UoL Library Blog

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Ejournal investment and academic productivity

Posted by gazjjohnson on 21 July, 2009

There’s an intriguing article in the July issue of CILIP update (Does e-journal investment lead to greater academic productivity by Rowlands, Nicholas and Jubb, CILIP Update, July p45-47).  This comes at exactly the time that we, and many other universities, are looking closely at the journals we subscribe to.  Here we are very lucky as we’re in the privileged position of keeping our subscriptions, and just adjusting the titles according to academic demand.  But I know many colleagues elsewhere are not so fortunate.

So I was quite interested to see what conclusions the three authors reached.  Interesting facts I spotted in their study include:

  • In 06/7 on average each registered HE library user downloaded 47 full text articles
  • 3/4 of journal access is 9-5, though Saturday/Sunday are also almost as active in terms of access
  • Oct-Nov is the busiest season for downloads (a suprise) with September the quietest (pre-term start not the best time for research)
  • Access in increasingly via third parties (e.g. Google Scholar) rather than via institutional ejournal access pages (e.g. like Leicester E-link)
  • Average age of articles accessed varies between disciplines (3-4 years old for bioscience, typically 8 years for History)
  • Life Scientists are biggest user of ejournals over all, Economists work more on Weekends than others and Historians are the biggest users of Google as access route (?!)
  • Average download cost (calculated from total cost of 06/07 subscriptions) was 80p

In the end the study concludes that yes, ejournals do represent good value for money, and that “per capita expenditure and uses of e-journals strongly correlated with numbers of papers published, of PhD awards, and of research grants and contracts income.”  Interestingly though they end with a question: does good ejournal provision enable an effective research environment, or does a strong research environment create the need for good library services?

An interesting question that this paper from Oppenheim and Stuart (Is there a correlation between investment in an academic library and a higher education institution’s ratings in the Research Assessment Exercise? Aslib Proceedings 2004 56(3), 156-165) has already considered.  Their findings (in brief) seemed to indicate that there is a correlation between spending more money on access to research publications and better research assessment outcomes.  Does that mean better research?  Well, I’m not one to judge.  But a question we shall doubtless come to again as the REF 2013 comes slowly into view.

Either or both of these areticles are worth a read if you get the chance.

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7 Responses to “Ejournal investment and academic productivity”

  1. AJ Cann said

    Hurrah for hardworking Life Scientists! Thanks for pointing at this which I certainly wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

    • Can’t say I’m shocked – as a former biomedical scientist as a student we were introduced to journals in week 2 of my degree. Few if any other disciplines jump in that early to the research literature. And clearly Economists aren’t people who’ll be able to make a weekend BBQ then….

  2. AJ Cann said

    Spoke too fast. Boo! Can’t access this!

    • Yeah, it’s a “membership” only perk (and locked down so I can’t accidently pass you a PDF). I’ve the hard copy if you’re really interested in it (though that kinda goes against the ejournal ethos doesn’t it).

  3. [...] of the points are usefully summarised over at the OUL Library blog, including, among others… * Oct-Nov is the busiest season for downloads (a surprise) … [...]

  4. Rachel said

    There’s also some info from the RIN event earlier this month where this research was presented. http://www.rin.ac.uk/ejournals-event

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