Journals: What Doctors Read and What Librarians Buy

Recently, I wrote about the New England Journal of Medicine’s Essential Journals Study (PDF).  In the comments Tatiana correctly pointed out that some of the journal names listed in the results weren’t “real” journals.  She specifically mentioned the Biology of Bone and Marrow Transplantation probably should have been the Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation, and the journals Clinical Gastroenterology and Clinical Cancer were incorrect. 

Tom from the New England Journal of Medicine explained that the company conducting the survey did not provide a list of journals to choose from, instead doctors were asked to write in the names.  Therefore some doctors made some errors as to the correct and exact journal title. 

Tatiana was still skeptical that doctors would make such errors regarding journals specific to their fields of practice, and unfortunately I have to respectfully disagree with her.  Full disclosure, I am on the New England Journal of Medicine’s Library Advisory Board, but this not the reason I disagree with Tatiana.  I disagree because in my years as a medical librarian I see numerous physicians who don’t know the correct title of a journal that they recently published in let alone others in their field.  Just the other day I had a pediatrician question me as to why we did not have the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.  We have the journal he wanted, the only problem is that he was calling it (and typing it into the A-Z) as Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine,  NOT the correct name Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.  That minor s on the end of Pediatric did not mean a lot to him but it meant a great deal to the A-Z list.  This is not uncommon, especially when you throw in those pesky (*wink*) British spellings like Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research and the haematology journals. 

One way to solve this problem is to have a list of “real” journals to choose from.  However, I can understand why NEJM may not have wanted to have such a list.  Having a list artificially chooses the doctor’s results to a certain extent.  There is no way you can list every journal for every discipline for a survey for doctors.  If you want the results to be completely independent of any preselected list and you want to know the what journals first come to the mind of doctors, you are going to have to let them write it themselves.  Of course that opens things up for error.  I only bet on Fantasy Football, but I would be willing to wager that the pediatrician who questioned why we didn’t have Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, would not have written the s at the end of Pediatric. 

But Tatiana is right to look at the results with a skeptical eye.  Not every discipline was represented and there were fake journals listed and that could potentially skew the results. 

That is why The SLA DBIO 100 Poll results are interesting.  As the SLA Biomedical & Life Sciences Division Blog reports in their post, Doctors & The Librarians Who Serve Them Agree on the Medical Journals That Matter the Most, the “DBIO 100 poll tends to confirm the NEJM poll to a remarkable degree in ranking the more specialized journals in virtually all shared specialites, eith the occasional exception of some one -(or -rate) two place reversals.”  The NEJM poll also confirms the DBIO 100 poll. 

When you look at both polls together, it looks as if the very journals doctors want are the same ones that librarians are buying, which is good. Librarians have a pretty good handle on what their doctors use, want, and need for journals.  Considering our shrinking budgets we better be in tune with what are doctors want.  Reading through and having both of these lists can be important to some librarians as they make their journal selections each year.  Will it be the trump card for renewing? No, our usage statistics and price usually are the main reasons for renewing or not.  However it never hurts to have too much information.  Additionally these two polls could be very helpful when dealing with an administration that questions the need to buy so many expensive journals.  Librarians can also use these two polls to create their own survey for their own insititution.  They can look to see if their colleciton matches their doctor’s needs and to see if their doctor’s needs vary any from the national polls.

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