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portal: Libraries and the Academy 1.1 (2001) v-vii



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Gloriana St. Clair
Managing Editor


The traditional burden of the volume 1, number 1 editorial is to expound the reasons for the creation of a new journal. Sue Martin, Charles Lowry, the editorial board members, the mentors, The Johns Hopkins University Press, and I began this venture with deliberate and weighty goals. While we were reacting to Elsevier's takeover of several journals in librarianship and general social sciences, we were also acting to achieve these focused objectives:

  • To offer an affordable alternative to serials that have gone up an average of 9 percent a year while the consumer price index increased only 3.3 percent;

  • To provide a more inviting, constructive, and productive environment for authors;

  • To model a scholarly communications system as outlined in recent pronouncements from the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Create Change initiative. 1

This editorial discusses how we intend to achieve these three major objectives through portal.

Affordable alternative

University presses offer a high-quality alternative to their commercial counterparts. While some commercial presses report gross profit margins of 40 percent with annual profits between 20 and 30 percent annually, university presses only cover their costs and in the past have often received subsidies from their universities. Ray English and Larry Hardesty have called the commercial pricing practices "fundamentally unjust," and a governor of an engineering society called them "extortion." 2 The difference between commercial presses and university presses allows the latter to price their journals in more reasonable ways. Thus, portal will sell for $48 to individuals and $145 to institutions. portal's prices will NOT increase at the fourteen year 9 percent average or even the newly offered 7 percent a year (Elsevier's current selected long term contract rate). portal will be a journal that individuals and libraries can afford. [End Page 5]

Environment for authors

The major journals in most disciplines have prided themselves on their high rejection rates. The rationale has been that a high rejection rate signifies a strong commitment to and compelling evidence of quality. Nothing could be more wasteful of the scarce resources for library research than to replicate a system that encourages authors to create a finished product to be judged and rejected. In my tenure at College & Research Libraries, two out of every three submissions were rejected. The portal board and editors want to help authors from the moment they decide to engage in research to the moment when they elect to submit the finished product either to portal or to some other journal. Precious librarian research resources should be encouraged and fostered.

To accomplish that, portal is creating a mentoring system for authors. Experts will be available to consult with authors about topic selection and identification, about issues around statistical sampling and survey design, and around the crafting of the article itself. Early intervention in the process should allow authors to expend their energies on projects that can be accepted for publication by an independent set of referees. Two groups from the American Library Association--the Library Administration and Management Association Research Committee and the Library Research Round Table--have taken an interest in providing mentoring for potential portal authors. Several other librarians have volunteered for this program also. Authors who think they would benefit from the assistance of a mentor should contact Gloriana St. Clair, as should individuals who want to act as mentors. Requests for mentoring should be sent to the Managing Editor (gstclair@andrew.cmu.edu).

Scholarly Communications Model

In June, 2000, the American Association of Universities and the Association for Research Libraries recommended to university faculty and administrators nine issues to "guide the transformation of the scholarly publishing system." The first of these, containing costs, has already been discussed. portal also models best practices in the other eight characteristics:

  • Electronic capabilities should be used to provide access. portal will appear in both print and electronic formats. Subscribers will have access to articles as they become available on the portal web site (http://www.muse.jhu.edu/journals/pla)

  • Scholarly...