Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Beyond* printed academic magazines

Yesterday Henk Voorbij received his PH.D degree from the University of Amsterdam. His thesis was on the migration from printed to electronic magazines. That is a very interesting subject. He looked ata the business models and evaluation methods. Academic libraries have been confronted with rising prices in subscriptions. In library circles this is called the serials’ crises. Voorbij looks at the causes and the consequences of this crisis and the perspective offered by the electronic environment such as open access journals and repositories. Not only the high subscription prices as well as the growing offer of magazines necessitate libraries to review their collections regularly and critically. Voorbij looked at the methods to evaluate the importance of magazines such as quotation surveys, usage surveys and users’ surveys.

In 1998/99 I had a chance to look closer to electronic academic magazines and the position of the Dutch universities. For the assignment, I went to the States and had interviews with library people and magazine publishers of scientific societies. There were initiatives by the libraries to start their own magazine publishing companies. Most interesting was the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, an organisation helping new publishers starting new scientific magazines. This initiative linked in with the later movement of open access magazines.

But also the respositories of universities are interesting. The Guardina recently had an article on it. The article used data from a survey done by Stevan Harnad, a professor at Southampton University, and his doctoral student Tim Brody. They produced a list of open access repositories of academic research available through Internet.

While the United States has more open-access archives - 127 - than any other country and Britain is second with 54, Sweden has the most archives relative to its population. By this measure, Britain is third and the US is in 10th place.
Harnad and Brody produced the following list:

Country followed by archives
1) Sweden - 12
2) Netherlands - 16
3) UK - 54
4) Canada - 28
5) Australia - 16
6) Finland - 4
7) Denmark - 4
8) Belgium/Portugal - 5
9) Germany - 38
10) US - 127
Source: Steven Harnad, University of Southampton

The Guardian (registered access)

For a Dutchman it is nice to see that The Netherlands end high on the list. There are many university initiatives, but there are also a common initiatives of the Dutch universities: Digital Academic Repositories (DARE). This repository will have to bring together the best academic articles published. But universities start also to put thesisses into repositories for consultation.

What has baffled me in the research I did in this field was the low usage of scientific magazines. A general survey indicated that there are many, very expensive magazines of which only one article was consulted. In some small areas of science, e.g. optoelectronics, articles are only published as an archive item. The articles have usually been chewed out in colloquials and conferences and are recorded in a publication for the record.

At that time also the Dutch university boards were hardly interested in discussing the subject. Just one member of a board was prepared to discuss the situation over the telephone. I think their attitude has changed over the years.

* This title is a pun on the name of the promovendus. Beyond means voorbij in Dutch.

No comments: