Medical Faculty's Use of Print and Electronic Journals: Changes over Time and in Comparison with Scientists

Article excerpt

Objectives: The objectives are to determine how medical faculty members use scholarly journals, whether print or electronic journals are read more, whether there is a pattern among types of users, and what similarities and differences there are between the use of journals by medical faculty and faculty in other disciplines.

Methods: Medical faculty of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) multi-campus system were surveyed, and their responses estimated using critical incident technique to characterize the different aspects of their use of print and electronic journals.

Results: Medical faculty read a great deal, especially compared to scientists. The most frequently reported principal purpose of reading is to support their primary research (30% of reading). The majority of reading comes from recently published articles, mostly from personal subscriptions. Medical faculty continue to rely on print journals (approximately 70% of readings) versus electronic journals. Age of faculty does not appear to influence the choice of print or electronic format. Medical faculty read more articles than others on average and need information digested and verified in a way to save them time. Convenience and currency are highly valued attributes.

Conclusions: It can be asserted that librarians and publishers must find ways to provide the attributes of convenience and currency and match the portability of personal subscriptions in an electronic journal format for medical faculty.


The scholarly scientific, technical, and medical journal systems are undergoing tremendous change. With steady increases in the price of print subscriptions, the number of subscriptions has declined correspondingly. Studies show that there are now many alternatives to print journals, including electronic peer-reviewed versions of traditional journals from the same publishers, aggregated databases of separate articles, electronic print servers, institutional open archives, and author's personal Web pages [1-3]. E-print servers, such as, provide access to separate articles that may be preprints of articles that will be submitted to peer-reviewed journals by the author, postprints (copies of articles that are also published in journals), or papers that will never be submitted to traditional journals. The Open Archives Initiative* promotes common interoperability to allow institutions or individuals to develop e-print repositories. Electronic versions of traditional journals change the publication system the least, as they may merely provide more convenient access to subscription-based journals. ?-print servers or open archives have the potential to induce more profound changes in the publication system as they already change the publishing system from a journal title model to a separate articles model and may be accomplished independent of publishers. Tenopir and King [4], in previous studies, have discovered that medical faculty may be more resistant to change than faculty in other disciplines, because, traditionally, they use journals for much of their professional development and to stay current with progress and trends in their field.

Many studies over the last decade show that the adoption rate for electronic journals, the viability of alternatives to the traditional print or electronic peerreviewed journal system, and the pace of change vary considerably by field [5, 6]. Meadows reports that, in the print world, medical professionals have relied heavily on scholarly journals, placing importance on specific journal titles in their subdisciplines and reading more than people in most other disciplines [7]. It is therefore interesting and timely to see how much of an impact electronic alternatives have had on medical faculty and to compare their information seeking, their reading patterns, and their adoption rates to those of scientists.

The study reported here surveyed medical faculty members in the University of Tennessee system to discover how they use journals and alternatives to journals. …