Study reveals insight into scholarly discovery

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The results of largest ever study into 'How Readers Discover Content in Scholarly Publications' have been published.

The open-access report by Tracy Gardner and Simon Inger, which is the culmination of a 12-month research project and has the backing of leading publishers and intermediaries within STEM, Humanities and Social Science, compares changing reader behaviour between 2005 and 2015.

The pair, from Simon Inger Consulting, announced the publication of their second major report into discoverability of online content, published under a CC-BY NC licence.

This report is the output of a large-scale survey focussing on journal and book content discovery conducted between September and December 2015.

More than 40,000 researchers, students, teachers, lecturers, professors, journalists, managers, clinicians, medics, librarians, government officials, and engineers responded to the survey, which was supported by Annual Reviews, American Theological Library Association (ATLA), The Bone & Joint Journal, Brill, Cambridge University Press, The IET, ingentaconnect, The JAMA Network/American Medical Association (AMA), OECD, SAGE, and Wiley.

Gardner said: 'This report is essential reading for everyone in the scholarly publishing community. The differences in discovery behaviour across regions, sectors, subject areas and job roles are significant and need to be understood by publishers, discovery resource providers and technology vendors. This research would not have been possible without the help of all of our supporters.'

A selection of headlines from the research include:

  • More than half of all journal content delivery appears to be from free incarnations of articles. PubMedCentral is popular in the medical sector and social media sites appear to be a significant source of free articles in lower income countries;
  • A&Is are in decline, but remain the most important starting point for search.     Academic researchers in high income countries rate library discovery as highly as A&Is, and rate academic search engines as the most important discovery resource when searching;
  • Academic search engines are now more important than general search engines in the academic sector in high income countries;
  • Online book discovery varies significantly by sector;
  • Publisher web sites have become more popular as a search resource;
  • Google Scholar is used more than Google in the academia, but less than Google in all other sectors; and
  • Access to scholarly content by mobile phone accounts for only about 10 per cent of the use.

Inger added: 'Content discovery remains a highly competitive space with no clear winner – people use a wide range of discovery methods and tactics for perfectly good and logical reasons. There is no single ‘right’ answer.'

The report can be downloaded from the SIC website at the address below. The full data set and analytical tool containing 60,000 responses from 2012 and 2015 is also available for purchase. Detailed segmented reports can also be commissioned from the authors.