The Johns Hopkins Gazette: May 5, 2003
May 5, 2003
VOL. 32, NO. 33


Libraries Create Tool for Navigating Scholarly Publishing

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

For academics seeking to navigate the ever-changing and sometimes complicated landscape of scholarly publishing, help is now at hand.

The university libraries have recently created an online service for Johns Hopkins faculty to learn about and discuss the basic "how to's," "where to's" and "what to look out for's" concerning scholarly communication.

The new site,, acts as a sort of clearinghouse of information on scholarly publications in order to assist authors in the process of finding the appropriate and ideal venue for their scholarship or research findings, including alternatives to traditional journals. It also serves as a Web-based forum for faculty to debate the issues related to publishing and to promote the retention of intellectual property rights for authors and their institutional sponsors.

A one-stop shop, the site is intended to help answer such questions as: How many people read a particular journal? What rights do authors have? What shortcomings, if any, lie within a publication's peer-review process? What is the cost of a publication to a library?

In addition to the new Web site, the university libraries have secured Johns Hopkins membership in BioMed Central, an independent publisher committed to instant and free access to peer-reviewed biomedical research. All the original research articles in journals published by BioMed Central are immediately and permanently available online.

The two initiatives are part of a larger effort on the part of the university libraries to help shape the publishing environment for scholars. Concerns about soaring journal costs and the diminished competition among commercial journal publishers have prompted the university to explore alternative forms of scholarly publishing for its faculty. The Johns Hopkins libraries spend more than $6.5 million annually on journal subscriptions, and yearly increases in subscription rates have averaged over 10 percent since the 1990s.

The university libraries' effort has been led by the Johns Hopkins Scholarly Communications group, a seven-member committee of library staff whose charge is to foster open access to quality information in support of learning, scholarship, research and patient care.

Nancy Roderer, director of the Welch Medical Library and chair of the Scholarly Communications group, said the aim of the new initiatives is to "empower" authors of scholarly information.

"We want faculty to think carefully about where they publish," Roderer said. "By providing this new online tool, we hope to raise awareness as to what is happening in scholarly publishing today. Not only do we want to increase the odds of scholars being published, we also want to ensure that their work reaches the intended, and largest, audience."

On the Author's Tools page of the Web site, users can select from a long list of high-impact journals that are grouped by subject, ranging from allergy to tropical medicine.

After clicking on a subject, the user will see a list of journal names that can be sorted by "impact factor," publisher, title and Johns Hopkins usage data, which reflects the number of "clickthroughs" from the Welch Medical Library's Web site in the last full month. The site also provides a field for authors to describe and comment on the specifics of publication agreements and their experience with the journal.

Winston Tabb, dean of university libraries and director of the Sheridan Libraries, said that, especially for junior faculty and the graduate student population, the new Web site should provide an easy and effective means of getting answers to their publishing-related questions.

"In many cases, I'm sure they'll get answers to questions they didn't even know they had," Tabb said. "When a researcher, especially a young one, is looking to publish the results of his or her work in a journal, they probably don't immediately think of such things as electronic publishing rights or free online-only journals. In sum, we are not telling people what to do, we are just helping them find information that will enable them to make an informed decision that is right for them."

The new site also provides information on a publication's submission guidelines and general instructions for prospective authors.

Chi Dang, vice dean for research and professor of hematology at the School of Medicine, said that no matter the quality of the research or scholarship, it never hurts to get useful advice and tips on where and how to publish an article.

"Sometimes you need to hold off on publishing something right away so you can get it in the highest impact journal you can," said Dang, who has already populated the open access site with comments on journals in which he's been published. "I see this new initiative as a way for more-seasoned faculty to mentor younger colleagues, for them to tell a person to think about this or that before he or she sends a paper to a journal. Some junior faculty don't know how to package their scholarship properly, or they may send it to an inappropriate publication. My hope is that people starting out their research careers will come to this Web site and find a myriad of useful comments from people who have been around the publishing block and have something to share."