What Journals Are Essential to Physicians

The New England Journal of Medicine has been conducting research to better understand their audience.  Recently when I attended their Library Advisory Board Meeting they presented the findings of the 2009 Essential Journal Study(PDF).  The Essential Journal Study is an independent study which randomly surveyed physicians in 12 specialities.  The study sought to find out what journals physicians considered essential to their practice of medicine. 

According to the study, physicians are three times more likely to read an essential journal sooner, spend twice as much time reading an essential journal, and they are twice as likely to re-read an essential journal.

When this information was presented at the Board Meeting the first thing I thought was this was extremely valuable information to have for small hospital librarians who are struggling with journal subscription dollars.  For a librarian to know what the top ten essential journals are in specialities is extremely helpful for collection development AND to justify journal budget/purchases to administration.

For example, according to the study, the Top Ten Essential Journals in Cardiology are:

  1. Journal of the American College of Cardiology
  2. The New England Journal of Medicine
  3. Circulation
  4. Journal of the American Medical Association
  5. American Journal of Cardiology
  6. Annals of Internal Medicine
  7. Journal of the American Society of Echocardiography
  8. Catheterization & CV Intervention
  9. Mayo Clinic Proceedings
  10. American Journal of Medicine

These are journals that cardiologists in this study have deemed essential.  What is striking is not that JACC occupies the top spot, but that half of the journals in the list are not specifically cardiology journals. 

Much of this report is written for those interested in advertising in NEJM.  However the information is still helpful to librarians who aren’t interested in purchasing advertising but are equally interested in what physicians read.  I know what you are probably thinking, you are probably thinking that Krafty got this information from the New England Journal of Medicine  so no wonder their journal is ranked highly as is other non-specialist journals.  It is important to know that while NEJM did sponsor the study, it was not identified as the sponsor.  The Matalia Group Inc., an independent research organization, designed, administered, and analyzed the study.  So NEJM had no control over where they or any other journal was ranked in the study. 

Librarians are asked to do more with less so they scrutinize where are money goes.  Every bit of information to help librarians make selections is important.  Impact factors can be helpful, but small hospital librarians often don’t have the time or resources to get the impact factors for each journal considered for purchase or elimination.  Additionally impact factors relate to the publishing of articles and who is citing the articles not specifically how much that journal is read.  Library online usage statistics can only take us so far sometimes, especially when we have a short usage history to go on.  This is a nice list of the top ten journals deemed essential by the readers themselves.  It would have been nice to see what journals are at the bottom of the list, but having the top ten is very helpful to use in conjunction with the other journal evaluation methods.

Look over the list and find out what journals your Cardiologis, Endocrinologists, Gastroenterologists, Hematologists, Hematologists/Oncologists, Infectious Disease Specialists, Internal Medicine Specialists, Nephrologists, Neurologists, Oncologists, Pulmonologists, and Rhuematologists are reading before any other journal.  What journals you should be concentrating your collection development budget money on.

6 thoughts on “What Journals Are Essential to Physicians”

  1. Some journal titles are non-existent, some have wrong names (example:Biology of bone and marrow transplantation instead of Biology of blood and marrow transplantation).

    Is there any way to get ISSN numbers for these journals? What is “Clinical Gastroenetrology”? There is no such journal title. What is the correct title for “Clinical Cancer”?


    Tatiana B. Miller M.Ed., M.L.S.
    Collection Management & Resource Sharing Librarian
    Medical College of Wisconsin Libraries
    8701 Watertown Plank Road
    Milwaukee, WI 53226
    Email: tbmiller@mcw.edu
    Phone: 414-955-8140

  2. There is some oddness with the journals, it appears that the doctors list the journal as they remember or call it which may not be its complete real name. So there is probably some degree of error to some of the results.
    That is frustrating and perhaps the Matalia Group should address why certain “non existant” journals are appearing or whether there are duplicates in the results. The Gastroenterology section is a good example of this.

  3. Tatiana,

    The journal names are written in by the physicians who respond to the survey. The Matalia Group makes the effort to combine different spellings of the same journal in the results, but they are not as familiar with the list of journals as librarians are.

    This is the first time that these results have been viewed by librarians, and we appreciate the thoughts about how it could be done better.

    Tom Richardson
    Director, Institutional Sales and Service
    The New England Journal of Medicine

  4. Tom,

    Thank you very much for your response. I have a question however. Let’s take my example with “Biology of bone and marrow transplantation” instead of “Biology of blood and marrow transplantation.” As you point out in Hematologists section of your study, 51 hematologists responded to your survey. 8% of them named that journal among their top ten essential journals. That means 4 people. Did all of them name the journal incorrectly? I just can’t imagine that.

    “Clinical Gastroenterology” is mentioned by 7% of 97 people surveyed, which means 6 or 7 people. Did they all mention a non-existing title?

    The list can go on.

    I think there was some very sloppy job was done in this survey, and now I am not even sure how trustworthy this survey is.



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