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Oxford University Press

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Leading the information revolution for the benefit of research, scholarship, and education

The 21st century is bringing rapid changes to STM journal publishing, particularly as online becomes the primary medium for journal distribution. Although disciplines differ in how far and how fast this revolution is going, there is no doubt that the impact will be felt around the world.

Journals are often referred to as 'the minutes of science', but that's a bland description for a form of communication that can have a profound impact on our lives. With each new piece of research could come the cure for cancer or new insight into securing our environment for future generations.

Of course, these 'ground-breakers' are in a minority, but when they happen they can shake the world. Now, think of journals in a networked, inter-linked online environment and you have a tool for researchers that will push forward the boundaries of our knowledge on a previously unimaginable scale.

These are certainly exciting times. Of course, potential change on the scale that journal publishers are currently facing brings both opportunities and threats, and all too often the threats are what attract attention and media coverage.

However, at Oxford Journals we focus on the benefits and opportunities. Working within a University Press has enormous advantages, as our core mission is serving the academic community of which we are a part. This perhaps gives us a different viewpoint from that of a commercial publisher.

This difference is a key driver in our active experimentation with open access, our fair pricing policies, and our commitment to leveraging the online environment for the benefit of research, scholarship and education.

The business model of journals and subscriptions has served researchers well for more than a century, but times are changing. Online journals are already a major productivity boost for education and we must continue that trend. Oxford Journals has already made great strides in making information more widely and easily available through free online access for developing countries, toll-free links from references in articles, and active experimentation with supporting institutional repositories and open access business models. For example, in 2005 Nucleic Acids Research, one of the top ten hottest journals of the decade in biology and biochemistry*, will be converted to full open access.

We are only at the beginning of a journey of change, and there is no doubt that the next five years will continue to see initiatives and viewpoints that challenge existing models and assumptions about the distribution of research information. These should be embraced and Oxford Journals hopes to play a key role in encouraging collaboration and stimulating debate.

So, what next? Technology is developing at a rapid pace and there are already clear indicators for some directions for innovation. Areas that we see growing in importance include:

  • Search This will probably become as important as content itself, with a wider range of tools to support education purposes as well as information retrieval. Increased collaboration through projects such as CrossRef Search (of which Oxford Journals is a member of the pilot programme) should enable researchers and students to find information that is relevant to and defined by them.
  • Granularity Metadata is revolutionising the way in which we can categorise content. Its level of granularity could give institutions and readers much greater choice and flexibility in the future about what information they purchase and how they access it.
  • Alerting This is a constant area of development that enables researchers to set up highly personalised profiles of information that they need to be alerted to and track � either via email or RSS feeds, web portals or mobile technologies.
  • Personalisation and Customisation The online environment offers yet untapped opportunities to present customers with information that is specific to their purposes and in the form they want it.

Beyond that you move into the bounds of 'community' and 'knowledge management'. These areas are now firmly in the hands of researchers themselves, but will quickly spill over into the journal publishing arena as those publishers with imagination, and commitment to placing customers at the heart of what they do, find ways to apply them.

The next five years will see plenty of change � this isn't a market for the faint-hearted but it is one full of opportunity. At Oxford Journals we believe the secret is to embrace change. After all, we're used to it. Oxford University Press has continued to evolve for over 500 years so adapting to new technology is not new to us. Oxford University Press was established in the 15th century when the information technology revolution was the invention of printing from moveable type.

Now, in an online world, we see the potential for dissemination on a scale that would have previously been thought impossible, and are keen to develop our role as a University Press to support and maximize the impact of the research information published within our journals.
Melinda Kenneway is marketing director of Oxford Journals at Oxford University Press.

*Source: Science Watch (May/June 2003) Essential Science Indicators � high impact journals in nine fields, ranked by citations per paper, 1992-2002 (among non-review journals that published continuously from January 1992 to December 2002).

contact details

Rachel Goode, Oxford Journals, Oxford University Press
Tel: +44 (0)1865 353388
Fax: +44 (0)1865 353835
Email: rachel.goode@oupjournals.org
Web: www.oupjournals.org