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June 20, 2012

Journal awards

I have been blogging about journal quality, and one of the signs to look out for is whether a journal has won an award or not. Journal home pages might tell of any awards that they have won. But what awards are there for journals, and which are prestigious?

I had a look around on Google and on various society websites for awards, honours and prizes, and on journal home pages and publishers' websites, and have written about what I found here. If you know of other such awards or can say something about the value of any of those mentioned here then please do comment on this blog post.

If I had chosen a particular case study discipline and invested a lot more time, then I would have been able to develop an appreciation for the prestige and value of the awards. However, this is a brief overview of what it is easy to find out about, across the disciplines.

Publishers' awards

This is an interesting angle because it doesn't relate to the individual journal, and indeed a prize won by a publisher might be for aspects of its publishing work beyond the journal publishing part of its business. I wasn't looking for these but came across a couple:

An author who is assessing a journal's suitability for his/her article might be attracted to a journal from a successful publisher, but there is a lot more that can be said about what publishers do and can do for authors, beyond the scope of this blog post.

Journal title awards

  • Council of Editors of Learned Journal Awards, eg the CELJ 2011 Voyager Award, won by "Eigtheenth Century Fiction" by the University of Toronto Press, for its quality and originality of contribution to Eighteenth century studies, particularly because of its interdisciplinarity, according to the Project MUSE Spring newsletter. I note that the CELJ awards can only be won by journals who are members of the council (and there are 11 pages of members on their site, and that the CELJ are an "allied organization" of the Modern Language Association, which adds to the prestige of this award.
  • Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) awards, eg The ALPSP Award for Publishing Innovation awarded in 2011 to the "Your Better Life Index" by the OECD, which is an interactive tool presenting statistics relating to countries. The ALPSP is "the international association for nonprofit publishers and those who work with them" and also displays a list of members on its site. Membership does not seem to be a prerequisite for a journal's eligibility for their awards.
  • The British and Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL) has a Legal Information group, which gives awards to legal journals.
  • The UK's Medical Journalists' Association give awards, including one for the Medical Publication of the Year.

Journal article awards

Also, there are awards for individual articles or papers rather than to whole journal titles, eg the Waste Management and Research journal has published articles that have won The James Jackson Medal from The Chartered Institution of Waste Management, in three different years.

Is an article award a sign of the quality of the writing and the research, or of the publication, or are the two inextricably linked?

Another example is the Lenssen Prize for the best paper on the teaching of philosophy, awarded by The American Association of Philosophy Teachers (AAPT). The "Teaching Philosophy" journal refers to this award and describes itself as an award winning title.

Once again, I am interested in what the journal and journal publisher add to the value of the work that they publish.

Some journal publishers offer awards for articles that are published in their own titles, so if you find a journal with an award winning article, it is worth finding out who gave out the award. Some examples of this are:

Large publishing houses' awards for papers are likely to be valuable as indications of quality, given that they publish so much content. And the granting of such awards or sponsorship of others' awards are something that publishers are doing for academic authors.

Even amongst smaller publishers, there may be considerable prestige in awards, depending on the quality and prestige of the publisher themselves. This is where an understanding of the academic discipline or field is important.

Journal editors' awards

There are at least two categories of these to look out for on journal home pages: there are awards for editorship, and then there are academic awards.

The Professional Publishers Association (PPA) has Editor of the Year awards. The PPA is a UK trade association for the publishing industry, representing companies who publish a range of types of content, from magazines to commercial data but I looked at the membership list for academic publishers and didn't find the big players. PPA have "Independent Publisher" awards and "Data and Digital Publishing Awards", amongst others, and looking at those winners gives a clue as to the membership and types of publishers they represent: it's not a highly academic field, although the business information sources are undoubtedly going to be of use to academics in that discipline. Similarly, there are the British Society of Magazine Editors' awards, and the BSME are also less academically focussed: likewise with the American Society of Magazine Editors' awards.

Some publishers give awards to their editors, for example Emerald and the American Society of Civil Engineers have editors' awards.

There are also academic awards and prizes that an editor might be a recipient of, for his/her wider work eg The Journal of Quantitative Criminology tells of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences award given to its co-editor, Alex Piquero. Wikipedia has a good listing of major academic awards, with information about each of them. If a prestigious academic is the editor of a journal, is this a sign that the journal itself is prestigious?

Some publishers sponsor the prizes awarded by others, eg Elsevier sponsored the 2011 THE Outstanding Contribution to Innovation and Technology award.

Journal Writers' awards

Similarly, writers can be recipients of academic prizes and there are writers' awards, eg the Association of British Science Writers' Awards for Britain and Ireland which aim to reward excellence in science journalism: the publications where these writers' work features include New Scientist and Nature, but also newspapers.

And there are publishers who also offer prizes to writers, like Emerald (see above for a link).

Another example of a writers' award is the Frank R. Smith award, of the Society for Technical Communication. This award "recognizes the authors of exceptional articles that appeared in Technical Communication during a calendar year." Technical Communication is the peer reviewed journal of the society.

The Frank R. Smith award is an interesting example because it's an award within a particular journal so as a sign of the quality of the journal itself, it has to be looked at in a different light. The fact that the journal makes its own awards could be a sign of the prestige of the journal, as with assessments of the publisher depending on whether it has won awards or whether it is large enough to grant or sponsor awards. Knowledge of the field or discipline would help to properly assess the value of any such awards as signs of quality.

My conclusion

When assessing the quality of a journal, and reading that a journal is "award winning", I would be careful to find out who granted the award, what it was for and whether the award is for the journal itself or for articles within it or people who work on it. All such awards might be signs of quality but they need to be taken in context.

On the whole, I'm not sure that authors are particularly concerned about who the publisher is and whether or not they are award winning. Authors might be glad to know of the existence of a publishers' own award scheme, or the publishers' eligibility for them to win a prize granted by others, in that they might win a prize but I doubt it will be a primary concern when choosing a journal for publication.

There is the Elsevier boycott which indicates that authors might be negatively influenced by who the publisher is, and there is a lot more to be considered on the matter of the value a publisher gives to a journal and its authors, and indeed whether or not the publisher themselves might be an indicator of the quality of the journal.


February 10, 2012

High acceptance rates & any almost any topic: bulk publishing journals

My thoughts on a new breed of online journals...

SAGE Open and Springer Plus look to me like similar journals the PLoS One model (both were launched relatively recently). PLoS One was launched in 2006: 6 years ago, and it has an impact factor of around 4. Not bad, but is the bulk publishing model something that has worked for the science and medicine community but might not work in other disciplines?

PLoS One are said to have a 70% acceptance rate, and Springer Plus are currently tweeting about how they publish on any topic, but they are also publishing in the sciences. SAGE Open are for the social sciences and humanities in general, and all three of these journals charge authors fees of around $1000.

PLoS claim to discount or waive the fee if the researcher cannot pay, and Springer Plus also offer discounts for those from low income countries. SAGE Open are cheapest of the three, at $700 and are offering an introductory author discount rate at the moment of $395… but who is going to pay, with what?!

We don't have a central authors' fund at Warwick. I'm not sure what the latest news is from institutions that have tried them, but I did hear a while ago that they were under-used by authors.

BioMed Central also publish journals on open access with fees set at journal title level: most in the region of $2000, but the library’s subscription entitles authors to a 50% discount. This is an area for me to investigate in future, because we do get stats from BMC about authors' take up of that discount... and that might be an indication of authors' willingness to use a central fund in some way. That and the handful of enquiries that reach me each year.

But are the biomedical sciences different? The Wellcome Trust not only mandate that research outputs should be made available on OA, but that the publisher should be paid to do this. They pay for it: we have a Wellcome Trust fund at Warwick, for authors whose work is funded by them. Another possible indicator of authors' interest in central funds to investigate... So one major funder could be forcing the publishing environment, and publishers like BioMed Central (incidentally, part of the Springer stable) and PLoS are able to charge fees and get them paid.

So, I also need to watch what funders in the other disciplines are mandating.

What is different about PLoS One and Sage Open and Springer Plus though, is not that they are open access journals which charge authors a fee, but it is their lack of subject specificity which interests me… bulk publishing is a model that would not work if you’re charging traditional subscription fees, but it potentially works on the digital, OA environment.

Lots more space to watch!


January 05, 2012

ebooks and academic Libraries

Writing about web page http://ow.ly/8gnxF

Terry Bucknell's presentation on combined book and journal deals for libraries summarises publishing change: http://ow.ly/8gnxF

Some key points from his presentation:

- "If it’s not online it doesn’t exist"... students are using e-journals because they are available. A huge simplification of Terry's point is that in the past, journals were for researchers and books were for undergraduates. In the electronic world, "Discovery tools search books & journals together" so undergraduates can find content appropriate to their need.

- MARC records with tables of contents and blurbs of books included are helping users to find materials on the Library catalogue. Publishers providing chapter level metadata help to make the book chapter as discoverable as the journal article.

- Liverpool's collection policy is to go for electronic wherever possible, to favour DRM free stuff (ie books where users can print more than one chapter!) and to support current teaching and research, not to build a collection for the long term. Liverpool don't buy content when it is published but when it is needed because in the electronic environment, items don't disappear from availability like in the past when print books when out of print.

- Liverpool don't use the same kinds of funding formulas as other University libraries, where book budgets are based on departments and numbers of students, etc. They kept creating new pots, top slicing from their faculty/department budget allocations for new researchers, etc and decided to change their funding formula altogether: they have one budget for purchases and one for subscriptions. They try not to distinguish between journal and book subscriptions.

The University expects the Library to spend throughout the year rather than saving up and negotiating with departments to buy big collections at the end of the year, so they need to have a larger pot in any case and this larger single budget removes the need to get departments and faculties to reach agreement. They like to buy whole electronic collections from publishers as this is efficient for them and is easy for users to understand.

- Lots of libraries are interested in Patron Driven Acquisition (PDA) but Terry seems to prefer taking on a whole collection with a negotiated level of access.

What sorts of deals should publishers be offering to academic Libraries?!


May 16, 2011

RePEc rankings

Writing about web page http://ideas.repec.org/top/index.html

RePEc is a database for Economics papers and outputs, and citation analysis has been carried out, along with other measures, to provide rankings for items, series, authors, institutions and regions. This page lists these rankings and has links to information about how they were calculated.

It's a really great resource if you're looking to benchmark or compare one entity against another. RePEc's IDEAS offers a selection of different measures and rankings for each type of entity. Item rankings offered include one by simple citation count and others which are citation counts weighted by various factors, eg the impact factor of the citing publication (termed "recursive" by RePEc) or a discount for the age of the citation. A ranking by item downloads within RePEc is also included, and even by abstract viewings.

Series rankings include journals by impact factor, which is calculated based on RePEc's own data and is offered in varieties like those for items, including a weighted or recursive score based on the impact measures of the citing sources. I like the simple feature that it includes journals by their full title, which Web of Science's JCR impact factor listings do not: I am not so familiar with journal titles or their abbreviations that I find the JCR list easy to interpret!

Authors are only ranked if they are registered with RePEc and the top 10% appear on their summary table. Even if you're not in the top 10% it seems worthwhile registering because you can access data about your own publications. This must be so much more meaningful than looking up your own h-index on Web of Knowledge, in isolation. Even though you can look at the profiles of highly cited authors on Web of Knowledge, these won't all be people from within your own field and comparing rankings based on citation scores across different disciplines is not all that meaningful because citation practices vary across the disciplines.

RePEc seems to make it easy for authors to use bibliometrics and other measures in an intelligent and balanced manner and in that sense Economists seem to be very well provided for. I'm not a registered author so I can't see what goes into the updates or reports that authors can see, and I know that citations are scraped and parsed by software so I wonder how accurate the data is in the first place, but presumably as a registered author you can correct any errors.

All this is great for Economists and probably those in related disciplines, but I wonder what effect such specialisation of both data source and methodology is going to have on the use and impact of bibliometric measures? I'm sure others will have compared Web of Knowledge rankings with those of RePEc, so I'll have to investigate further!


September 17, 2010

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

Writing about web page http://www.rin.ac.uk/our-work/communicating-and-disseminating-research/trends-finances-uk-higher-education-libraries-1999

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?


July 05, 2010

Journal publication – an ALPSP workshop

Writing about web page http://www.alpsp.org/

I went to a very good workshop last week, which was billed as an overview of journal publication. It was provided by the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) and covered everything they said it would, from the point of view of those working for publishers. They don't often get librarians on their courses: other attendees on the days were working for publishers and societies which have journals.

I picked up some great examples of innovative types of online journal:  

"Enhanced" journal - http://www.rsc.org/Publishing/Journals/NR/Index.asp

"Interactive/social" journal: http://bioethics.net/

Journal podcast: http://www.aan.com/rss/?event=feed&channel=1

Journal blog: http://blogs.springer.com/frac/

All of which brought me back to the question at the start of the session, about why it is that authors publish. Motivations listed on the day were:

  • "Registration: to establish the ownership of a specific discovery by a researcher at a particular time - to establish priority."
  • "Certification: to have the quality of the research acknowledged through publication in a specific journal and acceptance by peers."
  • "Dissemination: to let your fellow scientists know what you have done."
  • "Archiving: to provide a permanent record of your work."

I wonder if the enhanced journals and other online dissemination/publication activities satisfy all four of these motivations, and what the balance is as to which one is best served by which type of content. I expect it will vary by discipline and over time. Perhaps the best way to disseminate information about a new surgical procedure would be to publish video footage of the procedure. Perhaps the best way to register, certify and archive information about that procedure would be to write it up in an established journal using academic language to describe the procedure and to set it in context...


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