Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Plenary presentation summary: Journal Spend, use and research outcomes: A UK perspective on Value for Money. Presented by: Ian Rowlands, CIBER

During the second plenary session on Tuesday during UKSG, Mr. Rowlands presented some preliminary data from part of Research Information Network funded research project. He is halfway through project and will be continuing into next year. There are some very interesting visualization tools to explore the data online.

There has been an unprecedented growth in access to journal material over the past decade as content has moved from print to electronic. However, it is critical to assess the impact of the increase in access and availability of content has had in past decade. Has this increase in access led to higher productivity and more innovative research?

In exploring the research outcomes, Rowlands is looking at many quantifiable criteria, including: Number of Counter downloads, # of Phds, # of grants, institutional spending patterns, and deep log analysis in a variety of disciplines.

It should come as little surprise to the community that the transition from print to electronic publication is nearly complete. 96.1% of science journals are online and 88.5% of arts and humanities journals are online. In 2007, the academic community spent £80 million on e-journal licenses. Collectively those purchases have yielded more than102 million downloads or 0.80 £ per download.

There has been tremendous end-user take up of these resources. The number of downloads doubled from 2004 to 2007. This represents a 21.7% per annum growth in downloads over that period. The core proposition of providing online articles is “very popular” among researchers.

There has also been a rapid increase of number of journals available at an average institution. The average number of titles per researchers is up from just above 4 to just below 8. {TC – Given the present economic environment it is likely these figures will decrease in the coming year, but it certainly will remain at a higher average level.}

Citation analysis is showing that users are drawing more sources, and including more references per paper. The use of navigation and discovery tools, increased access, has created a situation where research is now more deeply founded in previous work.

University administrations are looking for clear and compelling justifications for the continued expense of information purchases and Mr. Rowlands thinks that compelling information is now available.

This change of availability has impacted the information seeking behavior of end-users. It is not surprising that Google is the “librarians friend”. Many Researchers are using gateways, such as Google, Pubmed, etc. to get access to content. Examples of the increase of traffic abound. One OUP Journals saw a two-fold increase in journal uses as an effect of opening up their content to Google.

The access provided by online content is also having a profound impact on resource use. The convenience of 24 X 7 access is tremendous. 17% of activity is taking place on weekends and the “Working day is growing” with 1/3 of activity taking place outside of “normal office hours” of 9:00am – 5:00pm. This access was more difficult in a print-based world.

However questions remain about whether efficient search is the same as or necessarily yields successful research? There is a strong negative correlation between research rating of the scientists in institutions and the average session length on Science Direct. The most “successful researchers” were the group spending the least amount of time online with content. Trends pointed to the fact that the most successful researchers use gateways. Much more search activity is taking place outside the library, typically on services like Pubmed, Google, and Google Scholar.

There were natural clustering of intensive use and the figures for the differences between moderate, high and super users correlated significantly with outputs such as the numbers of papers produced, the amount of grants funds received and the number of PhD’s the institution produces. In addition, while the average cost per download is consistent across institution, the more active the institution the less per article the institution paid.

Mr. Rowlands stressed that these data merely show associations not causation. Nor does the data show any directionality. Is it that a lot of research creates demand for lots of information, or is it that research institutions, put things together and in place for research, which therefore impacts results.

The next stage of this research will look at historical information. Among the topics to be explored is what are linkages between products, spending and outcomes? He is working to produce a computer model, that shows, for example, scenarios what the increase in the number of titles and/or downloads might have on research outcomes.

The initial information points to the fact that downloads and research outputs are like “gears on a bicycle” that move in tandem. As one gear gets bigger, the faster the other gear turns. Although one needs to understand the causality question, the understanding of the fact of the connection is a useful addition to knowledge about assessment and performance measurement.

{NB Disclaimer: Much of this summary is verbatim and/or paraphrased from the Mr. Rowlands talk – very little in this post is interpreted and should not be credited to me. Apologies to Mr. Rowlands for any errors.}

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Anonymous Term papers said...

It really looks interesting! I'm actually glad to see all this stuff...

10:40 am  

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