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Issue 22 – May 2008

Articles

N_Fowler

Models for better access and dissemination

Until the mid-1990s, most scientific publishing companies still used the same basic publishing model established in the 17th century. As Nick Fowler, Director of Strategy at Elsevier, explains, “authors would submit their articles to an appropriate journal, which would then facilitate the peer-review publishing process that culminated in publishing the final article.”

Read more >


Until the mid-1990s, most scientific publishing companies still used the same basic publishing model established in the 17th century. As Nick Fowler, Director of Strategy at Elsevier, explains, “authors would submit their articles to an appropriate journal, which would then facilitate the peer-review publishing process that culminated in publishing the final article.”

Today, particularly as a result of the Internet, we now have more distribution options at our disposal. “Elsevier’s largest platform for disseminating published journals is now ScienceDirect, and other stages of the peer-review publishing process have also undergone an electronic revolution,” says Fowler. “Authors can now submit articles via electronic submission systems, for example. In addition, publishing online, as well as in print, provides researchers with additional features that can dramatically improve productivity, including the ability to instantly access electronic versions of cited articles, rather than having to locate, request and wait for a physical copy. Consequently, researchers now read around twice as many articles from more than twice as many journals as they did in the 1980s.”

Changing business model

Over the past decade, Elsevier has also adapted its business models in response to technological developments. “For instance, electronic licenses often enable volume discounts,” Fowler continues. “A library that once subscribed to, say, 300 of Elsevier’s 1,800 print journal titles can, in an electronic environment, now access some or all of the remaining 1,500 journals at highly discounted rates. This has dramatically improved access levels for researchers, who now place ‘access to journals’ twelfth on their lists of concerns.” Their leading concern remains ‘access to research funds’.

Open access

The main four types of open-access publishing are: Author Pays, Sponsored Articles, Delayed Access and Open Archiving. Fowler points out that open access does not mean ‘free of charge’ or ‘open source’. “There are certain costs inherent to publishing articles in any respected journal, such as peer review, editing and printing, and these costs always have to be recouped.”

Author Pays

In Author Pays publishing, there are no subscription charges, so anyone can read the articles for free. “The disadvantage is that the author only pays if the article is accepted and published,” says Fowler. “Not only are some authors – in developing countries, for example – unable to pay, but this model could also put pressure on publishers to accept articles that they would otherwise reject. Since quality control could be compromised, Elsevier has chosen not to explore this avenue, which currently accounts for less than 1% of all articles published.”

Sponsored Articles

Sponsored Articles are peer reviewed and, if accepted, published in subscription journals. However, authors – or an author’s funding body – can pay a fee to make the article immediately accessible to anyone. Fowler says, “Elsevier is currently testing this option on 40 of our journals and, so far, we’ve found that very few authors are willing to pay the additional fee.”

Delayed Access

Delayed Access applies to around 6% of articles published in subscription journals. After a certain period of time (e.g. 12 months in fast-moving disciplines, such as Life Sciences), the articles are made available to non-subscribers. This model may work, provided that the time period is sustainable for the journal concerned. If it is too soon, subscriptions could be cancelled, compromising the journal’s sustainability. Fowler says, “Because usage and other factors vary so much across titles, the journal itself is in the best position to decide what this time period should be.”

Open archiving

Certain publishers, including Elsevier, voluntarily allow authors to post their accepted manuscripts on their own or their institution’s website. Authors are permitted to post the peer-reviewed manuscript, but the published journal article can only appear in one location, in order to preserve its integrity. “While most journals maintain a similar policy, only around 5% of authors take up this option and author-posted manuscripts have not yet significantly increased access levels,” Fowler says.

Maintaining perspective

Some forms of open access date back 10 years and all have been widely known for around five years. According to Fowler, “Their material effect on the established scientific publishing model has, so far, been marginal. Authors have not been willing to pay to publish their own articles, although a few institutions, such as the Wellcome Trust, are prepared to pay for unlimited access to Sponsored Articles. New access models are constantly developing, and Elsevier is open to testing and learning about positive innovations.”

Fowler adds, “Five criteria matter most to the researchers who read our journals: access, quality control, researcher efficiency, preservation and cost-effectiveness. We always assess the impact any new model will have on these criteria before making any decisions. There’s no point in making a step forward in one area if it causes a step backward in another.”

Five criteria matter most to researchers who read our journals: access, quality control, researcher efficiency, preservation and cost-effectiveness.

Exploring alternatives

Of course, open-access models are not the only new methods for accessing and disseminating information. “Other methods work well, too, and in some cases can produce additional benefits, such as improving researcher efficiency,” Fowler explains. “ScienceDirect is probably the best Elsevier example, as it has helped researchers read twice as many articles as in the past. Use of ScienceDirect is growing at around 20% per annum, and we’ve had more than a billion downloads from the site since it first went online more than 10 years ago.”

Publishers are also looking at other ways to expand access. “Under a UN initiative, we’re making content available free of charge to libraries in developing countries as part of the AGORA (agriculture), HINARI (health) and OARE (environment) programs,” says Fowler.

In September 2007, Elsevier launched its OncologySTAT portal, aimed at cancer researchers. The portal is free for users and is funded through advertising. “The portal is new and we’re currently assessing whether it is useful to oncologists and researchers, and whether advertisers are willing to fund it,” Fowler comments.

He continues, “WiserWiki is an experiment in community-based publishing, in which registered doctors can update the content themselves. Users can access WiserWiki for free while we explore its usefulness and research funding possibilities. We’ve simply planted a seed and are waiting to see whether it grows.”

Finally, 2collab is an interactive communication tool for scientists. “It’s an electronic environment in which scientists can comment on each others’ work and communicate with each other,” Fowler says.

Read more about these three tools in other articles in this issue.

The big picture

These are exciting times and Elsevier will continue to experiment with, test and learn new applications as they develop, explains Fowler. He compares the future of publishing to the future of energy. “We’re all looking for more efficient and sustainable sources of energy, but switching from an established system that delivers significant and broad benefits and moving to entirely new and untested alternatives is unlikely to be the answer. The costs and benefits of all sources need to be well understood, and often you can improve the yield or decrease emissions from existing sources. Similarly, in publishing, we’re experimenting with new models that can fulfill different roles, while constantly striving to improve existing models and maintain overall quality standards.”

To cite this article, please use: Gary Rudland, "Models for better access & dissemination", Elsevier Editors' Update, Issue 22, May 2008

Useful Links

ScienceDirect
OncologySTAT
WiserWiki
2Collab
HINARI
AGORA
OARE

Please send responses to: EditorsUpdate@Elsevier.com

J_Phimister

Disseminating science and health

For over 300 years, the subscription model has been the most effective way to circulate scientific and medical research. It’s also a tried and tested way of sustaining the crucial peer review system, which ensures the quality and integrity of science. But new approaches may close remaining access gaps. We talk to Dr. James Phimister, Senior Manager, Strategy, about three initiatives Elsevier is testing.

Read more >


For over 300 years, the subscription model has been the most effective way to circulate scientific and medical research. It’s also a tried and tested way of sustaining the crucial peer review system, which ensures the quality and integrity of science. But new approaches may close remaining access gaps. We talk to Dr. James Phimister, Senior Manager, Strategy, about three initiatives Elsevier is testing.

“I take the communication of science and health research very seriously,” he says. “I strongly believe in testing and exploring new access models to meet the needs of the research communities we serve.” Phimister joined the Elsevier strategy group about three years ago. Prior to joining, he was a consultant at McKinsey, and the J. Herbert Hollomon Fellow of the National Academy of Engineering. He holds a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering. Since joining Elsevier, he’s focused on testing new business and access models.

Addressing Access Gaps

“We’ve been examining where there are gaps in access and how to best close them,” says Phimister. “In the developing world, Elsevier helped found HINARIAGORA and OARE, providing free or very low cost institutional subscriptions to developing countries. To help patients access and interpret the latest medical research, we helped found Patient Inform.”

Phimister continues, “Some initiatives that our authors and editors are less aware of include our author archiving policy, options for author sponsorship to provide non-subscriber access for articles, and journals that provide free access to their recent archive. As we test new approaches, we explore whether the approach is sustainable, if it ensures continuity of the scientific record, and if the quality of the research published is maintained.”

Author archiving

Let’s look at each one of these initiatives in turn. Firstly, we examine author archiving, or author posting, as it’s sometimes called. Elsevier’s policy allows authors to post their accepted author manuscript to an institutional repository or home page, provided it is not for commercial purposes or purposes of systematic distribution. “An author may post their accepted author manuscripts that incorporate changes made during the publishing peer-review process on his personal website and on his institutions’ website, including its institutional repository. Each posting should include a citation and a link to the journal’s home page,” explains Phimister.

Elsevier was an early adopter of the author archiving policy and received praise for it. Professor Peter Suber, in a SPARC Open Access Newsletter published at the time of the policy’s launch said, “Elsevier deserves our thanks for adopting this most helpful policy.”1 Similarly, Prof. Stevan Harnad recognized Elsevier as a publisher that “…has heeded the need and the expressed desire of the research community.”2

Since Elsevier implemented this policy in 2004, many other publishers have followed suit. Phimister reports, “About two-thirds of publishers and 90% of articles published each year have adopted this posting policy. Approximately 5% of authors make use of the policy, with many manuscripts appearing online as electronic pre-prints.”

Why don’t more authors self-archive? Phimister believes it’s a testament to excellent access levels. “Elsevier works hard to promote its journals’ content and to increase visibility. And authors understand that having the research published by Elsevier already provides a ‘seal of approval’ and easy accessibility for most researchers,” he says.

I strongly believe in testing and exploring new access models to meet the need of the research communities we serve

Service to authors

He continues, “If there are opportunities to further provide services for our authors, we will look into them. For example, for the last couple of years, even before the recent NIH mandate, we’ve been depositing author’s manuscripts into a third-party repository, NIH PubMed Central. We’ve been working with the NIH and National Library of Medicine (hosts of PubMed Central) to create a sustainable approach to archiving manuscripts on this public platform. ”

Article Sponsorship

The second initiative, on trial since May 2006, is article sponsorship. “There’s a small community of authors who have requested that their published journal article be available openly to non-subscribers on ScienceDirect,” explains Phimister. Elsevier is now testing this option for around 40 journals. “We offer authors the option to sponsor non-subscriber access for individual articles. This option costs authors $3,000; a charge necessary to offset publishing costs – from managing article submission to peer review, typesetting, tagging and indexing articles, hosting articles on dedicated servers, supporting sales and marketing to ensure global dissemination via ScienceDirect and preserving the published article in perpetuity.”

Partnering with funding bodies

While we’re on the subject of sponsorship, it’s worth highlighting Elsevier’s partnerships with the Wellcome Trust and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). “We engaged with The Wellcome Trust and HHMI when they announced archiving policies for their grant recipients. In each case, there was a strong desire to identify a solution that would serve our authors and researchers that they fund. By working closely together, we have been able to identify agreeable solutions and we are actively trying to make both policies a success,” says Phimister.

Access to the Recent Archive

Free access to recent archives is the third initiative Elsevier is testing with a number of journals. Essentially, access to any user, whether a subscriber or not, is granted after a pre-determined period of time since publication. This time period depends on a journal’s individual usage characteristics and is decided in consultation with society partners. At the moment, all Cell Press titles, as well as some Elsevier and society titles, make their content available free to non-subscribers after a period of one year or more. Journals in fields where usage is spread more over time may be available after a longer period, such as 24 months.

Invest and engage

“We continually invest in areas that will enhance the communication of science and health research,” reports Phimister. “We are willing to test different approaches and engage with the communities we serve. From editors to authors, reviewers and researchers, there shouldn’t be any hesitation to engage with Elsevier on access issues. We invite all members of the scientific community to keep this in mind.”

To cite this article, please use: Kirsten Spry, "Disseminating health & science research to a wider audience", Elsevier Editors' Update, Issue 22, May 2008

Useful Links

Elsevier’s Access and Dissemination policies

Citations
1. SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #74, June 2, 2004
2. Posting to American Scientist Open Access Forum, May 27, 2004

Please send responses to: EditorsUpdate@Elsevier.com

R_Kiley

Behind the Scenes…Funding Bodies

As the UK’s largest non-governmental funder of biomedical research and the second largest medical charity in the world, the Wellcome Trust is a major source of research funding. It spends some GBP 500 million a year supporting research and activities aimed at improving human and animal health. “Supporting the brightest scientists with the best ideas,” is how Robert Kiley, Head of e-Strategy at the Wellcome Library puts it. Two years ago, the Trust introduced an open access policy requiring all Wellcome-funded researchers to make their final papers available through PubMed Central (PMC) and UKPubMed Central (UKPMC) as soon as possible, and in any event within six months of publication. “The policy had been in gestation for several years,” Kiley explains. “In 2003 we commissioned various studies to look at how research results were disseminated. We concluded that limited access to peer-reviewed research wasn’t serving the best interests of science.”

Read more >


As the UK’s largest non-governmental funder of biomedical research and the second largest medical charity in the world, the Wellcome Trust is a major source of research funding. It spends some GBP 500 million a year supporting research and activities aimed at improving human and animal health. “Supporting the brightest scientists with the best ideas,” is how Robert Kiley, Head of e-Strategy at the Wellcome Library puts it. Two years ago, the Trust introduced an open access policy requiring all Wellcome-funded researchers to make their final papers available through PubMed Central (PMC) and UKPubMed Central (UKPMC) as soon as possible, and in any event within six months of publication. “The policy had been in gestation for several years,” Kiley explains. “In 2003 we commissioned various studies to look at how research results were disseminated. We concluded that limited access to peer-reviewed research wasn’t serving the best interests of science.”

Reaching agreement

The new policy had huge implications for both authors and publishers. “We realized that our researchers would potentially be at a disadvantage when it came to publishing in major journals if those journals did not offer a Wellcome-compliant publishing model.” Kiley continues. The Trust already had agreements with Blackwell Springer and the Oxford University Press that complied with the policy, but Kiley and his colleagues knew they had to reach an understanding with Elsevier, the biggest single STM publisher of Wellcome authors. “With Elsevier – and indeed, this applies to any publisher – the objective was to reach an agreement such that our researchers could continue to seek publication with Elsevier and still meet our open access requirements.”

The basic principles were agreed early on. As the Wellcome Trust was happy to meet the open access, article processing charges levied by Elsevier, Elsevier was, in turn, happy for the final version of the papers (which includes all copy and language edits) to be made freely available in PMC and UKPMC at the time of publication. “That was achieved relatively easily,” confirms Kiley. “The issue we spent a lot of time discussing was the rights the public at large would have in terms of re-using these articles.” Wellcome is eager to foster reuse of research findings by other researchers as long as that reuse is properly attributed. It wanted computers to be able to read the articles, mine the content and make connections between data that a human might miss. “We were quite happy for Elsevier to retain exclusive commercial rights,” says Kiley. “We needed a copyright license in place that would enable text and data mining to take place without the user - or more likely, the computer - having to seek permission. It took some time, but now we have an agreement in place.”

Limited access to peer-reviewed research wasn't serving the best interests of science

Benefits on both sides

Wellcome sees the agreement as a win-win situation. “It’s a symbiotic relationship,” adds Kiley. “Our authors want to publish in high-impact journals and Elsevier editors want highly credible authors to submit articles. It was inevitable that we would reach agreement with the big STM publishers.” As a result of work Wellcome has done over the last 18 months, over 90% of journals publishing its authors’ papers now have a Wellcome-compliant policy. Those publishers that lack a compliant policy are aware of the agreement with Elsevier and this puts pressure on them, since some of their journals compete with Elsevier’s. “They’re all competing for the same papers,” Kiley reasons, “If Elsevier has an advantage, non-compliant publishers can’t hold out much longer.”As a result of the agreement, Elsevier has modified its manuscript submission system. When a paper is accepted for publication, the author is notified and asked to identify their funding source. If they indicate the Wellcome Trust, they are informed about the open access policy and given the ‘author pays’ option. Elsevier then carries out the peer review and language editing as normal and deposits the final article in PMC (which is then mirrored in UKPMC.) The costs for this are charged back to the author and the author’s institution, in turn, claims the funding from the Wellcome Trust. In this way, the publisher provides a service in which Wellcome sees real value. “At the Wellcome Trust we believe that publication costs are legitimate research costs, which we are prepared to meet” says Kiley.

Fair shares

Of course, most research is financed by more than one funder, meaning that Wellcome is currently paying publishing costs that potentially should be shared with others. “We can’t achieve everything overnight,” Kiley admits. “Obviously, we would like to see publishing cost allocated proportionately.” To that end, Wellcome is working with seven other funding bodies, including the Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK. All of them view publishing costs as legitimate research expenses, so with the funding in place, all that is needed is the mechanisms for authors to allocate costs fairly. “Research offices are used to apportioning other research costs, so it shouldn’t be especially problematic,” says Kiley.

All of these measures put a lot of the onus on authors. What can they do if their author agreement is incompatible with their funder’s archiving requirements? “They have two options,” says Kiley. “They can go back to their publishers and ask them to comply with their funding body’s requirements, or they can modify the copyright license to accommodate the funder’s policy.” If neither of these solutions work, Wellcome requires its authors to look for another publisher, since its agreement with the author precedes the publishing agreement. “We expect our researchers to meet their grant conditions,” Kiley explains. “That’s why we’re working with publishers. If we can reach agreement with them, authors don’t have to worry about compliance. They can get on with their research.”

With other funding bodies like the US National Institutes of Health and the European Research Council adopting similar open access policies, Kiley believes it is only a matter of time before all peer-reviewed, biomedical research is freely available in publicly accessible repositories. “Open access is here to stay.” he says. Publishers will have to find ways to add value beyond publishing peer-reviewed papers. Possibilities include author deposition services and paid subscriptions for analysis of open access articles. “The challenge to publishers is to find models to help manage these services in an economically sustainable way.”

To cite this article, please use: Francis Cox, "Behind the Scenes... Funding Bodies", Elsevier Editors' Update, Issue 22, May 2008

Useful links

Wellcome Trust

Elsevier agreement with the Wellcome Trust

Elsevier’s Funding Body Agreements

UKPubMed Central

Please send responses to: EditorsUpdate@Elsevier.com

mark_seeley

A little perk adds a lot

Elsevier has always been committed to setting the highest standards for ethical publishing behavior, both in our publishing process and in our policies. But for the first time, all of those ethics policies and procedures are now available in one place on Elsevier.com. Mark Seeley, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, and Federica Rosetta, Publishing Editor for Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Science Journals, have helped to establish the team that created PERK – the Publishing Ethics Resource Kit.

Read more >


Elsevier has always been committed to setting the highest standards for ethical publishing behavior, both in our publishing process and in our policies. But for the first time, all of those ethics policies and procedures are now available in one place on Elsevier.com. Mark Seeley, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, and Federica Rosetta, Publishing Editor for Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Science Journals, have helped to establish the team that created PERK – the Publishing Ethics Resource Kit.

When journal editors encounter a situation in which unethical behavior is suspected, it is their responsibility, as part of the peer-review process, to evaluate, investigate and make a final decision about the appropriate action to take. “But it is the role of publishing editors to provide whatever assistance and support they can,” Rosetta explains.

As early as 2005, Elsevier’s publishing staff was discussing policy approaches to retractions and removals of problematic articles, plagiarism, multiple submissions and other ethical concerns. “As more policies were developed, it became clear that these all needed to be collected together in a logical way,” explains Seeley.

Rosetta continues, “We knew that different checklists and procedures were also being used by various publishing editors throughout the company in response to specific experiences and queries, and we wanted to collect all of their valuable information in one place.”

Responding to the call

While publishing editors were doing their best to help journal editors make these difficult decisions, they still felt like more support was needed. “Journal editors first raised the idea of an Ethics Helpdesk at one of our editors’ conferences,” Seeley says. “They wanted to be able to call or email with questions about ethics issues they encountered.”

In September of 2006, the Ethics Helpdesk was launched as a pilot program. It was a combination of helpline support via phone and email, a comprehensive guide to all of Elsevier’s policies and procedures with regard to ethics issues, and a ‘procedural manual’ with checklists and form letters for the different types of issues.

“There was a large surge of calls and emails to the Helpdesk when we first launched,” Seeley continues, “but we began to notice an interesting trend. As more and more publishing editors got hold of the Ethics ‘manual’ contact with the Helpdesk began to drop off.” The Helpdesk team realized that making the manual more widely available would be the key to assisting publishing editors with their queries about ethics. It was right at this stage that the PERK team first got together and started to work on a framework proposal.

Building the tools

The two teams ‘merged together’ and focused on creating the most comprehensive, user-friendly, easy-to-navigate guide they could. They knew that the best way to streamline the guide was to make it digital. Thus, the first stage of PERK – the Publishing Ethics Resource Kit – was born.

Launched on World Medical Ethics Day, September 19, 2007, PERK was initially released as an internal pilot resource for Elsevier’s publishing editors, and was available on the company’s Intranet, Nonsolus, before moving to the Elsevier.com site five months later.

“We established a central ‘resource center’ where publishing editors could get everything they need – policies, checklists and communication tools – from a single point of entry, and then use the information to guide journal editors,” Rosetta recalls. “The first step was to collect, assemble, update and recheck every bit of information to ensure that it was complete.”

The team then went even further. “Many specific circumstances surround each case,” Seeley says. “We needed to broaden our scope to help editors identify their unique situation in the guide.”

The PERK team set about organizing the ethics guide to address various issues, such as how the author accused of misconduct might respond to charges of unethical behavior. They added and revised tools and form letters to help publishing editors find out precisely the situation that their journal editors were facing and the right communication to use. “We used a lot of ‘if’ statements,” Rosetta explains, “as in, ‘if the corresponding author rejects the position of the complainant...’, along with a form letter that the editor could use to pursue the matter further.”

PERK is a central 'ethics resource centre' where publishing editors can get everything they need - policies, checklists and communications tools.

The next step was to provide external support and validation. For this, the PERK team turned to the Committee on Publishing Ethics (COPE), one of the most highly respected ethics organizations in scientific publishing. COPE had already produced ‘decision trees’ – step-by-step, visual representations of the appropriate steps to take in any given situation of misconduct. “Because the COPE procedures so closely matched our own, we were offered a licensing agreement and we were able to add the COPE decision trees to PERK,” Rosetta says.

Today, all Elsevier journals are registered with COPE, which means that if journal editors are still unsure of the right plan of action after visiting PERK and discussing options with the publishing editor, they can take their most complex cases to COPE for further discussion.

PERK offers other tools, such as the ‘Identify your case’ functionality, to help editors define and identify their ethics issue quickly and easily. PERK then leads them to the right set of resources to handle that issue.

Comprehensive case studies outline specific, anonymous cases taken either from actual Elsevier editor experiences or from COPE’s extensive archive. The case studies provide even clearer indications of the right course of action in almost any misconduct situation.

The extensive ‘Q&A’ section represents a valuable resource of useful information in reply to a large number of questions that were identified by the PERK team when reviewing the case studies and decision trees.

Broadening the scope

Although PERK was originally available on Nonsolus, it was always the team’s intention to take it public. “PERK does not contain privileged information,” Seeley says, “but useful resources that can help many editors deal appropriately with misconduct. Making it available on the Internet was the next logical step. We knew taking the kit public would benefit not only Elsevier’s journal editors, but journal and publishing editors from external companies, as well.”

In February of 2008, PERK officially went live on elsevier.com, just in time for the Editors’ Conference in Singapore. Response to the release was highly favorable.

But the PERK team has little time to celebrate their success. “It will be an ongoing task to keep PERK up-to-date and comprehensive,” Rosetta says. “We will be constantly looking for gaps, changes in policies or new situations that need to be addressed.”

Seeley agrees. “Even at the Singapore conference, editors identified other areas of interest to them, such as a basic standard of ethics regarding animal testing, and ethical guidelines that can be incorporated into instructions to authors. We’re already looking into those kinds of additions, and we encourage journal editors to visit PERK and continue to send us feedback and suggestions.”

To cite this article, please use: Toni Bellanca, "A little PERK adds a lot of support", Elsevier Editors' Update, Issue 22, May 2008

Related Links

PERK

COPE

CrossCheck plagiarism software pilot

Please send responses to: EditorsUpdate@elsevier.com

S_Virkler

Internet innovations

Part of Elsevier’s efforts to disseminate its peer-reviewed research to a broader audience includes the use of the Internet. Editors’ Update spoke to Scott Virkler, Vice President of Web Search Strategy and Business Development, to discuss how Elsevier is bringing high-quality medical and scientific information into the Internet age.

Read more >


Part of Elsevier’s efforts to disseminate its peer-reviewed research to a broader audience includes the use of the Internet. Editors’ Update spoke to Scott Virkler, Vice President of Web Search Strategy and Business Development, to discuss how Elsevier is bringing high-quality medical and scientific information into the Internet age.

Today more than ever, the Internet is being used as a key tool to find relevant medical information – and not only for researchers and physicians. In fact, studies show that patients and their families are searching the Web for relevant information that they would otherwise not be able to access easily. Virkler and his team are exploring the most convenient and cost-effective ways to do this.

Patient Research brings greater understanding

In October 2006, Elsevier launched a beta version of a website called Patient Research – an online research tool aimed specifically at patients and their families and caregivers. The site currently utilizes 30 of Elsevier’s journals, and there are plans to expand this to include an additional 70 journals before September 2008.

Patient Research allows patients, their families and friends to search Elsevier journals for information about a specific illness. Although the journals tend to address issues on a deeper, more scientific level, Virkler says this is precisely the kind of information this audience is seeking. “When it comes to an illness affecting them directly, patients - and even more often, their families - are better informed than ever before, and are seeking a broader scope understanding. They consistently say they want to read the same material their doctor is reading,” he explains.

Patient Research was initiated in response to direct requests from patients and families. “Imagine a parent whose child is diagnosed with a chronic disease they have little understanding of,” Virkler says. “Parents quickly become experts on that disease, and will read everything they can get their hands on to understand what’s happening to their child. Before Patient Research, searching for and finding credible information was extremely difficult.”

Because Patient Research is funded completely by Elsevier, a very minimal processing fee allows users to gain access to the site. “This is not intended to be a money-making initiative on our part,” Virkler explains. “We wanted to help non-traditional readers to gain access to the latest information easily.” Feedback from users has been positive, energetic and grateful, so Virkler expects that the site will continue to generate more visits.

[patients] want to read the same things their doctor is reading

Free portal for Oncology professionals

In September 2007, Elsevier launched another online tool, this one specifically designed for physicians and healthcare professionals. OncologySTAT provides cancer care professionals with trusted, peer-reviewed information and research in a clear, organized and accessible way. Best of all, the site is available for free. In addition to providing abstracts and full-text Oncology-related articles from more than 100 Elsevier journals, OncologySTAT also provides news, access to drug interaction information, conference coverage, blogs and webinars.

But OncologySTAT is no replacement for traditional subscriptions to Elsevier publications, as Virkler explains. “Most journal subscribers will recognize immediately that OncologySTAT is a supplement to journal subscriptions,” he says. “While OncologySTAT is a way to gain fast, immediate access to a collection of the latest information, it certainly cannot replace the value and in-depth coverage of a journal subscription, which remains a vital part of the academic and research processes and a valuable tool for specialists.” The goal is to make the most recent Oncology information as widely accessible as possible, and to bring further recognition to the journals that are distributing the original source content.

Virkler continues: “OncologySTAT is focused on the latest industry information for Oncologists. While strong in that area, it does not focus on traditional research functionality, such as archiving.. But a busy physician or general practitioner who needs quick, organized Oncology information will find it on OncologySTAT.”

A wiser way to Wiki

Elsevier is also capitalizing on the popularity of another online tool – the Wiki – to bring medical knowledge to the general public. A Wiki is a collaborative website on which a variety of editors can contribute to information. The most famous ‘Wiki’ is Wikipedia, a growing online encyclopedic resource that claims to support 75,000 active contributors.

Along the same lines, Elsevier has created WiserWiki – a site that contains only medical and scientific information. “The difference between WiserWiki and other Wikis is that WiserWiki can only be edited by Board-certified physicians,” Virkler explains, “so we can feel confident that the information posted and edited is of the highest quality and accuracy possible.”

Still in its beta version, WiserWiki is a test run for something much bigger. “WiserWiki was started with the idea that there may be a way to simplify, speed up and reduce the costs of the print publication of scientific books with multiple authors and editors,” Virkler explains.

Changing priorities

Virkler and his team are constantly refining their existing Web tools, and developing new ones that meet the needs of their expanding audiences. They look at customer feedback, user statistics and behavior patterns to help predict their next focus area.

“Most of our product lines have very solid business plans, and a list of primary goals for the coming months,” Virkler says. “But the features that top those lists are very much determined by the feedback we get from current users. As the needs and expectations of our users evolve, we will evolve with them to stay relevant and useful.”

Virkler adds, “what motivates us is the idea that we are providing high-quality content to a wider audience than ever before, and that we are meeting the needs of non-traditional audiences who seek relevant medical and scientific information. We are also increasing exposure to the full range of Elsevier publications and bringing those publications more recognition and utilization than ever before.”

To cite this article, please use: Toni Bellanca, "Internet Innovations", Elsevier Editors' Update, Issue 22, May 2008

Useful links

Elsevier’s Access and Dissemination policy

OncologySTAT on Elsevier.com

OncologySTAT

WiserWiki

Please send responses to: EditorsUpdate@elsevier.com

Forum results on measuring journal performance

The Editors’ Forum in the last Editors’ Update focused on how best to emphasize journal performance. Some 93 editors participated, giving their views on the following question:

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The Editors’ Forum in the last Editors’ Update focused on how best to emphasize journal performance. Some 93 editors participated, giving their views on the following question:

Measuring journal performance is important for the editor and publisher, not only to review the journal’s position but also to allow them to take decisions for its future development. When discussing the performance of my journal I prefer to emphasize:

A Usage statistics - this reflects readership and trends which tell me whether we are on the right track. Usage figures are also current;

B Citations to articles in the journal - to me it is important to know how the journal and the articles are being used in the science community. This tells me that we publish the right articles and also helps me establish scientific market trends;

C Author feedback - It is important that the authors are satisfied with the journal. Highly satisfied authors are loyal and also recommend to others to publish in my journal.

More than 49% of respondents selected option B, although many of these also clearly acknowledged the potential pitfalls involved in citations statistics. Some comments for this choice included: “Option B gives editors (and authors) a good overview of how often, and in what context, the articles are used by other authors and journals,” and ”citations lead on to impact factor, which has become an important criterion for choice of a journal for submission of papers.”

In contrast, although still claiming article citation as the most important factor in measuring performance, many respondents conceded that this was due more to standard practice than to the accuracy of the measurements.

Citation engineering

Respondents in favor of option A, usuage statistics (15%) included editors of young journals (less than 3 years in publication), or those working in specific industries, who do not have access to relevant citation data as yet. Still others who selected ‘A’ argued that high usage/citation statistics are not necessarily an indication of quality. “Many times, indexes measure the applicability of the topic rather than the real quality of a journal,” according to one editor.

Some respondents claimed even stronger positions. “A paper that has errors and/or erroneous interpretations may attract more attention than an important result that is ahead of its time,” one respondent said. “In addition, the competition for citations has created a trend of ‘citation engineering’, whereby all kinds of tricks are used to attract citations. Editors often come across reviewers who insist on citing their [own] papers. However, it is difficult to propose an alternative measure.” Several authors mentioned the trend of ‘artificial citation numbers’ as a serious problem.

Author satisfaction key

A small number of respondents (3%) stated that author satisfaction was key. “If authors are loyal and active, and new authors are attracted on a regular basis, this is the best sign of journal health... The fact that people are happy to do reviewing and that referees take their task very seriously is important as well.”

Around 11% of editors who responded said all three indicators were important. This was summed up by an editor who wrote: “Usage statistics are the most transparent approach with regards to the journal. Citation results must also be taken into account, and are generally reliable, but do require some care. Author feedback is also useful, but is more a reflection on the editor rather than the journal, and can be strongly influenced by side factors.”

B_Emery-1

New networking opportunities

Access to information is becoming faster and more dynamic, and interaction models are changing. Researchers need new tools to process and filter the information, to organize and share resources, and to connect and collaborate online. That is where 2collab comes in, providing a free collaboration, bookmarking, networking and discussion tool that caters specifically to the scientific community.

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Access to information is becoming faster and more dynamic, and interaction models are changing. Researchers need new tools to process and filter the information, to organize and share resources, and to connect and collaborate online. That is where 2collab comes in, providing a free collaboration, bookmarking, networking and discussion tool that caters specifically to the scientific community.

Launched in November 2007, 2collab is still very young. Just four months later, however, it is already making its mark on the world of scientific research, especially among so-called ‘early adopters’ – those who are curious and willing to try new technologies. Brant Emery, Development Manager, explains the major functions of 2collab: “first and foremost, it allows scientific researchers to collaborate, share their findings and create discussion groups to further their ideas. It also acts as a reference management tool, allowing users to bookmark URLs in one central location, which they can then access from any computer and easily share with colleagues or other users. 2collab uses these bookmarks and tags to allow users to network; the user profile is a key factor in enabling users to network with other specialists in their field or to meet scientists in other fields. We’re encouraging people to fill in as much profile information as possible to make it easier for them to network effectively with peers. Discussion groups fall into one of three security categories, ranging from closed groups that are controlled by a single administrator and whose content is available only to members, to open public groups in which anyone can participate.”

Web 2.0: the user revolution

In very recent years, there has been a shift in thinking: from the Internet as a platform for offering traditional products, to services centred around users. This user revolution, known as ‘Web 2.0’, has changed the ways in which people interact and participate in creating content. Internet user expectations have changed as well, shifting towards social applications to support these new models.

Camelia Csora, Product Manager explains how 2collab fits in: “unlike other social tools, 2collab is a scholarly tool, tailor-made for researchers, to help them connect and collaborate with peers and specialists in their research areas. 2collab allows users to contribute relevant, scholarly content and to enrich it with their own knowledge. With tagging, rating and commenting, users can share their opinions on a specific scientific resource, connect with others or find valuable resources already shared by people within their field.”

As well as providing a central portal for valuable scientific knowledge, 2collab enables scientists to build and consolidate their trusted scientific communities online. Research groups can collaborate on writing their next paper; librarians can recommend preferred scientific information sources; teachers and students can share reading lists; authors can promote their papers within a specific subject-focused community, discuss ideas, connect with people and seek answers from peers.

The future of collaboration

Feedback from 2collab users has been positive; like all new technologies and developments, it is a continuous quest to understand the users’ needs and how these tools can fit into their day-to-day work. Csora says: “our aim is to continue developing this tool in close partnership with our users by involving them regularly in generating ideas, sharing feedback, reviewing new features and testing new functionalities.”

She continues: “Developments over the next six months will focus on building new collaboration features for the scientific community. Feedback from users has shown that they would like to start up and facilitate discussions within groups based on certain topics, rather than discussions stemming from a particular URL. Deeper integration with other platforms and information providers, and ‘question and answer’ functionality, which will allow specialists from trusted sources to post answers to users’ questions, are just a couple of items we will be focusing on.”

A platform and tool for researchers to connect with their peers, enhancing the way they work together.

Benefits for authors and editors

While 2collab is a great tool for networking and gaining access to the work of others, it also provides authors with a platform to disseminate their own work. “Making your papers available via 2collab is a good way to disseminate your research and to gain more citations, which means broader recognition for your work” says Csora. “It also helps feed the research process, by helping other researchers to find relevant papers more quickly and easily – directly through recommendations from their peers.

Members of an editorial board are often geographically distant from one another; 2collab provides the platform and tools needed to overcome the limitations of time and space, so that people can connect and interact in one ‘place’. “Similarly,” continues Emery, “while a medical journal could publish several articles on a particular topic, in 2collab users can share and access video, photos, websites and online media about that topic, just as easily and in the same place as printed articles and conventional media. 2collab is a great supplement to traditional journal content; it will never replace journals but it enhances their value by bringing people and ideas together.”

From a networking perspective, 2collab can help editors create subject-specific groups, invite people in their trusted scientific environment to discussions on that topic, encourage other non-members to join or recommend the group to other specialists in the field. “In this way,” explains Csora, “editors can connect to potential reviewers who are currently and actively interested and involved in that specific subject field.” Emery concludes: “2collab offers authors, editors and researchers the ability to access and disseminate scientific content, to connect with their peers, enhancing the way they work together and offering an open and accessible space that fosters collaboration.”

To cite this article, please use: Vicky Hampton, "New networking opportunities for scientists", Elsevier Editors' Update, Issue 22, May 2008

Useful links

2collab

http://editorsupdate.elsevier.com//wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Editorsupdate_22.pdf

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