Decade-Long Legal Battle Focused On Journal Cost, Impact

Editor's Note: For the past two decades, librarians have used citation data to rank journals. When library budgets were seemingly unlimited, journals published both by nonprofit professional societies and by for-profit publishers were purchased, often regardless of their intrinsic value or cost-effectiveness. In the past decade, under severe budget constraints, university librarians-with the advice of faculty-have had to "de-accession" hundreds of journals that, by one test or another, could

Albert Henderson
Jan 18, 1998

Editor's Note: For the past two decades, librarians have used citation data to rank journals. When library budgets were seemingly unlimited, journals published both by nonprofit professional societies and by for-profit publishers were purchased, often regardless of their intrinsic value or cost-effectiveness.

In the past decade, under severe budget constraints, university librarians-with the advice of faculty-have had to "de-accession" hundreds of journals that, by one test or another, could no longer be justified. As an extension of the quantitative methods of evaluation originally reported in my "Significant Journals of Science" (Nature, 264:60915, 1976), it was inevitable that peer judgments of journal quality would be combined with bibliometric indicators, such as the number of articles published (productivity) and average frequency of citation (impact).

In 1988, Henry H. Barschall-a retired professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a member of the American Institute of Physics' (AIP's)...

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