Last month, I wrote an Editorial that noted the trend toward digital publication in general and in health sciences journals. In that Editorial, I gave some statistics of the access to the digital online version of Optometry and Vision Science (OVS) and noted that, in the 6 months between two OVS surveys of our membership in 2012, the access to the digital version of our journal increased. The second survey focused on issues of content and provides an interesting snapshot of the most accessed parts of our journal.
The second survey, completed in early October, had both clinician and nonclinician researcher input, but I estimate from the data related to membership category that close to 85% of the responses came from clinicians (a small minority of them in industry and in faculty positions).
This is close to the cross section of category representation for the entire membership. The survey asked five questions. The first two questions related to ownership of a tablet device (Q.1) and how frequently it was used to access OVS (Q.2). As I noted in last month’s Editorial, it is estimated that about 80% of optometrists who have a tablet device have an iPad; the remainder have some other brand of tablet (e.g., a Kindle). In the 6 months between the surveys in April and September 2012, the number of tablet owners increased from a surprising 41.2% to 53%; the first survey did suggest 60% of those who did not own a tablet would have one within a year. Keep in mind that these surveys (April and September) occurred before the introduction of the OVS iPad App in October that allows downloading of an entire issue to be read anytime later without Internet access. Our planned April 2013 survey should provide interesting comparison data.
In the September survey, 20% of respondents accessed the online version of OVS “sometimes, often, or usually” with a tablet device; presumably this was like access with a computer (i.e., article-by-article access), just as many do with their computer access. But most digital access to OVS comes currently through computer use. In fact, responders access OVS “sometimes, often, or almost always” 43% of the time when asked in April 2012 about access with any digital device (e.g., smartphone, tablet, computer).
To look at overall access of OVS, by any method (digital or paper), in September, I asked about frequency of access to different sections of OVS. The responses surprised me—pleasantly. For each section (Editorials, OVS Announces, Original Articles, Reviews, Case Reports, Clinical or Technical Reports, Book Reviews, News/New Products), responders could characterize their access in one of five categories (“never, rarely, sometimes, often, or usually”).
So, what did I learn?
Most importantly, I discovered that members really do look at OVS! For the sections of OVS Announces, Original Articles, Case Reports, and Reviews, more than two-thirds of responders looked at each of these sections at least sometimes (i.e., “sometimes, often, or usually”). For three other sections, it was 55% or greater, and never less than 43% for any section. Why was I surprised? The Editorial Board and the Academy Board express great pride in the journal and how well it fares up against other top international eye, vision, optometry, and ophthalmology journals based on impact factor. This is based on OVS article citations in journals and not on readership or member interest. And those who cite journal articles (authors) are not typically those who read or look at specific journals in this digital age. I still can recall a good colleague commenting, when I took the position of editor in chief, “You know, authors don’t read journals.” The comment is probably close to the truth. Instead, authors search online for publications in their field (e.g., Google or PubMed searches) across many refereed journals. This impact factor rating, even with all of its known deficiencies and problems, is important for a journal that wishes to attract the very best authors in the research field.
But what do the members of the Academy, only a small minority of them are OVS authors, read and appreciate about their journal? Do they really access it, or is the paper copy simply a practice office or coffee table ornament? Or somewhere in-between. As it turns out, this survey sent a strong positive message to the Academy and to those who serve as editors on the Editorial Board; their efforts are noted and appreciated, and access is impressively high on all sections of the journal.
As Managing Editor (Kurt Zadnik) and Editor in Chief, we know that it is important to achieve high prestige for the journal to attract the best authors and report on the best discoveries, but it is also important to us that we provide real advances and sound education for Academy members and subscribers, whether or not they are authors. Clearly, our members are interested in the discoveries we report.
Editor in Chief
Optometry and Vision Science