The user view of the Open Journal in Cognitive Science
and its demonstration of citation linking
This is an extract from the paper Linking
Electronic Journals: Lessons from the Open Journal Project written
by the project development team and which appeared in D-Lib Magazine,
to the start of demo and index
linking in context: what others are doing
The user view
User responses were gathered by the project in a number of ways: meetings
with individual users, selected evaluation groups, and open access demonstrators,
mediated by electronic mail and Web forms; and less directly through meetings
with other interested groups, conference presentations, seminars, and workshops.
Evaluators included specialists in the subject areas covered, as well as
teachers, librarians and publishers. Below is a summary of the important
points to have emerged. The comments added for illustration, and those
shown additionally for illustration in Table 3, are abstracted from user
returns, via a Web questionnaire, from the open access demonstration of
citation linking in the Open Journal of Cognitive Science during April
and May 1998. This Open Journal comprised two primary journals and the
database of abstracts provided by ISI (Hitchcock
al. 1998a, 1997b). The
full test results for this demonstrator are presented in the project's
final report to its funding body, JISC and the Electronic Libraries
Important results from user testing
Users are very demanding.
"It would have to be much faster."
"Speed of links -- initial link to an abstract, have all the abstracts
loaded with the initial page"
Citation links are popular, and users will always want more links.
When services are simple, intuitive and useful, it is hard to overstate
the impact, even for new users. The Web as a whole is one example. Citation
linking will be another case in point. Before our link service existed
there was great anticipation among e-journal advocates. By the time the
project was, briefly, able to release its demonstrator openly, real users
were more sanguine. Why so few links? (It was due to limited data sets.)
The demand for links in this context will grow very rapidly.
"Bigger and better please."
"Make it BIGGER!!!"
"I wish that a visual cue could be used to discriminate between links to
the reference section of the article alone, and those citations for which
an abstract could be found. I was a bit frustrated by wanting to look up
an abstract, interrupting my reading to find it, only to learn that it
"One could imagine even making the link go directly to the abstract/full-text,
rather than first to the list of references at the end of the paper."
"Add a tiny little document icon next to those links for which there are
abstracts or full-text available, and make the little icon jump directly
to the abstract/full-text."
Technology must be transparent: users want better services without having
to install new software or change computer settings.
It was common practice for Web users, especially back in 1995 when
the project began, to download and install software from the Web to improve
the Web experience. With the exception of Acrobat it seems the practice
of software download does not apply to typical e-journal users, as the
project soon discovered from publishers and librarians. So the link service
software was rewritten to work at the server end, mediated by a user-set
browser proxy. Even this was insufficient. Libraries do not want settings
on shared machines to be altered, and proxy settings can interfere with
firewalls in corporate environments. In the latest version the direction
to the proxy server is attached to the URL, leaving the user to browse
the Web conventionally and do nothing to receive the link service, barring
starting from the right place!
"I don't know what "the proxy" is."
Links help navigation but users also need orientation.
It was stated above that the project missed something important. The
project was first and foremost about building and applying links, and the
links appear in others' texts. So the project did not concentrate on building
custom journal, or Open Journal, interfaces which, it was felt, might
have detracted from the identities of the contributing journals and publishers.
The interface is the user's starting point, and Web interface design has
advanced enormously in the last year or two, especially for large resources,
where so-called "gateways" have leapt in importance. An Open Journal needs
not just links but a distinctive entrance, or gateway, too.
"It was not easy to discover how to start into the archive."
"Took a while to see what was on offer."
"Without additional navigation aids it is easy to lose track of where you
are in the cluster."
Reliability is a critical issue.
Links must be clearly labelled and unambiguous: users are suspicious
of unexpected links in texts.
Table 3. Illustrative user responses
for and against citation linking in the Open Journal of Cognitive Science
|"It's a great service!"
||"It is a WONDERFUL idea. However..."
"The potential is clear and exciting.
... Thanks for letting us see how the future might look!"
"An excellent way to trace ideas and
how the scientific community has reacted to them."
"the forward search aspect is terrific."
"I'd like to have such a link structure
for EVERYTHING I read."
"Looks like a wonderful way to find
info that sometimes is elusive using keyword searches of databases."
"It is a WONDERFUL idea. However, (for)
two separate target articles ... it simply didn't work, and was slow doing
"Powerful tool which better exploits
the capability of the medium ... (but) not fully implemented."
"I could have obtained the same information
(and in a more controlled way since I would have been deciding where and
when to search) if I simply had one window looking at an item and had another
window open into BIDS/ISI and used the citation search feature."
"The search engine needs to be improved
before a serious trial can be initiated. The single keyword restriction
made the output set way too big."
"It would be a good idea to have an
opportunity for marking citations."
Hitchcock, S., Carr, L., Harris, S., Hey,
J. M. N. and Hall, W. (1997b) Citation Linking: Improving Access
to Online Journals. In Proceedings of the Second ACM International Conference
on Digital Libraries, Philadelphia, USA, July (ACM: New York), pp.
Hitchcock, S., Kimberley, R., Carr, L.,
Harris, S. and, Hall, W. (1998a) Webs of Research: Putting the User
in Control. In Proceedings of IRISS'98: Internet Research and Information
for Social Scientists, Bristol, UK, March http://sosig.ac.uk/iriss/papers/paper42.htm
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