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Survey Findings

Little data have been collected on scholars' e-journal usage and their attitudes towards e-journals. Through a web-based survey, this study collected data on scholars' e-journal usage behaviors, their preferences, and their perceptions about the impact of e-journals on their research activities through a web based survey. The survey was conducted in May 22-June 20, 2001 and the questionnaire is available online. The survey focused on how scientists and medical professionals perceive the impact of e-journals on their research and how they adapt and apply an emerging technology, the e-journal, into their research activities. The number of survey respondents is 12,465 and they are members of 20 professional societies (Appendix II). This paper discusses findings in the following five sections: data, determinants of e-journal usage and behaviors, scholars' preferences of formats, perceptions about the impact of e-journals on research activities, and implications of findings.


This section describes data by demographic characteristics, Internet familiarity, and resources available through both personal subscriptions and institutions. personal and institutional subscriptions.

  • Gender: About 30% of respondents are females and 70% are males. [Q. Gender]

  • Age: The average and the median age of samples are 47 and 48, respectively. [ Q. Age]

  • Fields of research: 57% of respondents answered their fields of research were biological sciences, 30% health sciences, and 10% agricultural sciences. [Q. Fields]

  • Country of residence: The survey respondents are from 99 countries, among those, 73% are residing in the U.S. and Canada, and 27% reside in countries in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Australia. [Q. Country of residence]

  • Affiliated institutions: 60% of respondents are working at the academic institutions and the rest are working at non-academic institutions such as private sectors, government agencies, and hospitals. [Q. Institutions]

  • Occupation: 20% of respondents are medical doctors and allied health professionals and average job experience is about 10 years. [Q.18]

  • Internet familiarity: Average weekly hours spent on the Internet are approximately 10 hours, most respondents answered that they spent 1.5-18.6 hours on the Internet per week. [Q.5]. Scholars in the U.S. and Canada tend to spend more time on the Internet than those from other countries. [Q.5]

  • Facilities: Available facilitiesFacilities available to researchers — PC, printers, and Internet access — to researchers vary by country of residence. Researchers from both the U.S. and Canada have better access to PC, printers, and Internet both at work and home than researchers from other countries in Europe, Asia, Australia, and Latin America. Access to scientific journals through institutions also varies by country of residence. Institutions in the U.S. and Canada provide more scientific journal access than other countries and accessibility to scientific journals differs by institutions within a country but with a smaller variance. 73% answered that they have access to PC, printers, and Internet both at work and home [Q.6a_1    Q.6a_2    Q.6a_3] and 78% have access to most scientific journals through affiliated institutions. [Q.6b_1]

  • Institutional access: 80% of respondents said that they access most scientific journals through institutional access either on paper or online. Among those, more than 95% of respondents have retrieved full text articles online at least once. [Q.6b_1    Q6b_2]

  • Productivity: On average, respondents submitted about 3 papers in the past year, and among them 2.7 papers were accepted / published in journals. in the past year. [Q.10_1 & Q.11_1]

  • Personal subscription: 72% of researchers in this survey personally subscribe to 1-5 journals. 8 % answered they have no personal subscriptions while 20% have more than 5 personal journal subscriptions, and this distribution is consistent across occupations. [Q.8] Respondents who rely on personal subscriptions have more subscriptions by on average 2.2 journals than those who do not relay on, however, 60% of respondents answered that the importance of personal subscriptions to their research decreases over time. [Q.9_2]


  • Societies: Among 20 participating societies, 19 societies are based on United States and one society is from the United Kingdom. [Appendix II]


  • E-journal usage increases scholarly communication through conferences/ workshops [Q7_1] and email correspondences [Q7_2]. Phone calls and fax are still popular communication tools as long as these are available to scholars inexpensively. [Q.7_3    Q.7_5]

  • E-journal usage increases the number of papers read outside one's primary discipline. [Q.16_4]

  • E-journal users tend to have more personal subscriptions than non-users. Intensive readers obtain more personal subscriptions to access scientific journals. (controlling for the access to institutional subscriptions). Usage might drive more personal journal subscriptions.

  • E-journal usage differs by demographic characteristics and other factors such as:
    • Occupation: Scientists use e-journals more than health professionals—Medical doctors and allied health professionals. [Q2 by M.D.s]

    • Personal subscription: The number of personal subscriptions does not affect scientists' e-journal usage up to 5 journal subscriptions, however, researchers' e-journals usage increases as the number of subscriptions increases if they personally subscribe to more than 5 journals.

    • Affiliated institutions: Researchers in academic institutions use e-journals more frequently than ones in non-academic institutions such as private sectors, government agencies, and hospitals).

    • Gender: Male researchers use e-journals more than females. This might be because of male dominated sample distribution. 70 % of respondents are males. [Q.Gender]

    • Publications: The more papers published, the more frequently researchers use e-journals, up to 8 papers per year. Those who published more than 8 papers per year tend not to use e-journals intensively. This indicates that they might have other resources available to them such as personal research assistants and students to boost their productivity. [Crosstab: Q.8 by Q.2]

    • Age: The younger generation uses e-journals more than the older generation. This might suggest that the cost to adapt adopt or adapt to a new technology increases by age. [Q.Age]

    • Communication: E-journals improve scholarly communication through conferences / workshops and email correspondences. [Q.7_1    Q7_2    Q.7_3]. Researchers who use "snail mail" more use e-journals less intensively. [Q7_6]

    • Research fields: Scientists' e-journal usage differs by their fields of research. Biological scientists prefer and use e-journals more and they perceive the positive impact of e-journals on their research activities more than researchers in other life science fields. [Q2 by biology]. Biological sciences might be more competitive than other life sciences in terms of publications and funding sources.

    • Internet familiarity: The more time scholars spend with the Internet, the more they use e-journals.


Even scholars who prefer e-journals will not give up printed copy journals completely because of portability and a limited access to back issues through online. Scholars find a way to use e-journals to increase their choices and flexibility over of journal formats.

  • 75% of respondents prefer e-journals over printed editions and 25% disfavor e-journals. [Q.4a]

  • Both printed copy and electronic journals will co-exist for some time. E-journals are preferred by scientists who work in the laboratories [Q4b_2    Q.4b_3] while a printed editions journal is preferred by scientists because of portability. [Q.4c_3]

  • ABOVE STATEMENT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE TO ME -- WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN "SCIENTISTS IN THE LAB" AND "SCIENTISTS"? SHOULD IT BE: "...the printed editions of journals are preferred by other types of scientists because of their portability."

  • Shortening library trips is one of main reasons why scholars prefer e-journals to retrieve full-text journal articles. [Q4b_3    Q16_1]



It is too early to conclude that scientists perceive that e-journals increase their research quality, however, 60% of respondents answered that e-journals positively affected their scholarly productivity, such as the number of studies/articles/grants/patents positively. [Q.15]

  • Users think e-journals affect their scholarly practices more positively than non-users, however, a journal being available online is not one of their top criteria to select journals for paper submission, regardless whether they are users or non-users. This suggests that life scientists perceive e-journals to be convenient tools/services which that make their research life easier and keep the same functions of traditional journals simultaneously, rather than any fundamental changes which replace traditional journals.


  • Scientists believe that journals are primary scholarly communication tools now and will continue to be in the future. [Q.17_1    Q17_2] The findings and analyses suggest that their research activities can be improved by e-journals to some extent [Q16_1    Q16_3    Q16_4    Q16_5] but there are other factors, such as a network, job experience, and primary job positions, which also account for their productivity.

  • Frequent users value e-journals more for keeping up with recent articles [Q.14_4] and features more than simply retrieving full-text articles [Q14_6], but simultaneously they report more frustration with unfriendly interfaces [Q14_5] and fear undisclosed exposure to non peer-reviewed articles through online searching [Q14_3]. The more they use e-journals, the more and the better features they demand.

  • Users' perception about the impact of e-journals on their research activities can be explained by the degree of usage—the more they use, the more likely it is that they think e-journals affect their scholarly practices—and other factors:
    • Stage of job career: Young graduate students and post docs, those who are in their earlier career stage, and researchers in private sectors tend to perceive the impact of e-journals on their research activities more positively than faculty in academic institutions.

    • Occupation: Medical doctors and allied health professionals are less likely to think that e-journals affect their research activities than researchers in academia and private sectors. [Q15 by M.D.s]

    • Research fields: Biological scientists are more likely to believe that e-journals affect their productivity than other life scientists (health and agricultural sciences). [Q15]

    • Perceived journal reputation is a more important publishing criterion than media format (paper/electronic). The majority of respondents says both perceived journal reputation [Q.13_1] and a wider range of readers are their important submission criteria [Q.13_2], while 82% of respondents answered that hosting online version was not one of their important submission criteria. [Q.13_3] The speed of peer-reviewing process is also an important criterion to select journals for paper submission. [Q.13_5]


The study has learned how scholars adapt and apply technology into their research activities. Based on findings, this report addresses a few suggestions to e-publishing businesses and libraries.

  • Journal publishers need to provide both printed editions and online versions as long as readers want hard copies. Developing appropriate customized features and more back issues available only online may increase readership.

  • The finding that scientists and medical professionals prefer fewer trips to libraries for literature searches supports a current trend in libraries which libraries are increasingly complementing (to some extent replacing) their traditional roles of collecting and storing hard copy journals increasingly with brokering of information services, including online access to journals.

  • We need to investigate this further with more data on e-journal usage patterns, users' preferences regarding customized features available only online, and their willingness to pay for journal subscription for obtaining printed editions, online editions, or both through personal subscriptions and society memberships.


Graphs and descriptive statistics are presented by survey question.


Members of 20 professional societies in life sciences were sampled for Scientific Journal User survey from May 22-June 20, 2001. The following table shows the names of societies and sample sizes per society.

SocietySample size
American Society for Microbiology2,279
Radiological Society of North America1,443
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology1,249
American Physiological Society1,091
Biophysical Society873
The Endocrine Society701
American Society of Plant Physiologists679
American Association of Immunologists658
American Association for Clinical Chemistry616
Society for Study of Reproduction567
American College of Chest Physicians455
American Society for Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics451
American Society for Nutritional Sciences352
American Heart Association350
Botanical Society of America339
The Society of Investigative Dermatology168
Genetics Society of America153
American Psychosomatic Society145
American Society of Hematology22
Royal Society of Medicine Press18

a. The number exceeds total sample size (12,465) because some respondents belong to multiple societies.


The survey questionnaire is available online.

The sampling methods and implementation for the first survey are available online.

Please share your reactions to the Survey Findings by filling out our simple form. Your feedback is a valuable component of the Electronic Journal User Study.

Last updated: 10-02-01

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