Access to information, how veterinarians and the general public find information, and scientific publication have all changed dramatically since 1998, when I became editor of the Journal of Swine Health and Production.
Search engines that are commonly used have changed dramatically. Whereas previously veterinarians would have used specific data bases such as PubMed and Agricola to find scientific articles, today other search engines such as Google Scholar are commonly used. Whereas the older data bases used keywords and authors to identify articles, today’s search engines more commonly use the title and the author’s name. Just for curiosity, I searched Agricola and PubMed for “Dewey, Cate” and found 12 and 17 publications respectively. Those two data bases were very limited in that I currently have 145 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals. Further, the Agricola data base indicated that it was last updated in October 2009. I must confess that to identify all 17 publications in PubMed, one needed to know that I have published under several names including CE, Cate, and Catherine Dewey. In retrospect, this was likely not a clever decision on my part. That aside, is it possible to find more than 17 of the manuscripts that I have published by searching the Internet? Next I used Google Scholar to search for “Dewey Catherine.” The search found 18,900 articles, clearly way more than I am responsible for. However, in the first 60 manuscripts listed, 45 of those were indeed publications that I did author or co-author. In May 2011, the Elsevier company, who claim to be “the world’s leading provider of science and health information” asked if they could include the Journal of Swine Health and Production in their list of cited journals.1 Elsevier uses the search engine called Scirus. It correctly identified 42 publications for “Dewey, Catherine” among the first 60 that were listed. The others included the name Dewey or Catherine, but did not happen to be mine. My conclusion from this exercise is that the staff at the Journal of Swine Health and Production need to stay ahead of the game. First of all, we need to be aware of the search engines that are identifying the manuscripts that we publish, and secondly, we need to assist the authors publishing their work in this journal to ensure that they use the tools available to increase the likelihood that their work is identified, downloaded, and cited.
Titles of manuscripts have become much more important than in previous generations. More modern search engines, such as Google Scholar, often use the title rather than keywords. Therefore, titles need to be descriptive and to the point and include words that you would previously have used in the list of keywords. An interesting online publication by emeraldinsight.com2 recommends that, to increase the chance of having your manuscript identified and cited, titles must be concise and short. Manuscripts with titles of only six to 10 words represented 50% of the manuscripts that were downloaded. Alternatively, titles with 16 to 20 words were responsible for less than 10% of the downloaded manuscripts. The authors also suggest that titles must be unambiguous and should avoid jargon or catchy phrases that may be misidentified by a search engine. Finally, they suggest ensuring that the keywords are included in the title to increase the likelihood of readers finding your work. There are other points to remember when you wish to enhance the likelihood that your manuscript is downloaded and therefore read and even perhaps cited. These include keeping the article length under 10,000 words, or fewer than 16 pages.2 The final point is to ensure that the abstract is well written, because this is usually the make-or-break point for a reader: if the abstract gets the attention of the reader, the article is more likely to be downloaded. An abstract should highlight the most important finding and why this work differs from another. As for keywords or phrases, first, they should be included in the abstract; second, synonyms of the keywords should be included in case the person searching for your work is more familiar with another term for the same phenomenon; and third, keywords should not be over-used in a forced manner or Google Scholar will relegate your work to the bottom of their list.2
Accessing information through the Internet has become the norm for veterinarians and the general public alike. Whereas a few years ago veterinarians were privy to scientific manuscripts that were virtually unattainable by the general public, now they are all in the public domain. Therefore, it is important that veterinarians keep up-to-date with the information that is on the Web site to understand what their clients are reading. More than ever, it is the veterinarian’s job to interpret with scientific rigor new information that is on the Internet. Clients not only expect veterinarians to know the current information, but to put that into perspective with respect to their production unit.
Another major change in the past few years is the plethora of new online journals scrambling after the scientists’ work. I typically receive 10 e-mail requests per week encouraging me to publish my work in their journal. These journals often have very high page charges, $1000 or $1300 per manuscript. I wonder if the page charges are the attraction to the development of new journals. Due to the generosity of our sponsors and the foresight of Dr Bob Morrison, who was the first editor of our journal, the Journal of Swine Health and Production does not have a page charge. This has enabled all researchers and practitioners to submit manuscripts without needing financial backing. The new journals are published only online; they do not have a print copy, so their costs of production are much lower. Some of these journals promise a rapid time from submission to publication. Although they do promise a peer review, the rigor of the peer review may not be within the standards of more established journals such as the Journal of Swine Health and Production. A thorough peer review, response to the review, and a re-review all take time. With the advent of these new journals, it becomes even more important for each of us to critically evaluate the science that we read.
Copyright laws have evolved with time, or at least my understanding of copyright law. Provided a site does not copy and paste a manuscript directly, but only links to the site of the journal, that is within copyright law. A new change for me as a university professor is that I am no longer allowed to make a hard copy of a manuscript for use in teaching. Previously, provided I was distributing scientific articles for teaching purposes, I was able to make a copy of a manuscript for each student in the class. Currently, I am allowed to give the students a link to the site so that they can each make their own copy of a manuscript for a tutorial. This may suit many students who perhaps would prefer to work from their computers rather than using hard copies. But if the students wish to have hard copies, it is against copyright law for me to make the copies for them. Call me old fashioned, but I find this frustrating and an inefficient use of time. For each student to link to the article and make an individual copy takes a lot more effort than for me to make 120 copies. Luckily, the manuscript that I use in my first-year Health Management course for veterinary students was written by me. Apparently, as long as I wrote the article, even though the American Association of Swine Veterinarians owns the copyright, I am allowed to distribute the article for teaching purposes. I hope I am correct in this interpretation of the law!
In the pig world, many Internet sites synthesize information for the reader. Often there is a fee to access this information. In my opinion, this presents a double-edged sword. On one hand, these sites and services provide a quick summary of what is new and interesting for the pork-producing industries. On the down side, they do not give an opportunity for the reader to critically evaluate the new information that is summarized. Therefore, they are likely good for information such as a new foreign-animal disease in a specific country or the current and forecasted number of hogs available for sale. They may be problematic when the author is summarizing new scientific information. The reader is not able to critically assess the materials and methods of the study and therefore cannot determine the validity or the applicability of the results. An alternative approach is to have these sites linked directly to the journal’s site. Assuming the journal is available online, those subscribing to the information data source are given the opportunity to link directly to the latest issue of the online journal. This provides the reader with a reminder to look at the latest issue of a scientific journal. It also means that swine veterinarians may wish to read a new scientific manuscript in the latest issue of the Journal of Swine Health and Production before their clients have read it.
1. Elsevier. Elsevier journals. http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/homepage.cws_home.
2. Emerald. Research you can use. How to…increase online readership of your article. http://www.emeraldinsight.com/authors/guides/promote/optimize1.htm.
-- Cate Dewey, DVM, MSc, PhD