-ROM Databases

Frequency

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

Daily

3

7.5%

0

0.0%

16

17.2%

3

3.2%

Weekly

18

45.0%

7

17.5%

60

64.5%

8

8.6%

Monthly

4

10.0%

12

30.0%

10

10.8%

9

9.7%

Occasionally

12

30.0%

15

37.5%

5

5.4%

33

35.5%

Never

1

2.5%

4

10.0%

2

2.2%

40

43.0%

No response

2

5.0%

2

5.0%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

Total

40

100%

40

100%

93

100%

93

100%

The focus groups put more flesh on the techniques they use and their reasons for choosing them.

3.3.1 Techniques in the Sciences

The Scientists stressed the importance of keeping up to date, in their own research area, and in adjacent areas. The areas they work in are competitive, and it's essential to know what others are doing and are publishing. Typically the Scientists described two complementary scenarios for keeping up to date:

There were of course many variations, and other techniques were mentioned as well:

When browsing through the current journal shelves, some will scan the contents list looking for titles and authors or interest, others will "flip" through the issue looking for illustrations, tables, and other things that may catch the eye, and some will do both. They then look at the article in more detail to see if it is indeed relevant. If it is, typically they will make a photocopy, and take it away to read later.

For the Scientists it's important to see the original article. Articles in the Life Sciences often contain photographs (e.g. electron micrographs) and colour images. In all of the Science focus groups, they mentioned the problem that these illustrations do not photocopy well, i.e. the detail and of course any colour is lost. If you have seen the original, a photocopy is fine to keep and file. But if you have only seen a photocopy, you won't be able to interpret the graphics, and will not have access to all the content the author is conveying. Having the chance to study the original is essential.

They also noted the importance of serendipity. When browsing through a journal issue, an article might catch your eye, because of an illustration, or perhaps because the issue simply fell open to that page. The article might be in a different research area, and one you might not have found in an online database using your regular set of keywords. An important article in another research area might inform your own research (lateral thinking), or it might stimulate you to get into that area. Whatever the reason, the Scientists valued the serendipity of coming across interesting and relevant articles by "flipping" through the recent journals.

To keep up to date with a wide range of journals, this scanning process is done regularly, typically weekly, and in some cases daily. For many a regular pattern is established of visiting the library at a particular time of the day/week to scan a regular number of journals in a session. By establishing a regular pattern, the Scientists can ensure they won't fall behind. But even those with regular browsing patterns expressed concern that they weren't finding all articles that might be relevant.

Some had alternative solutions to visiting the library. More senior faculty members had postgraduate students who could fetch articles for them. One faculty member also mentioned a system where all postgraduates in the research group would keep up to date with a specific area, and then the group would share the articles they found on the various topics.

Time seemed to be the most important factor in keeping up to date: not having enough time to visit the library, not enough time to keep up with the wide range of journals, and time to read the articles once they had found them. For some this caused considerable anxiety.

Comprehensive literature searches, for background information or to support tasks like writing articles and giving presentations, are done when needed using the online bibliographic databases. Then it's simply a matter of finding the articles in the library. The Scientists are well served with databases, and typically they choose the one that best fits their needs in terms of subject coverage and accessibility. Once they find a database that meets their needs, they tend to stick to it.

3.3.2 Techniques in the Social Sciences

Researchers in the Social Sciences also made a distinction between keeping up to date and doing more comprehensive background searches, but the distinction was less marked. In comparing them to the Scientists, there are some things to keep in mind:

Like the Scientists, the Social Scientists would visit the library to browse through the recent journals, but in a more open ended way, and more manual work was involved. Within a research area, there was interest in tracking themes and a dialogue on particular topics. There was also considerably more interest in knowing what was being published generally, tracking current trends, identifying new ones, and knowing the topics that were "in". The references at the end of an article were often their guide to finding more related articles, as were references they got from colleagues.

Though they might visit the library to browse through the journals weekly or monthly to see what's been published, the more serious task of tracking themes and dialogues might be done less frequently, say quarterly, when a whole new group of journal issues was out. Often a particular task, like writing an article or essay, was the stimulus to visit the library and carry out this more detailed research.

Like the Scientists, they used online bibliographic databases for systematic searches, and databases and indexes on CD-ROM. They tended to say "I use BIDS" or "I use the CD-ROMs in the library" without noting the particular databases they use.

They said little about serendipity, perhaps because the methods they used were more open-ended, and serendipity was part of the overall process. They also expressed less anxiety about keeping up to date.

3.4 Using the Article

The baseline studies indicate that when academic researchers find a relevant article, they make a copy, read the article, annotate the copy, and file it so they can refer to it again. Having a copy of the article that's yours to keep and annotate is important, and making notes or highlighting aids the process of absorbing the article content.

3.4.1 Photocopying

The baseline questionnaire asked respondents "Once you have located a relevant article, what do you typically do with it, e.g. `make a photocopy, then read and annotate the copy'?". This was an open-ended question, and many responses were given, but the typical scenario (like the example given) was to make a photocopy, read the article, and annotate the copy. The following table summarises the frequency with which particular activities were mentioned, but does not reflect the sequence.

Q5b

Social Science

% Social Science

Science

% Science

Total

% Total

Photocopy the article

25

69.4%

66

71.0%

91

70.5%

Sometimes copy the article

5

13.9%

10

10.8%

15

11.6%

Read the article

28

77.8%

64

68.8%

92

71.3%

Annotate the copy

15

41.7%

24

25.8%

39

30.2%

Take notes

8

22.2%

8

8.6%

16

12.4%

Note reference in database

1

2.8%

13

14.0%

14

10.9%

File the copy

6

16.7%

9

9.7%

15

11.6%

Response given

36

90.0%

93

100.0%

129

97.0%

No response

4

10.0%

0

0.0%

4

3.0%

Total

40

100%

93

100%

133

100%

Looking at the actual responses given, and taking into consideration the discussion in the focus groups, the Scientists more often made a copy of the article if it's relevant. The Social Scientists were somewhat more selective in making copies. Some preferred to take notes (e.g. on note cards) and simply keep the notes. Some preferred to just copy the title page or abstract as a record of having read the article. And some of the Social Scientists were environmentally sensitive, and made a conscious effort not to generate too much paper.

3.4.2 Where Researchers Read Articles

The baseline questionnaire asked respondents "Where do you mostly read journals?", and five options were given (respondents could choose only one). The table below shows that the Scientists prefer to read in their offices, and the Social Scientists prefer to read in the library or at home.

Q3a

Social Science

% Social Science

Science

% Science

Total

% Total

Library

14

35.0%

26

28.0%

40

30.1%

Office

11

27.5%

46

49.5%

57

42.9%

Home

15

37.5%

15

16.1%

30

22.6%

Travelling

0

0.0%

4

4.3%

4

3.0%

Other

0

0.0%

2

2.2%

2

1.5%

No response

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

Total

40

100%

93

100%

133

100%

The next question asked "Why do you do most of your journal reading here?". This was an open-ended question and any response could be given. The table below summarises the most frequent responses given. Where journals are located obviously influences where they are read, but another important factor is the nature of the reading environment, e.g. whether it is quiet, convenient, or where the researcher normally does their work and has their other papers.

Q3b

Social Science

% Social Science

Science

% Science

Total

% Total

It's where the journals are

13

32.5%

39

43.3%

52

40.0%

Quiet pleasant environment

13

32.5%

20

22.2%

33

25.4%

Convenient, I prefer it

10

25.0%

17

18.9%

27

20.8%

Where I normally work

4

10.0%

20

22.2%

24

18.5%

Where I have time to read

6

15.0%

10

11.1%

16

12.3%

Response given

40

100.0%

90

96.8%

130

97.7%

No response

0

0.0%

3

3.2%

3

2.3%

Total

40

100%

93

100%

133

100%

In the focus groups, the Scientists said they would identify a relevant article in the library, make a photocopy, and then take the copy away to read later. The copies might go into a pile of "things to read", and reading the articles was done when there is time to fit it in. Reading was most often done in the office, though copies were also read while travelling, e.g. air travel to a conference or regular commuting. For the Scientists the office/lab was their place of work, where they were expected to be during the day, and often the most convenient place, as it's where their other copies of journal articles were.

The Social Scientists tended to read the article in the library or at home. For those that read in the library, it was because "that's where the journals are". Considering the open-ended process of identifying articles through references and tracking themes, it was convenient to read as part of the overall discovery process.

However, a significant factor mentioned by both the Scientists and Social Scientists is that the place they choose for reading articles should be quiet, comfortable, free of distractions, and conducive to absorbing the content of the article. This may be simply a matter of choosing a place with a comfortable chair where you can have a cup of coffee while you read, e.g. the office in the case of the Scientists. However, the Social Scientists often prefer to do their reading at home. Many said they had shared offices at work, with too much noise and too many distractions to concentrate. Scientists in the same situation would more often go to the library to read their articles than bring work home.

3.4.3 Reading, Annotating, and Filing

The focus groups indicate that the researchers value photocopies, as they are theirs to own, mark up, file, and refer to again. Typically they annotate the article (or make notes), as this aids the process of understanding and digesting the article content. When they refer to the copy again, the margin notes remind them of the important points the author made, and their views on the article when they read it.

The researchers seem to have a love-hate relationship with their photocopies. Once they own the photocopy, they have to store it somewhere, and many complained about bursting file cabinets. Most had a system for recording articles they have read or copies they own. Some used manual file indexes, but many of the Scientists used electronic reference managers or other kinds of databases. However, even using an electronic index didn't guarantee they could find a copy when they wanted it.

3.5 Journals Read

In both the Sciences and Social Sciences, readers have a group of journals they consider important to their research interests and "always" read, and a group that are less important or more peripheral to their research interests that they scan, perhaps less frequently or in less depth. In the Life Sciences there is also a "core" group of journals that all readers regularly read, like Nature, Science, Cell, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. These tend to be "general" journals, with articles on a wide range of topics. But they are also considered to be the "top" journals, so the articles published are likely to be important.

The baseline questionnaire asked respondents "Which journals do you regularly read?". This was an open-ended question, and respondents could list any number of journals. The journals that were most frequently listed for CCS and MGP readers are listed below, and not surprisingly, Nature, Science, and other "core" journals feature at the top of the list for MGP readers. MGP readers listed an average of 7.0 journals and CCS readers 5.3. It's likely that the MGP readers actually read more than this, but just listed the most important ones on the questionnaire, for reasons of time and effort. In fact some gave responses like "A, B, C, and many more" or "Too many to list, they include A, B, C, etc".

Q6: Journals Read by CCS Respondents

Journals Ready by MGP Respondents

Journal

No.

%

Journal

No.

%

Media Culture & Society

9

31.0%

Nature

71

85.5%

Cultural Studies

5

17.2%

Science

51

61.4%

Screen

5

17.2%

Cell

38

45.8%

Radical Philosophy

4

13.8%

PNAS

29

34.9%

Sociology

4

13.8%

EMBO Journal

26

31.3%

Area

3

10.3%

Journal of Biological Chemistry

12

14.5%

Society & Space (Environment & Planning D)

3

10.3%

Nature Genetics

17

20.5%

European Journal of Communication

3

10.3%

Biochemistry

12

14.5%

Feminist Review

3

10.3%

Journal of Cell Biology

12

14.5%

New Formations

3

10.3%

Trends in Genetics

13

15.7%

New Left Review

3

10.3%

New Scientist

10

12.0%

Transactions of the Royal Institute of British Geographers

3

10.3%

Genes and Development

9

10.8%

-

-

-

Molecular and Cellular Biology

9

10.8%

Respondents

29

100%

Respondents

83

93.3%

Unique titles listed

106

- Unique titles listed

144

-
Total mentions

154

- Total mentions

580

-
Avg titles per respondent

5.3

- Avg titles per respondent

7.0

-

An important thing that the baseline questionnaire told us was that overall there was not a particularly good match between the journals in the SuperJournal clusters and the journals the potential users actually read. The following table gives some idea of the match readers and the cluster journals.

Q6

CCS

PS

MGP

MC

Respondents

29

9

83

4

SuperJournal titles listed

8

5

10

1

Total mentions

30

7

53

2

Avg SJ titles per respondent

1.03

0.78

0.64

0.50

The questionnaire also asked respondents "Do you receive personal copies of any journals?". As the following table shows, about half did have personal subscriptions and half did not.

Q7a

Social Science

% Social Science

Science

% Science

Total

% Total

Yes

27

67.5%

43

46.2%

70

52.6%

No

13

32.5%

50

53.8%

63

47.4%

No response

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

Total

40

100%

93

100%

133

100%

Readers who said "yes" were asked to list the journals for which they had personal subscriptions. The table below gives the most frequent responses for CCS and MGP readers.

Q7b: Journals Read by CCS Respondents

Journals Ready by MGP Respondents

Journal

No.

%

Journal

No.

%

New Left Review

3

17.6%

Nature

18

42.9%

Radical Philosophy

3

17.6%

Trends in Genetics

6

14.3%

Screen

3

17.6%

Nature Genetics

4

9.5%

Sociology

3

17.6%

Science

4

9.5%

Media Culture & Society

2

11.8%

Cell

3

7.1%

Race and Class

2

11.8%

Current Biology

3

7.1%

Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers

2

11.8%

New Scientist

3

7.1%

Respondents

17

58.6%

Respondents

42

47.2%

Unique titles listed

37

- Unique titles listed

51

-
Total mentions

48

- Total mentions

90

-
Avg titles per respondent

2.8

- Avg titles per respondent

2.1

-

The topic of personal subscriptions was raised in half of the focus groups. For those who did not have personal subscriptions, it was largely a matter of cost. For those who did have personal subscriptions, typically these were important journals for which the reader wanted a personal copy to read, annotate, and refer to again. The journals were available in the library, so a personal subscription was a matter of convenience (no need to visit the library) and accessibility (the library copy might be unavailable). They were not obscure journals that the library had refused to purchase. In some cases the personal subscriptions were associated with society membership, i.e. it was the membership the reader purchased, and the journal was a bonus. Overall the participants did not seem to feel strongly about personal subscriptions; it was a matter of weighing cost against personal convenience.

4. Use of the Library

The baseline studies indicate that most researchers visited the library weekly, typically to read or brows the journals, and for the Social Scientists also to read and borrow books. A number of problems associated with using the library. 70% of the Social Scientists said that their access to journals limited the breadth and depth of their reading. Other problems included physically finding journals in the library, journals missing or in use, and the time/effort involved with photocopying. Physically making the trip to the library was also a barrier, as was opening hours during vacations.

4.1 Frequency of Use

The baseline questionnaire asked respondents "On average how often do you visit a university/institution library?", and five options were given. The following table shows that the majority of respondents visit the library weekly (64%), with a smaller number using it daily or monthly.

Q11

Social Science

% Social Science

Science

% Science

Total

% Total

Daily

4

10.0%

8

8.6%

12

9.0%

Weekly

27

67.5%

58

62.4%

85

63.9%

Monthly

9

22.5%

18

19.4%

27

20.3%

Occasionally

0

0.0%

9

9.7%

9

6.8%

Never

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

No response

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

Total

40

100%

93

100%

133

100%

4.2 Reasons for Use

The next question asked "What are your main reasons for visiting the library?". This was an open-ended question, and respondents could give any response. The table below lists the most frequent responses. The Scientists and Social Scientists both visit the library to read or browse journals, but the Social Scientists use it even more often to read or borrow books.

Q12

Social Science

% Social Science

Science

% Science

Total

% Total

Read or browse journals

26

66.7%

69

79.3%

95

75.4%

Read or borrow books

29

74.4%

9

10.3%

38

30.2%

Photocopy journal articles

5

12.8%

24

27.6%

29

23.0%

Get materials for my research

9

23.1%

2

2.3%

11

8.7%

It's a quiet place to work

4

10.3%

2

2.3%

6

4.8%

Get materials for teaching

4

10.3%

1

1.1%

5

4.0%

Literature search

3

7.7%

2

2.3%

5

4.0%

Response given

39

97.5%

87

93.5%

126

94.7%

No response

1

2.5%

6

6.5%

7

5.3%

Total

40

100%

93

100%

133

100%

4.3 Problems with the Library

Earlier in the questionnaire, respondents were asked "Does your access to journals significantly limit the breadth and depth of your journal reading?". 70% of the Social Scientists and 50% of the Scientists responded "yes". Those who responded yes were asked to describe the barriers to access. Though this question was not specifically about the library, their open ended responses do focus on the library. The table below summarises the most frequent responses given.

Q8b

Social Science

% Social Science

Science

% Science

Total

% Total

Journal coverage

19

70.4%

21

46.7%

40

55.6%

Have to go to library

6

22.2%

17

37.8%

23

31.9%

Physically find in the library

3

11.1%

10

22.2%

13

18.1%

Unavailable, e.g. missing or in use

2

7.4%

5

11.1%

7

9.7%

Interlibrary loans

5

18.5%

2

4.4%

7

9.7%

Journals are late

1

3.7%

4

8.9%

5

6.9%

Cost

4

14.8%

1

2.2%

5

6.9%

Response given

27

67.5%

45

48.4%

72

54.1%

No response

13

32.5%

48

51.6%

61

45.9%

Total

40

100%

93

100%

133

100%

For both the Scientists and Social Scientists, journal coverage and having to make a trip to the library were the key problem areas. Problems associated with using the library were discussed in more detail in the focus groups.

4.3.1 Availability of Journals

The main concern expressed in the focus groups was that of availability of journals. In the case of the Social Sciences, the typical complaint what that the library did not subscribe to enough journals. This meant that the researchers had to visit other libraries, or send off for articles through interlibrary loan. Many of the Social Scientists preferred the first option. Those that felt they weren't well served by their own library in their field of interest often preferred to visit another library specialising in this area. This wouldn't be for weekly browsing, but perhaps quarterly to do their more detailed research. Interlibrary loan was a distinct second best, as it took some time for the article to arrive, and when it did, they often found it wasn't as good or relevant as they had hoped. Though making the trip was time consuming, overall it made better use of their time to have the resources they needed all together in one place.

In the focus groups the Scientists had few complaints about not enough journals in their library. However, it should be kept in mind that they represented large universities with extensive collections (e.g. Oxford, Cambridge, and UCL).

What all the researchers mentioned most vociferously in the focus groups, was the frustration of visiting the library and finding that what they wanted was not available on the day. There might be a variety of reasons, e.g. someone else was using it, the issue might have been sent to the bindery, but also the issue might have been stolen, or the particular article they wanted ripped out. The unavailability of something that should be available cause enormous frustration, as a trip to the library had been wasted, and they would have to come again.

4.3.2 Access Issues

Access issues were the next major concern. Most found that physically visiting the library was a barrier; they had to make the time to go there, and the library might be some distance away. Though this wasn't the library's "fault", it was a barrier that had to be overcome. Also, some times of the day were more convenient than others. Normal "office hours" were taken up with the business of work, e.g. working in the lab, teaching, and seeing students. Typically they would visit the library "out of office hours", e.g. at lunch time or on the way home.

A factor mentioned at specific sites was the difficulty of physically finding journal articles in the library, e.g. they found the layout of the library difficult to use or how materials were classified by subject. In the case of Cambridge, the fragmentation of the collection was mentioned. Typically individual Departments have small libraries, and researchers expect the journals they use frequently to be held there. If the journal is not held by their Department library, the chances are it's held at Cambridge in some other library. But they would have to find out where and then visit the other library.

The third factor mentioned was library opening hours. Though there were few complaints about opening hours during term time, many felt that restricted opening hours during vacation periods were a problem. Researchers looked forward to the vacations, because when the students were away, the library was less congested and easier to use. Closing the library early during the week (e.g. at 5:00 PM) was much more of a problem than restritcted hours at weekends.

4.3.3 Photocopying

At most of the focus groups, frustration was expressed with photocopying. Firstly, there is the physical problem of getting a copy that is as good as the original. Once a journal is bound, the text near the spine may be difficult or impossible to read. For the Scientists, a more important problem is that the high-quality graphics don't photocopy well. When an electron micrograph is copied, the detail disappears, and in the worst case you simply have a black square. In the case of colour illustrations, the colour is obviously lost, and therefore much if not all of the content.

Another significant problem mentioned was the time and inconvenience of physically making photocopies: gathering up all the journals, queuing for the photocopier, and physically copying each page. A related issue is that photocopiers are generally "equal opportunity" devices in the library. You may be a well-paid academic, but you still have to stand in a queue, perhaps behind a group of undergraduates copying course notes. So it's partly a matter of time, effort, and efficiency, but also a feeling that your time is being wasted, and perhaps that the "system" does really not value your time.

4.3.4 Timeliness

In some of the Science focus groups, the researchers said they felt that the journals in the library were not always up to date. In the case of Oxford and UCL, the complaint was about American journals which simply took some time to be shipped to the UK and appear on the shelves. In the case of NIMR and Leeds, it was a case of knowing what had just been published in a journal (e.g. the researcher uses an electronic alerting service) and the journal hadn't yet arrived (from the USA or anywhere else). In both cases the library might be getting the journals to the shelves as soon as humanly possible. But for some there was a perception that the library was not up to date if the journal has been published and the issue was not yet in the library.

5. Views on Printed Journals

The baseline studies indicate that researchers value the printed journal. In the focus groups physical attributes were most frequently mentioned, e.g. they are portable, easy to read, easy to browse, and you can make a copy to own. In the questionnaire the Social Scientists most frequently mentioned liking the concept of the journal/issue/article for disseminating knowledge, and the Scientists most often mentioned the high quality presentation and graphics. The disadvantages of print are similar to their problems with using the library, e.g. finding journals, storage, missing issues, and photocopying.

5.1 Advantages of Printed Journals

The baseline questionnaire asked respondents "What features of the printed journal medium to you like most?". This was an open-ended question and they could respond in any way. The table below lists the most frequently listed responses:

Q9

Social Science

% Social Science

Science

% Science

Total

% Total

Quality presentation, graphics

4

10.8%

23

29.1%

27

23.3%

Journal/issue/article concept

16

43.2%

9

11.4%

25

21.6%

Easy to scan, browse

8

21.6%

16

20.3%

24

20.7%

Easy to read

7

18.9%

16

20.3%

23

19.8%

Portable

11

29.7%

12

15.2%

23

19.8%

Can make a copy to own

5

13.5%

12

15.2%

17

14.7%

Can annotate

5

13.5%

12

15.2%

17

14.7%

Response given

37

92.5%

79

84.9%

116

87.2%

No response

3

7.5%

14

15.1%

17

12.8%

Total

40

100%

93

100%

133

100%

Interestingly, the Social Scientists most frequently commented on the journal in intellectual rather than physical terms. They liked the intellectual concept of the journal, that it contained articles on discrete subjects, that articles are more concentrated and up to date than books, a dialogue is established over time, and issues are a good way to collect articles together. Perhaps the fact that journals have become important relatively recently cased them to comment on the concept; the Scientists who have used them longer made fewer comments on the medium itself.

The Scientists made more comments on the high quality presentation of journals. They valued the time and effort that has gone into preparing a well-formatted page, the fact that complex tables are presented so they are easy to understand, and of course the high quality of the original graphics.

Other factors rated highly in the questionnaire are that journals (and photocopies) are portable, journals are easy to read, and they are easy to browse.

Advantages of print were also discussed in the focus groups. The factors mentioned most frequently were:

In the Science focus groups the matter of presentation and graphics was considered important, as was serendipity. And in some focus groups in both areas the fact that print is "easier to connect to" was mentioned, i.e. easier than reading the same article on a computer screen.

5.2 Disadvantages of Printed Journals

Similarly respondents to the baseline questionnaire were asked "What features of the printed journal medium do you dislike most?". The table below lists the most frequently listed responses.

Q10

Social Science

% Social Science

Science

% Science

Total

% Total

Finding it, accessibility

7

18.9%

28

34.6%

35

29.7%

Storage problems

3

8.1%

23

28.4%

26

22.0%

Availability, could be missing

4

10.8%

19

23.5%

23

19.5%

Copying is a pain, graphics

4

10.8%

18

22.2%

22

18.6%

Not searchable

6

16.2%

9

11.1%

15

12.7%

Delays getting the journal

3

8.1%

23

28.4%

26

22.0%

Cost of subscriptions

6

16.2%

1

1.2%

7

5.9%

Print has NO negative features

3

8.1%

4

4.9%

7

5.9%

Response given

37

92.5%

81

87.1%

118

88.7%

No response

3

7.5%

12

12.9%

15

11.3%

Total

40

100%

93

100%

133

100%

For both Scientists and Social Scientists, the main problems seemed to focus on accessibility and physically finding the articles they wanted. Beyond this, the Scientists were most concerned about storage issues, i.e. the huge space that printed journals take up, and timeliness, i.e. delays getting the printed issues. The Social Scientists mentioned the disadvantage that printed journals aren't searchable, and their high cost. The former is probably a concern as they are not so well served at the Scientists in terms of indexes and databases, and the latter because it is perceived as the reason their library does not subscribe to enough journals (see Section 4.3.1).

6. Use of Electronic Media

The baseline studies showed that researchers had network access and used the Web, typically daily or weekly. Only the Scientists were regular users of electronic journals, typically using them weekly. When the baseline studies were conducted (1997), there were few electronic journals in the Social Sciences.

6.1 Network Access

The baseline questionnaire asked if respondents had access to a networked computer and allows them to select one or more of the following choices: home, office/lab, elsewhere. The following table shows that most have access in their office/lab, and half at home.

Q13

Social Science

% Social Science

Science

% Science

Total

% Total

Home

18

45.0%

39

41.9%

57

43.2%

Office/Lab

28

70.0%

74

79.6%

102

77.3%

Elsewhere

4

10.0%

7

7.5%

11

8.3%

Response given

39

97.5%

93

100.0%

132

99.2%

No response

1

2.5%

0

0.0%

1

0.8%

Total

40

100%

93

100%

133

100%

These results were confirmed by the focus groups. Almost all participants had network access, and for most this was in the office.

Though most had network access in their offices, the quality of that access varied from site to site, particularly in the Social Sciences. Some said they had to share a PC, so they couldn't always use it when they wanted. Some said they had older PCs of low specification that weren't really suitable for electronic journals. For example, the PC might not have sufficient memory to load Adobe Acrobat Reader or download PDF files. In most cases this was seen as a Department (vs University) problem and would be solved when the Department got around to (or allocated the funding to) upgrading PCs.

For those who had network access at home, a minority indicated that they would use it to access electronic journals. Firstly, some preferred not to work at home and used their network access for home and recreational purposes. For those that did work at home, they did not want to pay the telephone charges, and also didn't have printers at home.

In some of the focus groups participants were asked if they would go to the library to use electronic journals. Most said no: the whole purpose of electronic access would be to avoid a trip to the library, so using them in the library would defeat the purpose. Also, in some of the libraries it's not possible to print out articles. The user would have to save the article to disk, take the disk away, and then print it out later.

6.2 Use of Electronic Sources

Section 3.3 indicates the frequency with which online and CD-ROM databases were used by respondents to the baseline questionnaire. The questionnaire also asked how frequently they used the Web and electronic journals, and the same five choices were given. The table below tabulates the responses:

Q16, Q17a

Social Sciences

Sciences

WWW

Electronic Journals

WWW

Electronic Journals

Frequency

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

Daily

23

57.5%

1

2.5%

66

71.0%

8

8.6%

Weekly

9

22.5%

3

7.5%

23

24.7%

45

48.4%

Monthly

2

5.0%

8

20.0%

2

2.2%

12

12.9%

Occasionally

5

12.5%

13

32.5%

1

1.1%

16

17.2%

Never

0

0.0%

15

37.5%

1

1.1%

10

10.8%

No response

1

2.5%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

2

2.2%

Total

40

100%

40

100%

93

100%

93

100%

Virtually all respondents used the Web, and most used it daily. Only the Scientists used electronic journals on a regular basis, typically weekly. When the survey was conducted, it's important to keep in mind that there weren't very many electronic journals in the Social Sciences.

The baseline questionnaire also asked respondents "Which electronic journals/services do you use?". This was an open-ended question, and any response could be given. The table below shows that most of the Scientists did name specific electronic journals or services. Though some of the Social Scientists did list electronic journals/services, a greater number did not respond to the question.

Q17b

Social Science

% Social Science

Science

% Science

Total

% Total

Listed journals or services

11

27.5%

67

72.0%

78

58.6%

Use, but didn't list one

3

7.5%

7

7.5%

10

7.5%

SuperJournal only

5

12.5%

3

3.2%

8

6.0%

Don't use

3

7.5%

4

4.3%

7

5.3%

No response

18

45.0%

12

12.9%

30

22.6%

Total

40

100%

93

100%

133

100%

The questionnaire indicates that the MGP respondents were the most experienced users of electronic journals, listing 37 electronic journals and 6 services (excluding SuperJournal). The most frequently named journals and services are listed below (five or more responses):

Q17b – MGP Respondents

Electronic Journals

No.

%

Nature

21

26.9%

Journal of Biological Chemistry

19

24.4%

Science

12

15.4%

Cell

10

12.8%

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

8

10.3%

Biochemical Journal

7

9.0%

New Scientist

7

9.0%

EMBO Journal

6

7.7%

Journal of Molecular Biology

5

6.4%

Electronic Journal Services

No.

%

Academic Press IDEAL

11

14.1%

BioMedNet

10

12.8%

BIDS

9

11.5%

These results were confirmed by the focus groups. All participants used the Web, but only the Scientists regularly used electronic journals. However, it's important to keep in mind that most of the focus groups were held during 1997. At that time many electronic journals were being offered on a free trial basis, and not all made the full text of articles available. So in some cases what they used was a journal Web site that made tables of contents and abstracts available, and not in every case the full text.

However, the baseline studies confirmed that researchers at the target sites had network access and sufficient experience with electronic journals to comment on what their expectations would be.

7. Expectations for Electronic Journals

The baseline studies indicate that researchers have high expectations that electronic journals will have many advantages. At the top of the list is access: desktop access to electronic journals will be convenient, quick, easy, and save a trip to the library. The next major group of advantages focuses on content: there will be a wide range of electronic journals available, all in one place, they will be searchable, and there will be links to relevant content. The Scientists would like a backfile of 5-10 years, and the Social Scientists perhaps 10-15 years, and the Social Scientists feel that a backfile will be an important factor in deciding to use electronic journals. They look forward to the inclusion of multimedia content, but typically supplementary data rather than bells or whistles. A final advantage is that electronic journals may be more up to date than printed journals. Overall the benefits of electronic journals will be in terms of saving time and efficiency.

The main disadvantages of electronic journals were the slow speeds (of the Internet and for downloding/printing files) and dislike of reading articles on a computer screen. Overall the disadvantages fell into three general groups: technical, content related, and those relating to how users interact with electronic journals. Technical issues like slow speeds, presentation, graphics, etc are likely to be overcome as technology advances. In the content area, questionnaire respondents said there weren't enough electronic journals (critical mass), and focus group respondents expressed concern about copyright and the potential for fraud. The most difficult group of problems is likely to be those relates to how users interact with electronic journals compared to print. Researchers don't like to read electronic journals onscreen, they can't "flip" through them like printed journals, and they think there will be less serendipity.

7.1 Advantages of Electronic Journals

The baseline questionnaire asked respondents "What features of the electronic journal medium do you like most?". There was no assumption that respondents would be experienced users, but their knowledge of what electronic journals were would be sufficient to comment. This was an open-ended question, and respondents could list any features they liked. The most frequently given responses are listed in the table below:

Q17c

Social Science

% Social Science

Science

% Science

Total

% Total

Easy access

5

20.8%

26

32.5%

31

29.8%

Convenience, desktop access

7

29.2%

23

28.8%

30

28.8%

Searchable

5

20.8%

21

26.3%

26

25.0%

Quick or direct access

6

25.0%

14

17.5%

20

19.2%

Good printouts, better than photocopy

2

8.3%

14

17.5%

16

15.4%

More up to date

7

29.2%

8

10.0%

15

14.4%

Don't have to visit library

3

12.5%

4

5.0%

7

6.7%

Response given

24

60.0%

80

86.0%

104

78.2%

No response

16

40.0%

13

14.0%

29

21.8%

Total

40

100%

93

100%

133

100%

The responses show that overall, access is the key feature they liked most. The responses have been tabulated to show the various dimensions of access they value:

In addition to access, both Scientists and Social Scientists valued the fact that electronic journals were searchable, and the Social Scientists thought that they would be more up to date.

In the focus groups, where the discussion was more open-ended, a wider range of advantages was considered. However, access was again at the top of the list. The most frequently mentioned advantages were:

The sections below summarise the points made in the focus groups in more detail.

7.1.1 Access

Having discussed how they use printed journals and the library, not surprisingly participants saw electronic journals as a way to overcome some of the disadvantages of how they work. The benefits in terms of access most frequently mentioned were:

They did not see electronic journals as a replacement for the library, but more as a convenient way to replace routine trips to the library, particularly if they knew what they wanted. It might take five minutes to get an article from the Web, where a trip to the library might take a half hour including photocopying. This five minutes was an activity that could be fit in among other activities during the day, where trips to the library had to wait until there was a block of time. They felt electronic journals would save them time and make better use of their time.

7.1.2 Content

Next to access, the most important advantage of electronic journals would be to collect together a wide range of journals all in one place. The Scientists and Social Scientists viewed this opportunity in slightly different ways.

For the Scientists it was the collecting together in one place that was important. Many used electronic journals and found it inconvenient to have them all in different locations, spread over the many Web sites of different publishers and services. To have a wide range all in once place would be of enormous benefit.

Most of the Social Scientists used electronic services, but typically bibliographic services that gave them abstracts. To have the full text of the article was seen as a great innovation. If in addition there were a wide range of journals, not one or two, it would be worth using. The Scientists were already using them, so whether or not to do so was not an issue. For the Social Scientists, deciding to use them would mean change, so some concept of critical mass would be needed. However, for many it opened up the possibilities of access to a wider range of journals than the library had already, and a way to avoid interlibrary loan.

Participants were asked about the backfile they would want at seven of the 11 focus groups. Most of the Scientists wanted 5-10 years, but there was no great expectation that long backfiles would be provided. There was an appreciation that the older a journal is, the less frequently it is used, so there is probably not a great commercial argument for creating long backfiles.

The Social Scientists wanted longer backfiles, ideally back to Issue 1, but alternatively in the range of 10-15 years. They were more insistent on the need for a backfile, and said it would influence whether they used electronic services. But they also did not hold out great hope that backfiles would be created.

7.1.3 Searching

When considering the various features that could be created from a technical point of view, the most important by far was searching. The basics of searching were seen in a similar way by the Scientists and Social Scientists:

Most used bibliographic databases to give them a list of abstracts, but they had to take this to the library to track down the articles. This ability to stay in a single environment and do both was seen as an important advantage. But in only a few focus groups did they go so far as to say, "I use a particular online database for searching. Can you just make links between that database and the electronic journals?".

Other aspects of searching were mentioned as well. In almost all of the Social Science focus groups they specifically mentioned wanting full-text search, or as they put it "to search the insides of articles". The Scientists also wanted to do structure searching, e.g. chemical and protein structures.

7.1.4 Linking

Linking was described in similar terms as searching, i.e. to view related material without having to down tools and go somewhere else or start a different activity to find it. The most popular type of linking mentioned by all the focus groups was the potential to link from bibliographic references to the actual article. There was no particular desire to see just the abstract.

All the Scientists said they would want links to data deposited in established databanks, e.g. protein structures and sequences, and crystal structures. As it's standard practice for such data to be deposited, they would not want it appended to the article. But having a direct link to the databank would save them writing down the reference to follow up later, should they wish to see it.

The Scientists also mentioned three other types of links they would like to see:

The Social Scientists were less specific in their view of linking. Overall they wanted links to "related material" however they might define this, perhaps to lists of related articles and Web sites that might be of interest. However, there was also a very specific suggestion made at three of their focus groups, links to source material. In many articles authors quote from other works, and only a short quote is included. This would be an opportunity to link to the full text of a poem or literary text that exists elsewhere (i.e. not the author's source data, see Section 7.1.5).

A final opportunity for linking mentioned in three of the focus groups was to expand footnotes. The Social Scientists are used to footnotes, and thought that "pop up" footnotes might be useful. This was mentioned in one of the Science focus groups in the context that footnotes had all but disappeared in Science journals, and this might be an opportunity to bring them back!

7.1.5 Multimedia

At most of the focus groups, participants were asked if they thought multimedia would be a useful addition to electronic journals, and this was defined as "unprintable elements" that are not or cannot be included in printed journals. In almost all cases the type of multimedia that was thought to be most useful was supplementary or supporting data.

In the Sciences participants commented that the page allocation for articles in printed journals is often so small that it's difficult to repeat the experiment described based on the limited detail included about experimental method. An ideal solution would be for electronic journals to include expanded sections on experimental method. Similarly, any supporting data which documents the results could be added, e.g. spectra. Structures and sequences, however, should continue to be deposited in established databanks, not attached to the article. Some journals already accepted supplementary data and make it available to readers on request. This would simply be extending the concept to electronic data, and making it more accessible (using hypertext links).

The Social Scientists also thought supporting data would be useful, but had more reservations about how it would be used. In the Social Sciences there is currently no general practice of disclosing supporting data when articles are published, though the ESRC makes provision for datasets to be made available for study, and individual journals may ask for it. From a reader's point of view they though it would be useful to have access to supporting data (e.g. survey instruments, survey data, statistical methods and analyses), so they could decide for themselves if the results and conclusions were valid. However, from an author's point of view, they had reservations about disclosing too much information, or disclosing it too soon. Firstly, others might "steal" their data and write their own articles based on it. Secondly, it might hold up their own work, as they would want to extract all possible publishing opportunities before they disclosed the data.

Other than supporting data, the main potential for multimedia was though to be:

7.1.6 Timeliness

In some of the focus groups, timeliness was mentioned as an important advantage. For the Scientists this meant that they could have access to the journal on the day of publication, an important advantage in the case of American journals. For the Social Scientists there was perhaps a more general expectation that their journals would be more up to date, i.e. published more quickly.

7.1.7 Other Useful Features

Alerting Services: In some of the focus groups alerting services were mentioned, i.e. getting emails on a regular basis to alert you to new articles that might be of interest. In most cases participants had something simple in mind, e.g. an email giving the issue table of contents so you could scan the article titles, or simply an email to tell you an issue had been published. However, in a couple of cases participants has something more sophisticated in mind: building profiles by subject and getting alerts of articles that would be directly relevant to the user's research.

Electronic Filebox: As noted above, almost all participants made copies of relevant articles. The issue of guaranteed access was mentioned in the context of journal issues missing from the library, and guaranteed access was thought to be a potential benefit of electronic journals. In some focus groups, the participants then went on to propose that ultimately "electronic fileboxes" might replace their bursting file cabinets of paper copies. Where this was mentioned, it generally led to a discussion of how feasible this might be in terms of computer storage, and whether this virtual filebox would be a physical store, or simply a list of bookmark pointers. However, the concept of creating a personal collection of relevant electronic articles was thought to be useful.

Saving References: Most participants kept a record of the articles they read, whether manually on note cards or using a "reference manager" database. In a few focus groups participants thought it might be useful to save electronically the references of articles they read or the bibliographic references at the end. This was thought particularly useful at the Political Science focus groups (LSE and DMU), where the references captured in this way could easily be transformed into reading lists for students.

Good Quality Printing: The Scientists stressed the importance of high quality printing. Ideally you would like to get a printout that is as good as the original, with the same quality presentation, high-resolution graphics, and colour. At the time of the focus groups the original article (or a reprint from the author) was preferred, followed by a printout from an electronic journal, and lastly (because of it's inferior quality) was a photocopy. So the first requirement would be electronic journal files of sufficient quality to create good printouts, and the second would be enough high quality printers to serve their needs.

Zooming Graphics: In connection with the discussion on printing graphics, the Scientists also mentioned that a potential benefit of electronic journals would be that you could zoom in and magnify the graphics. This would, of course, require a high quality graphic to be present.

7.1.8 Less Useful Features

Each focus group was different, and each group mentioned spontaneously the features they thought would be valuable and provide benefits in terms of their research. The moderator did not go through a checklist of features, so there is no list of features which each group thought would deliver little value. However, it is possible to note a few features that were mentioned infrequently or not at all, and some which were discussed occasionally and thought not useful. These included the following:

7.2 Disadvantages of Electronic Journals

The baseline questionnaire asked respondents "What features of the electronic journal medium do you dislike most?". This was an open-ended question, and respondents could list any feature they wanted. The most frequently given responses are listed below:

Q17d

Social Science

% Social Science

Science

% Science

Total

% Total

Slow access, downloading

7

30.4%

34

45.3%

41

41.8%

Journal coverage, breadth or depth

5

21.7%

21

28.0%

26

26.5%

Don't like to read onscreen

11

47.8%

15

20.0%

26

26.5%

Presentation, graphics

3

13.0%

9

12.0%

12

12.2%

Access problems, passwords

1

4.3%

7

9.3%

8

8.2%

Difficult to browse, less serendipity

3

13.0%

4

5.3%

7

7.1%

Response given

23

57.5%

75

80.6%

98

73.7%

No response

17

42.5%

18

19.4%

35

26.3%

Total

40

100%

93

100%

133

100%

The most frequently mentioned disadvantages were:

In the focus groups the following disadvantages were most frequently mentioned:

In both cases reading onscreen and slow speeds were high on the list. These and other issues mentioned in the focus groups are discussed below.

7.2.1 Reading Onscreen

The most common complaint at the focus groups was that participants didn't like reading articles onscreen. Here there were two issues: reading text on a computer screen, and manipulating the article.

In terms of reading text off a computer screen, three main factors were mentioned:

Most of the participants said they rarely, if ever, read articles onscreen. Typically they would scan the article to check relevance and then just print it out.

In terms of manipulating the article, the following points were mentioned:

No real solutions were proposed for the problems of manipulating articles onscreen, though it was thought technology would eventually overcome them. Larger screens would probably help. In one focus group (Leeds), a participant suggested portable reading devices that would allow you to sit in a chair and read in a comfortable position, and also turn the pages like a book.

7.2.2 Slow Speeds

In most of the focus groups there were groans about the slow speed of the Internet, particularly in the afternoon "when America wakes up".

The other main complaint was that large files are slow to download and slow to print. This complaint was made in all of the Science focus groups, and typically the large file size was attributed to graphics. It was also noted in the DMU focus group (Political Science) where the problem was attributed to PCs of low spec, and perhaps also to a slow local network.

There seemed to be a general feeling that technology would eventually solve the slow speed problem, as PCs are upgraded, and networks move to wider bandwidths. However, a participant at Leeds suggested that speed will always be a problem. Files will get larger as we add more data to them, and technology will always be just behind.

7.2.3 Printers

Considering that readers usually want a copy of relevant articles they read, not surprisingly there was some concern that Universities should provide printers for printing out electronic journal articles, that they should be high quality printers to provide good quality copies, and colour printers should be available in the Sciences.

7.2.4 Serendipity

The Scientists in particular mentioned that they valued the serendipity of finding interesting articles when browsing through printed journals, articles which catch their eye that they wouldn't have found when searching using typical keywords. There was some concern that if electronic journals don't lend themselves to "flipping" like print, and browsing becomes focused on keywords, there may be less serendipity.

7.2.5 Copyright Issues

There was some concern that material in electronic form would give copyright and licensing headaches not encountered for printed material. For example:

7.2.6 Other Issues

A few other possible disadvantages of electronic journals were mentioned, perhaps in one or two of the focus groups. These included the following:


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Last modified: June 02, 1999