Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

A Simple Method for Producing Core Scientific and Technical Journal Title Lists

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

A Simple Method for Producing Core Scientific and Technical Journal Title Lists

Article excerpt

The objective of this paper is to present a simple method for constructing core journal title lists in scientific and technical (ST) disciplines. This method is the invention of Bensman and is based on the theoretical foundation outlined in Bensman and Wilder (1998). The method requires the creation of a new measure of value called the Estimated Annual Citation Rate (EACR), which is derived from the Journal Citation Reports' total citation variable. EACR allows researchers to compare the relative value of ST journals, and because it is an annual estimate of citations, it can be compared directly to subscription price to produce a measure of cost-effectiveness. The method is described along with an illustrative exercise using journals in physics and chemistry, and the value and cost results are presented.

The work of Bensman and Wilder (1998) on optimizing scientific and technical serials holdings in an inefficient market is first and foremost theoretical in nature and intended to provide a model for understanding the social and economic dynamics of scientific and technical (ST) journal literatures, The essence of their work lies in their assertion that each ST discipline operates within its own social stratification system. These systems are marked by a high degree of consensus on what is important research, which individuals and institutions produce it, and what journals publish it. Bensman and Wilder established that this systemwide consensus exists, that it is measurable, and highly stable over time.

Given that the consensus within ST disciplines includes journal literatures, we may speak of the "value" of individual ST journal titles as an objective, quantifiable attribute. Further, the stability of journal value over time suggests that today's important journals will tend to remain important in the future. This in turn suggests the possibility of developing meaningful "core collection" lists for ST journals. Such lists would be discipline specific, not institution specific, hence they would apply equally well to colleges and universities without regard to size or academic rank.

Simple value rankings for ST journals would have obvious benefits for scientists and university administrators interested in focusing their promotion and tenure efforts and boosting their departmental rankings. For librarians, however, the double-digit inflation over the last decade in ST journal prices creates another, more immediate use for such lists, provided that the ranking method also allows for comparison of value to price. Bensman and Wilder (1998) found, as others have previously (e.g., Barschall 1988), that ST titles high in value are many times more cost-effective than lower value titles. This finding suggests that cost effectiveness data have the potential to give library administrators an important new tool in their struggle to control costs while safeguarding the measurable scientific value of their collections.

In this paper I will present a simple method, invented by Bensman, for developing lists that accomplish both objectives: the creation of value rankings for discipline specific journal tides and the production of cost-effectiveness data for these tides. I will also illustrate the use of this method using physics and chemistry journals from the 1997 Journal Citation Reports (JCR).

Subject Sets, Value Measures, and a New Measure of Journal Value

The method for producing ST core lists relies on a set of basic assumptions in regard to the subject groupings for journal titles and the value measures used to rank them. Both issues have an important bearing on how the eventual core list results should be interpreted. Therefore, before discussing the production of ST core lists, I first address the basic building blocks of subject sets, value measures, and the development of a new measure of journal value.

Subject Sets

The definition of subject sets is of critical importance to the development of core ST journal lists. …

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