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June 16, 2007

Feasibility of Developing a Usage Factor for STM Journals

More on the feasibility of a Usage Factor

The UKSG has released its final report on the feasibility of developing a Usage Factor for journals and journal articles. From the text (dated May 2007 but announced and released June 15, 2007):

...Based on [surveys and interviews] it appears that it would not only be feasible to develop a meaningful journal Usage Factor, but that there is broad support for its implementation. Detailed conclusions and recommendations are provided in Section 4 of this report. Principal among these are: 1. the COUNTER usage statistics are not yet seen as a solid enough foundation on which to build a new global measure such as Usage Factor, but confidence in them is growing and they are seen as the only viable basis for UF; 2. the majority of publishers are supportive of the UF concept, appear to be willing, in principle to participate in the calculation and publication of UFs, and are prepared to see their journals ranked according to UF; 3. there is a diversity of opinion on the way in which UF should be calculated... 4. the great majority of authors in all fields of academic research would welcome a new, usage-based measure of the value of journals; 5. UF, were it available, would be a highly ranked factor by librarians, not only in the evaluation of journals for potential purchase, but also in the evaluation of journals for retention or cancellation; 6. publishers are, on the whole, unwilling to provide their usage data to a third party for consolidation and for calculation of UF. The majority appear to be willing to calculate UFs for their own journals and to have this process audited. This is generally perceived as a natural extension of the work already being done for COUNTER. While it may have implications for systems, these are not seen as being problematic...; 7. there are several structural problems with online usage data that would have to be addressed for UFs to be credible. Notable among these is the perception that online usage data is much more easily manipulated than is citation data; 8. should UKSG wish to take this project further there is a strong likelihood that other agencies would be interested in contributing financial support

From elsewhere in the body of the report:

...6 of the 7 authors are interested in knowing how frequently their articles are accessed online. One author currently monitors the Web of Science to access how frequently his articles are being cited; he would find the usage equivalent of this very valuable. Other authors mentioned that they are also very interested in where and by whom whom their articles are being used. The majority of the authors were not familiar with COUNTER....

[In response to the question whether usage data should cover articles from the previous 2 years, the previous 5 years, or some other period, one interview subject suggested:] Go for 2 years. UF should be more immediate than IF. Given the trend towards free availability of research articles after a period, paid access is going to be increasingly regarded as being for a shorter period after publication. Librarians will want metrics to cover the period for which they are paying. Five years would be too long....

[In response to a question about benefits for participating publishers, one suggested:] By participating in this process, publishers will influence it, helping to develop useful measures in which they can have confidence. Currently journal publishers are under a lot of pressure to demonstrate the value they provide. The challenge from open access has further stimulated this...
[T]he number of sites on which the full text of a particular article will be available is likely to grow in the future, as a result of an increase in open access publishing and institutional repositories. This will increase the difficulty in obtaining a 100% global figure for journal usage. This need not be an insurmountable obstacle to the calculation of comparable UFs, but it is a potential problem...

Librarians indicated that, if UF were available, it would become the second most important factor ( after ‘feedback from library users’) in decisions in the purchase of new journals, while it would be the third most important factor ( after ‘feedback from library users’ and ‘usage’) in retention/cancellation decisions...

Source: P Suber News Blog [16 June 2007) [FullText]

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