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Overview of Progress, February 1998

1. Journal Clusters

Materials Chemistry, the fourth and final journal cluster, has just been launched. It will contain the following journals:

This cluster went live at the end of January with the journals available and signed off at that time, and the remaining journals will be phased in during February as they are received.

The following table gives statistics on the content available in the various clusters of the SuperJournal application:

Cluster Launch Date Journals Scheduled Articles (January 1998)
Communication & Cultural Studies December 1996 12 670
Molecular Genetics & Proteins May 1997 12 3,500
Political Science July 1997 18 785
Materials Chemistry February 1998 7 4,835
Total   49 9,790

With the launch of this final cluster we have achieved some of our initial objectives:

Though the Materials Chemistry cluster is small in terms of the number of journals, it is a rich resource in terms of the large number of articles covered.

2. User Sites

Two new user sites were added in September: University of Sussex (CCS cluster) and National Institute for Medical Research (MGP cluster). Promotion was done at both sites resulting in significant numbers of users in a short time. Statistics as of January for registered users are as follows:

Site Registered Users
Birmingham 31
Cambridge 255
DeMontfort 50
LSE 62
Oxford 205
Sussex 55
UCL 114
Ulster 68
Warwick 106
Total 975

For the Materials Chemistry cluster, we have invited the following universities to participate in the user evaluation studies:

Leeds and Durham have agreed to participate, and usernames and passwords have been set up. We await a response from Bradford. This brings the total number of user sites in SuperJournal to 12. Scalability is an important issue, and as each new site is added, the process of bringing them online, making users aware of SuperJournal, and establishing a user base becomes easier and more efficient.

3. Research on Readers

The baseline studies have been conducted for the CCS, MGP, and Political Science clusters, and the summary reports for the focus groups held at each site are now available on the Web site (except NIMR).

Usage continues to grow at the user sites. Typically there are 350-400 user sessions per month (all sites), with use at each site varying depending on the cluster and time of year.  With detailed information about who has used what information in each cluster at each site, we are now in a position to start analysing it critically. To assist in the analysis, Ken Eason and colleagues at HUSAT have developed a list of hypotheses that can be tested by the usage data collected. The list has been circulated within the project for feedback, and is being refined to ensure we address important issues. The final list will ensure that we take a rigorous approach to the evaluation research, and can fully document our conclusions.

4. SuperJournal Application

4.1 Functionality

An important objective of the project was to develop an application that could be enhanced over time, to build in more of features that we and users had on our “wish list”. A separate paper on functionality documents the features added with each new release. Manchester Computing have kept at the leading edge of what is possible, and been most creative in their approach to implementation, especially considering their limited staff resources. In the next release we look forward to the following new features:

4.2 Performance

In addition to functionality, Manchester Computing have given attention to performance issues. As the number of users and usage increased, performance decreased, particularly for login and browsing. MC redesigned aspects of the application to decrease reliance on ODB-II. The new version went online at the end of January and performance was benchmarked. For login and most browsing interactions, performance was improved by a factor of 3 to 5. The new version compares favourably with other electronic journal applications, and is significantly faster than IDEAL. Other options for improving performance further in the long term are under consideration.

4.3 Timeliness

In the Autumn, we received complaints from some users that the journals in the MGP cluster were not up to date. This caused us some concern, as timeliness (like performance) is factor that can cause users to drift away. Journal issues available through SuperJournal were checked against other sources (eg publishers' Web site, BIDS), the publishers were contacted, and most journals in MGP are now up to date. SuperJournal is now checked monthly for timeliness against other electronic journal services, and also availability of current issues in hardcopy in the libraries. We have now taken a user-oriented approach to chasing publishers for files: we want SuperJournal to be as up to date (if not ahead) of any other source, print or electronic.

5. Dissemination

Last year we developed a plan for dissemination of project results with the following objectives:

We intend to use presentations at conferences as a way to draw attention to SuperJournal and to stimulate discussion of the results, particularly with stakeholder groups, eg libraries, publishers, and researchers in different disciplines. We also encourage the individual publishers and libraries involved in SuperJournal to identify conferences where they would like to give presentations from their own perspective. Conferences we have approached include the following:

We are currently considering which peer-reviewed journals might be suitable for publishing articles on various aspects of SuperJournal. We would welcome suggestions from the Steering Committee for journals, and indeed other conferences.

We are also exploring with one of the SuperJournal publishers the possibility of publishing a book on the entire SuperJournal project, its results, and conclusions.

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Last modified: July 03, 1998