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Overview of Progress, October 1998

1.    Evaluation Research

1.1    Analysis of Usage Data

Since January 1997, the project has been collecting detailed data on usage of the SuperJournal clusters. Logfiles record each registration, login, and session at the user sites, and each user's interaction with the application during a session.

As of October 1998, the four journal clusters contain 49 journals and 15,330 articles. There are 2,450 registered users at the 13 user sites and typically 900 user sessions per month.

Loughborough is analysing the usage data to build a factual picture of how the journals are used: what content is viewed, by whom, where, how frequently, when, etc. In June 1998, Loughborough hired a Research Associate to analyse the data using SPSS. Over the past four months she has built a consistent database from the logfiles generated by Manchester, and developed analyses for different types of usage, eg overall use of each cluster, use of search engines and other features, and use of the journal content at different levels. A wide range of tables was developed showing breadth of use, depth of use, time of use, use of features, etc, for each cluster and across all clusters. The next step is to revisit the hypotheses about user behaviour advanced earlier this year and to test each one statistically.

1.2    Follow-Up Studies

The usage data tells us what users did but not why. Four types of follow-up studies are now in progress which will enable us to translate the factual usage models into models of user behaviour:

1.3    Stakeholder Workshops

A report was prepared documenting the research results for each journal cluster, and a draft set of user requirements was prepared for each subject area based on the analysis. Three Stakeholder Workshops were held, one in each subject area, to assess the user requirements and their implications for stakeholders:

Taking the advice of the Steering Committee, end users were invited as well as librarians and publishers. Librarians and publishers were invited from outside the project as well as within, including representatives from several eLib projects. Each workshop was attended by about 15 stakeholders, together with staff from Loughborough and the Project Director. The workshops were a great success, not just in terms of refining the user requirements, assessing the implications, and preparing recommendations, but also in the starting a dialogue between stakeholders on important issues for electronic journals.

The reports on the research results for each cluster and the reports summarising the discussion at each of the workshops are available from the project office.

2.    Librarians and Publishers

Publishers consider usage data to be sensitive and asked from the start of the project that journal titles be represented as codes when shown in conjunction with usage statistics. The librarians found it quite difficult to analyse the usage at their sites not knowing what journal corresponded to each code, and pressed the publishers to release the codes. In the spirit of collaboration that is a cornerstone of the project, the publishers agreed and the codes were disclosed to the librarians. (Codes will not, however, be disclosed among the publishers.) With this new insight into what journals are used at their sites and in what way, we look forward to reports from the librarians that may explain why users use subscribed and non-subscribed titles at each site.

3.    Project End Date

The official project end date is 3 December 1998. David Pullinger approached Chris Rusbridge and David Cook, asked if the project might extend the end date to 31 December 1998, and this was agreed. The publishers have also extended their licence for the journals to 31 December. The project work will be completed by that date, with the exception of a few activities to take place in 1999, eg concluding conference, and writing the book based on the project results.

4.    Exit Plan

At the Steering Committee meeting in September, the Steering Committee expressed concern that the Exit Plan depended on publishers joining NESLI to continue access to the journals. Manchester was asked to do a business plan for making one or more clusters available in 1999, and the project was asked to arrange a meeting with the publishers.

Manchester wrote a business plan for making the Political Science cluster available in 1999, and this was presented to the publishers at their meeting on 21 September. The publishers said they needed more time to think through how they could continue the cluster, what would be offered to libraries, when, how, etc. After meeting separately, they prepared an outline proposal for the cluster and asked for preliminary market feedback from the SuperJournal librarians. Almost all of the librarians responded with comments, focusing in particular on pricing and value. The publishers are considering their comments, and the project awaits a response on how they want to proceed.

In the meantime, Manchester has given a quotation for continuing to make the present journal articles available to the test sites during 1999 (ie freeze the articles available at the end of December 1998). This would mean that current users are not "cut off" abruptly, and will have access to the articles during 1999. It would also mean that the current content is available in one place and can be transferred to a future application if the publishers decide, eg continuing a cluster with Manchester, with NESLI, with another aggregator, etc. There are sufficient project funds to support this archive in 1999, and the publishers will be asked formally to extend their licence for this purpose.

5.    Reports and Publications

A wide range of reports on different topics are in preparation and will be posted on the Web site. This include some 20 reports from Manchester documenting technical aspects of the project, eg the application, data handling processes, DTDs and other data structures. It also includes a range of reports on the research itself, eg baseline studies, author studies, follow-up studies, reports on each journal, cross-cluster reports, and stakeholder workshop reports.

Since the last Steering Committee meeting, four presentations were given at conferences based on preliminary results. These will be followed up with articles in peer reviewed journals as outlined in the dissemination plan.

Manchester will maintain the SuperJournal Web site for 18 months after the project ends, so all can get easy access to the reports and other publications.

6.    Project Conference

At the end of January the project is planning a small conference to report findings, discuss the conclusions, and debate the best ways of moving forward on the recommendations. Where the Stakeholder Workshops were limited to librarians, publishers, and users, the target audience for the conference would be a broader range of stakeholders, eg librarians, publishers, users, aggregators, policy makers and funding agencies, university IT experts, software vendors, typesetters, etc. We would aim for 100 to 150 participants, and send invitations to key individuals and institutions within and outside the project. Project participants would attend for free, and a nominal charge would be made for those outside. The feedback gained on conclusions and recommendations would be reflected in the project's final report.


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Last modified: December 23, 1998