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February 10, 2013

Is my book the most highly cited in its field?

To answer this, you need data on how many citations there are to your book and to others in your field. There are two sources of citation data for books, that I know of:

  1. Thomson Reuters' book citation index. Not everyone will have access to this, of course, as it's a subscription product.
  2. Google Scholar: this is available to everyone and is the source I've investigated.

A simple search for your book on Google Scholar will tell you how many citations there are. Note that G Scholar does try to collate records for all versions of your book, but for books available in many editions and reprints, then it might not be too successful at this!

Next, how do you know if your book is the MOST highly cited in your field? It's impossible to tell really, but a good clue is to invstigate the "related articles" link in the results of your search that brought you data about your book. This will find items that are similar to yours so therefore are likely to be in your field.

Within that list, there will be citations and journal articles as well as books. You can look through the results and spot books quite easily: look at how many times the books have been cited. If any are more highly cited than yours, then you know that your book can't be the most highly cited in your field, at least as far as GScholar is concerned. Whether or not you choose to trust their data on citations is a separate matter!

If none of those citations are anywhere near your citation count, then it would seem that there is a good chance that your book is one of the most highly cited in your field. You probably know some of the competitor books to yours: try searching for them on Google Scholar too, to check.

If you don't already know competitor books in your field then I recommend looking on the COPAC union catalogue at the record for your book, and clicking on the subject heading links from within that record to find books in the same subject category.

Best of luck!

December 15, 2011

Springer Authors' workshop at Warwick: journals

Follow-up to Springer Authors' workshop at Warwick: books from Library Research Support

This is the second (final) part of my write-up of the Springer Authors' workshop, held on 30th November 2011 at the Research Exchange. The workshop itself covered a great deal more than the themes I have picked out here and these are my own highlights.

What type of journal does Springer publish?

Springer publishes many journal titles (visit their website for details: here is a link to their Author Academy), including some society journals which cover the same subjects as their own titles. Authors and readers in that subject can benefit from Springer's involvement in both journal titles, ensuring that they are complementary to each other.

Types of journals published by Springer include:

  • Society journals
  • Professional journals
  • Review journals
  • Open Access / Hybrid journals

Choosing a journal: Impact factors

Authors may want to use impact factors (IFs) as a guide to the quality of a journal: there was an interesting slide of the mean impact factors for different subjects, with 1 being average for Economics and 3 for Biomechanical Methods, for example.

Impact factors alone don't help much to differentiate between journals because you need to know what's good for your own subject area, and quite often all the journals you are interested in are likely to be around the same whole figure, as impact factors are displayed on Web of Knowledge to three decimal places. So you'll probably need to consider a lot more than just impact factors as an author:

Choosing a journal: Other factors

  1. Different impact factors. This wasn't a part of the workshop but I recommend authors to read about the different types of impact factors and journal rankings available, so that they an understand which "score" reflects the features of most relevance to them. The traditional two year impact factor published by Thomson Reuters in their Journal Citation Reports is the one most often referred to, but it is certainly not the only one you can look up, for a journal.
  2. Look out for download rates advertised on publisher websites. I don't think it is possible to actually browse, filter or sort journal titles by download rates on SpringerLink, but you can see which articles in a journal are most downloaded on the journal home page at Springer, because these are available for free and they show the actual download numbers of these most highly downloaded articles. This sort of thing might help you to differentiate between two journals if you can't quite choose!
  3. Rejection rates: see section below...
  4. Time to publication: see section below...
  5. Not only journals: some other routes are described below.
  6. Marketing resources and activity of the publisher, for your work.

Of course there are lots more factors than this, some of which were covered in the Springer workshop itself and some of which I cover in my own workshop. But anyway, these are some key points.

Rejection/acceptance rates

My notes say that authors should expect a rejection rate from high quality journals of around 70% and that any drop in this rate has a corresponding drop in impact factor of the journal, and that the impact factor drops quite significantly before the rejection rate does fall below 70%.

This is probably a good guiding principle for authors to know what to expect, especially for those in Science, Technology and Medicine (STM) disciplines, although I would expect a handful of exceptions and a little variability and of course PLoS One springs to my mind as a blog article at the Scholarly kitchen from 2010 reported that they have an acceptance rate of nearly 70% and a "stunning" impact factor of 4.351. I checked the latest IF of PLoS One and it's at 4.411

I usually warn authors that when/if they find out rejection rates, they may need to check what this actually means: for some journals it is the number of articles turned away in total and for others it is the number turned away after peer review, even though they also turn articles away without peer review. Articles sent back for revision are probably not be counted as rejected, even though authors may feel that they are not being accepted!

Catherine Cotton suggested that the rejection rate without even peer review might be as high as 50% of articles, and that authors could avoid such rejections by making sure that their article is within the journal's advertised aims and scope, and by following the instructions for authors. Some editors with thousands of articles to wade through might reject an article for not being formatted properly. It sounds a little harsh but it makes sense if your journal is inundated: authors who are determined to get published should fit their article to the journal they are approaching.

Tips for getting accepted

Other than ensuring that your article fits the aims and scope of the journal and is formatted according to instructions, you can:

  • Make your abstract exciting! Explain what your article brings to knowledge in this area.
  • Include a covering letter tailored to the editor/journal you are approaching.
  • Make it easy for the editor to notice and remember your article.

I'm not sure how to achieve the last tip exactly, but I guess if you can introduce yourself to an editor at a conference or any other opportunity, and perhaps make a good impression then it might help a little.

There were also some interesting slides on plagiarism and ethical considerations for authors, around how they should be careful of how they slice their own work for publication: authors should be sure to read submission agreements

It all takes time...

Authors can look out for advertised "Time to first decision". This is the decision as to whether the article is put into the peer review process or not, and is only advertised by the very top journals at the moment.

Springer take an average of three weeks from acceptance to publication (OnlineFirst), and this includes 7-8 days for the author proofing stage. This is only an average figure: authors should really be looking at the time taken at the journal they wish to be published in, but perhaps this average will give them a perspective as to whether things are taking longer than usual!

Other routes to take/work you can do!

  • Become a peer reviewer if you can because this will:
  1. raise your profile with a journal publisher: it demostrates that you contribute ,
  2. increase your understanding of the publishing process,
  3. bring cutting edge research to your attention before it is published,
  4. and it could be a step towards getting onto an editorial board.
  • But if you do peer review, you should know that editors can see data about how long you take to review and so on, so make sure you use it as a way to show your commitment and time management at its best!
  • Create/edit a special issue or section for work that doesn't fit well in the mainstream journal scope. This will raise your profile as you will get to write the editorial. It will also be good experience for understanding the publishing process. To get such an opportunity you will need to be able to demonstrate that can co-ordinate the work of other academics and get stuff done, so experience of having organised a symposium or similar event might help.
  • If you organise a symposium, then you could also seek to get the proceedings published.

Look out for:

  • SpringerVideo - a bit like YouTube but for serious content. Another channel for disseminating your research?
  • SpringerTheses - a series which is a publication route/competition for the best PhD theses.
  • SpringerBriefs - for scholarly items longer than a journal article but shorter than a book
  • Author mapper - great for tracking which authors have co-authored with others in Springer journals.
  • Springer Images - an image library: some free content but also plenty more that you can pay to use!

  • Latex Search - search for equations in scholarly texts. Not so relevant to authors but still pretty nifty!
  • SpringerExemplar - a tool in beta at present, where you can look up words in scientific context and track them as trends in Springer's scholarly literature.

December 13, 2011

Springer Authors' workshop at Warwick: books

We invited Springer to run an authors' workshop in the Research Exchange on 30th November. I learnt lots... this is a summary of the stuff relating to book publication, with some of my thoughts and extra links thrown in. More to come on other themes!

why write a book?

It can make your name in your field, even if it isn't going to be a publication that will count towards the UK's Research Excellence Framework.

Also, don't forget that books are now being included into a citation index published by Thomson Reuters, publishers of Web of Knowledge and the Journal Citation Reports which have held so much sway over the journal publishing sector with their impact factors based on citations data. Books also accrue citations on Google Scholar, and so they are certainly not to be dismissed as a career-raising way to publish your work: you will be able to track those who cite your book(s) and others may also do this in future.

Electronic format: e-books

Springer are really going for e-book publication and if you're an author with a current book proposal then, if it is accepted for publication by Springer, it's more than likely to become an e-book. Springer's e-books are published in html and pdf format now, and we can look forward to ePub format next year.

Why do we want ePub? Well, it's an open standard format and it's the format used by iPads, Sony ebook readers and others to help you in handling the text so that you can download an entire text and read it comfortably. Kindles use a proprietary format instead of ePub, which is why folks buy all their Kindle content from Amazon... but that is for another blog post!

E-book download statistics from the University of Liverpool's study indicate that books published in all years are well used, whilst the traditional publishing cycle would see older titles selling less and less well, dwindling into ignonimity with age! So, e-book publication looks like a good option for authors who want to ensure that their work is going to be available to scholars in the (at least slightly) longer term.

Before e-books, scholars have had to visit libraries and archives that have carefully built and curated print collections of valuable knowledge waiting to be discovered, and to hunt down their own copies in second hand book shops! Now it seems that e-books will open up access to scholarly research, making it more easily discoverable and readable, although I'm watching with interest to see how we can handle longer term preservation issues for e-books.

Future generations may miss the joy of discovering gems while browsing shelves, but I'm sure that they will have their own joys instead. Perhaps one will be finding the one thing of true value amongst the plethora of digital information we are now busy creating!

Rise of a new kind of research monograph?

E-books could also be the answer to the reported decline in monograph sales. I couldn't find the THE article referenced in the workshop but it's been written about many times that publishers nowadays might only expect to sell around 200 copies of a research monograph. This study by CIBER at UCL covers such themes: there are many likely reasons for such a decline, such as the restrictions on Library budgets just as journal subscription costs have risen so much. Others have pointed to the consequences of the RAE and REF in the UK and other countries' similar exercises such as the ERA in Australia, and their emphasis on journal article publication. I believe that it might also be because of the plethora of research to be published and the guys from Springer did point out the rise in research outputs from South America and Asia these days: these can increasingly be found online.

Whatever the reason for the decline in traditional research monograph publication, that it exists is a problem for authors who wish to get published because publishers have not been so keen on investing in monograph publication, but the e-book offers hope to book authors because publishers are interested in this kind of publication.

I am intrigued as to whether author agreements for e-books are as favourable for authors as the traditional print publications: are the same kinds of agreements used? Something I might investigate one day!

E-books offer new types of format and possibilities. Springer have launched a different series called "Springer Briefs" for publications of around 50-125 pages: this would not normally be considered long enough for a monograph (200-250 pages would be more normal, for a Springer book) but it's too long for most journal articles so there are new possibilities in the electronic format. This is one of the simplest variations on a book that is possible in the electronic environment, in my view, and I've always thought that e-book readers rather restrict the possibilities for research books in electronic format, but again, it's a space that I'm watching with interest!

print on demand & copies

In theory, with print-on-demand, books need never go out of print again and we could have lots more print copies of books floating around as they will be made affordable through library subscriptions. This is the model available at the moment with Springer. Libraries like ours at the University of Warwick subscribe to Springer's ebook material and our members/readers can access that material online at no cost to themselves but they can also pay to have a print copy created especially for them, if they want one. Since the intellectual property has already been paid for by licence then the fee paid by the reader for a print copy is not astronomical: approximately £22, apparently. It's a price that sounds good in comparison with some text books which can cost upwards of £100 but also not good in comparison with many titles available on Amazon for your Kindle! And not good when you're a cash strapped student struggling to find your University fees...

For old titles, second-hand bookshops are still likely to be cheaper, and I never thought to ask at the time whether the print-on-demand copies might be passed on to others on the second-hand market. They have their own separate isbns so they would be identifiable from any traditional print runs of the same title.

When it comes to saving and downloading copies for your personal use from e-books, Springer are fairly generous in comparison with some other e-book publishers, in not applying restrictions. Readers ought to still be respectful of copyright laws, but it's nice that Springer aren't creating so many barriers.

Although, perhaps one of the biggest barriers of all to electronic content could be that libraries won't be able to share their collections with walk-in users in future, if they are mostly electronic. Retired academics, conference attendees and researchers from other institutions here to access our archive are not going to be able to access all these e-book titles under many current Library licencing arrangements. Although I can't comment on Springer's licence arrangements as I haven't read them: it's just a general concern about e-books that I have.

discovery of e-books

We've had e-journal access for some years and the Springer presentation pointed out that whereas most e-journal accesses are coming from search engines, most e-book accesses are coming from library catalogues. Good news for libraries, perhaps: our role as guides to information seems to be continuing, but I am watching Google Books and Amazon developments very carefully! (Not part of the Springer presentation, but Amazon are apparently selling more e-books than print books in the US: Guardian article on ebook sales)

writing a book proposal

Some tips from the workshop:

  • include endorsement(s) for your book from prominent scholars in the field in your proposal
  • know the market: who might buy your book? Is it going to be a text book, or for professionals, or a reference work, or are you looking at a monograph to be sold to libraries and why might they buy it?
  • know related titles and other content.

What kind of book are you proposing?

  • part of a series?
  • a monograph where you are the sole author?
  • an edited book?
  • a reference work?

copy editing: costs to the author?

Assuming that your book proposal is accepted, you cannot expect extensive copy editing from Springer. They don't want to interfere with the intellectual content, so if you can produce polished text yourself then great, but if not then you might wish to pay for someone to copy edit your work.

Also, if your book is going to be published in a traditional print run and you want colour illustrations then this is a cost that publishers like Springer may pass on to you as the author. If you can be happy with black and white or with electronic only, then perhaps it won't be a cost.


Springer offer a discount of a third off the cost of their books, to their authors: if you're an author, it sounds like it is worth investigating, and I believe they said that it applies to authors of journal articles as well...

May 31, 2011

The holdings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers library have been added to Copac

Writing about web page

News just in that the holdings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers' library have been added to COPAC. I'm a great fan of Copac and recommend it to researchers who are looking for books. It includes holdings from top research libraries all around the UK and Ireland, including the British library, so if a book exists on your topic, and it is in the UK, then this is the place I'd expect to find out about it. Not only that but you can also find out where you need to visit to see the book... and then you can investigate inter-library lending and access schemes like Sconul, at your own library. 

I've linked to the guide to finding books on our Research Exchange website.

September 17, 2010

RIN report : Trends in the finances of UK higher education libraries: 1999–2009

Writing about web page

RIN are publishing lots of interesting and useful reports lately!

Key findings from this report which interest me are:

"The balance between expenditure on books and serials has changed significantly. Expenditure on books has fallen in real terms, and in 2009 represented an average of 8.4% of library expenditure." (page 7) The graph on page 14 suggests that it was about 12.5% of library expenditure in 1999 although it's hard to see on a pdf on the screen!

The report divides libraries into different groups and Warwick fits in the Research Libraries UK (RLUK) category since we are a member, although we don't see a breakdown by individual institution. RLUK libraries on the whole have not seen such a decline in expenditure on books in real terms as other groups have experienced. It looks like RLUK libraries' indexed real term expenditure on books in 2009 was about 90% of what it was in 1999. However, the 2009 percentage of overall libraray expenditure on books for RLUK libraries is at just 7%. 

The report states that journal publisher "Big Deals" for electronic journals are a part of the reason for such book expenditure percentage changes. Such deals have increased the number of titles available to scholars but also involve contracts where libraries are tied into annual price rises, which have impacted on other kinds of library expenditure. Most librarians are well aware of this, but it's good to see it researched and presented in a report, and the graph showing indexed real terms expenditure by libraries on serials shows a climb for RLUK libraries to about 170% of what it was in 1999, by 2009.

Also in these ten years, the balance of expenditure on print and electronic serials has shifted. Until 2004 there was an increase in combined print and electronic subscriptions, but these tailed off. Between 2001 and 2009, expenditure on print only serials fell whilst expenditure on electronic serials in the same period "increased almost seven-fold". Which is not at all surprising although it is awakening to hear of the scale of such a change.

The one to watch for the future, in my opinion, is the expenditure on e-books.

What all these figures are saying to me is that the academic community have had unprecedented access to journal content in the last ten years. This must have opened opportunities for their research and will undoubtedly have impacted on their information seeking and handling behaviours. Will it also have impacted on their publication behaviours? Will the scholars' increased access to journal content encourage them to think of journal publication first and foremost, above the publication of books? There are other drivers for academic authors to publish in journals too, of course. Like the RAE and other research "measurement" exercises...

If books are not selling so well then the publishing opportunities might not be there so journals might become even more prevalent, but then again, if e-books take off then book purchasing, reading and publishing will gain any lost ground. I do believe that e-books are an exciting opportunity for academia.

One more thought: the category "books" does not tell me whether these were monographs or textbooks. The difference is quite significant in that such a differentiation of expenditure might reflect how the libraries' collections are being developed. Libraries respond to the needs of their "customers": the students and the academic staff. My impression is that academic staff (as a whole and there are huge disciplinary differences!) are using the online e-journal collections and rarely come into the library building. Meanwhile, students want their text-books and crowd out every available study space. Again, I wonder what effect the e-book will have. Will library buildings become more rarified and scholarly spaces, full of unique and ancient monograph publications for specialist scholars to dig out? Or will they remain a hub on the students' social whirl of campus, with more study space and fewer books?

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