SuperJournal Project Description

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1. Goals and Objectives

The purpose of SuperJournal is to learn what will make electronic journals successful; what features and functionality of electronic journals have real value to the academic community. The goal of SuperJournal is to create a substantial body of knowledge about the factors that will influence the success of electronic journals, and to share this knowledge in the stakeholder community so that it is taken up by them and facilitates change.

The objectives for SuperJournal focus on the various stakeholder communities. The following objectives for SuperJournal are derived from the Project Proposal:

The end result should be sufficient knowledge that the stakeholder communities can successfully and cost effectively develop electronic journals of real value to authors and readers, and enhance the process of scientific communication. Part of the process will be to develop multimedia electronic journal applications, and to test their functionality and features on readers. However, developing these applications is a means to an end. The true “deliverable” of the project is knowledge, knowledge that stakeholders can use in a market environment to develop their own journal products and services on a cost effective basis.

2. The Evaluation Research

The purpose of the project is to identify the critical value-added features that will make electronic journals sufficiently compelling that readers will want to use them and authors will want to publish in them, and to disseminate this knowledge within the stakeholder communities.

The methodology of the reader research involves developing applications that demonstrate features and functionalities we think will be valuable, and testing them out on readers. Objective usage data will be collected to indicate what content and features are used, how often, by whom, etc. Questionnaires and focus groups will be used to shed light on reader behaviour, and to understand the reasons behind it. Results of the research will be used to change and improve the applications and functionality offered. For each user group a baseline study will be performed to understand their use of printed journals and expectations of electronic journals. This will be compared to their actual use of the electronic applications and the actual benefits they feel are delivered.

During the course of the project a number of variables will be studied. Clusters of journals will be offered in different subject areas, with a view to understanding preferences and behavioural differences between academic users in the Sciences and Humanities/Social Sciences. The application itself will provide users with options, for example different search engines. The application and the journal clusters will be made available to different user sites, each with their own local infrastructure for providing access, awareness, and facilitating use. Local factors can therefore be modelled.

SuperJournal aims to create the knowledge which stakeholders need to plan their future with regard to electronic journals: for publishers to identify the unique selling points (USPs) for their future journals, and for libraries to establish the roles of electronic journals in the delivery of scientific material within their institutions. As knowledge is acquired, it will be shared with stakeholders (within and outside the project) to test its quality and relevance to their interests. Their feedback will shape the future of the project, and their feedback will influence the future direction of the project. Finally the project will explore with them the processes needed for adoption and change.

3. Electronic Journal Applications

The electronic journal applications will be based on content from well-established refereed printed journals in the Sciences and Humanities/Social Sciences. To develop a critical mass of content, the project will develop clusters of journals on particular subjects, for example:

Publishers will work with their journal Editors and authors to explore what value-added features will be most relevant in each subject area, and encourage authors to submit multimedia content. The SuperJournal application will offer leading edge functionality to readers in a testbed environment to learn the features they would like to see in electronic journals of the future. The project will therefore develop electronic journal applications, but not electronic journals as such. It is for each publisher involved in the project to develop its own electronic journals for commercial release, both during the project and thereafter.

The first version of the application will contain basic functionality, eg browsing, searching (choice of 2 search engines), display of abstracts (text) and full articles (PDF), online help, email alerts when new issues are loaded, and the ability to set user preferences. With the launch of each successive cluster, more functionality will be added and new features tested. In addition to PDF, users will be able to view the article text as HTML. Multimedia content will be added as authors begin to supply it with their articles. Examples might include 3-dimensional graphics, supporting data sets, interactive equations, video clips, or sound.

4. Technical Environment

The project will build the technical environment for the project comprising:

SuperJournal will make the electronic journal applications available to user sites from a server on the SuperJANET network. The host model allows user sites to participate cost effectively, as it minimises the need for local storage and development. Users will access the applications using the Web browser of their choice. Access will be similar to visiting a Web site. The users will be given a URL, or follow a link from their library's Web site or OPAC. Users will fill in an online user registration form to ensure that usage of individual users may be tracked, and users may be identified for follow-up questionnaires and interviews.

Though the electronic journal applications should be as easy to access and to use as a Web site, the technical environment and processes to create them will be more complex. The publishers will supply files for the journals in agreed formats, and the project will design a production environment to convert them to a uniform format, upload them to a database, and make them accessible to the applications. All processes must be efficient, scalable, and as automatic as possible. Where a Web site offering a single electronic journal and a single application is simple and can be “hand crafted”, a technical environment offering multiple applications containing multiple journals is complex and built upon multiple integrated processes.

5. Rollout Plan

The journal clusters will be phased in one after another. For each journal cluster, 3 library sites will participate in the evaluation research, ie those sites with the best fit in terms of the university's research profile and the library's collections. However, users at all sites will have access to all clusters. The rollout plan is shown in the following table:

RolloutCommunication & Cultural StudiesMolecular Genetics & ProteinsPolitical Science
TimingNov 1996May 1997Summer 1997
Birmingham or Warwick

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