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ingenta Institute to Report Research Study Results
Posted On September 17, 2001
The ingenta Institute recently convened a meeting in London to present the findings from its yearlong, in-depth research project endorsed by the International Council for Scientific and Technical Information (ICSTI). The ingenta Institute was established in 1999 as an independent not-for-profit research foundation to sponsor original research about issues affecting the scholarly information process. It is funded by, but wholly independent of, ingenta, Inc. The institute's 2000­2001 research project explored the relationship between journal subscriptions and document delivery, as well as the impact of online delivery on article distribution. Two previous studies investigated issues relating to online database searching and to distance and lifelong learning.

The meeting was held at the Royal Society in London on September 25. A U.S. meeting was to be held at the MIT Faculty Club in Boston on October 4, but it was cancelled as a result of the recent tragedy in New York and Washington, DC. The forum is entitled "Reality versus assumption: User behaviour in sourcing scholarly information." The project results were presented by the coordinators of each component of the project, and then the findings will be analyzed by leaders in publishing and academia.

The 2000­2001 research project examined some of the issues surrounding the use of scholarly information resources. What impact does online content delivery and site licensing have on how scholarly researchers acquire information? And in return, how does this affect journal subscription and article distribution?

The study has three main components, each coordinated by independent information industry experts. The first part is a study that updates and expands a 1996 Canadian Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI) study examining the relationship between journal subscription and document delivery with data provided by the British Library Document Supply Centre (BLDSC) and CISTI. This library-focused part was coordinated by Mark Bide, a U.K. consultant. The study compared document delivery vs. subscriptions for 28 journals from 15 scientific, technical, and medical (STM) publishers.

The second component comprised a behavioral study of end-users of full-text articles to assess the effect of the availability of articles in electronic format on the use of journals. Over 250 academic/research individuals in the U.K. answered a lengthy questionnaire, and some were then contacted by phone and some kept a 2-week diary of activities. The study was coordinated by David Worlock of Electronic Publishing Services.

A preliminary report on the user-focused study indicated that requesting individual articles through document delivery was substantial and growing. Nine out of 10 respondents claim they do their own research to identify the required articles; four out of five have the ability to order documents and a significant number use credit cards to buy articles. The library study also indicated that, of the requests for documents, 15 percent were from users in libraries that subscribed to the journals.

Yet, according to the preliminary report, the printed journal itself is not yet dead: 84 percent of the sample read from one to five journal articles a week; 25 percent read more than last year. "The journal is still a stable entity; it's just that the growth in demand for article information is being absorbed by the newer delivery options."

David Brown of the ingenta Institute said that the results of the research send a message to publishers that they should seriously consider document delivery among their business model options since it offers them the ability to reach new markets and new revenue streams. He noted that the escalation in the use of the Internet to deliver articles has changed the balance between print and electronic sources.

The conclusion presented in the preliminary report states: "In essence these results show the rapid rise in online document usage, something which all earlier third-party studies have not been able to identify. Documents, printed or online, are becoming the focus of attention even though the journal itself remains robust."

A third part of the research study is developing a root map that identifies the options available to a researcher from his or her desk when sourcing articles through online and traditional methods. According to Brown, it will be a graphic that uses the width of directional arrows to reflect the relative amount of information flow.

The ingenta Institute also commissioned a U.K. consultant to carefully examine the research and provide a written assessment that discusses key findings and places them in the context of previous research and current business models. John Cox, a former publisher and now respected consultant to the publishing industry, will present his findings at the upcoming meetings. In his preliminary report, he noted that, despite some limitations in the studies—such as including only U.K. researchers in the user study—the research offers a great deal of useful information.

Cox stated: "Many of the findings of these studies confirm the results of the 1996 ICSTI study, and come as no surprise. But there are a number of results that throw fresh light on the role of individual article supply that have lessons for librarians and publishers as well as those in the document delivery business." He stressed that the market has become much more demanding. "Readers are in the driving seat. They expect more information to be available, both in print and online, and they want it to be easy to identify and retrieve." His report also discusses reader perceptions of libraries as a source of electronic information, the need for flexible licensing policies, the demand for older articles, the crucial need for navigation links, and the need for a range of dissemination options. He also points to issues that require further research, including one-stop shopping for journals, differences in reader environments, and alternative pricing models.

The institute will publish a full report by the end of this year that will provide all the summaries and results, including the root map. According to Brown, the report will sell for "several hundred dollars." He said that they were not looking to make money, but merely to recoup some of the high costs of the research.

Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.

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