Announcing Online First
Posting of Scientific Articles Before Publication in Circulation Research
Rapid advances in electronic publishing have created the expectation of virtual immediacy in access to scientific information. It is now commonplace to post articles online in advance of publication in the print issue; the standards vary widely from journal to journal, from the extreme of posting unedited manuscripts within days of acceptance (eg, Journal of Biological Chemistry), to the peripatetic early release of selected studies (witness the treatment of the human genome project articles by Science and Nature). The obvious benefits of immediacy must be weighed against the potential pitfalls. Unedited PDF versions of manuscripts leapfrog the quality control conferred by the copyediting and composition processes. More importantly, the absence of a preestablished embargo date complicates the authors’ ability to protect their intellectual property.
Circulation Research, in consultation with the Scientific Publishing Committee of the American Heart Association, has chosen to initiate an experiment with early online posting. Our middle-ground approach debuts coincident with this issue. All original scientific articles that will appear in the next print issue, dated April 13, 2001, became accessible online when the current issue was released. Individual and institutional subscribers can now log on to www.circresaha.org and access full-text and PDF versions of the Original Contributions and Reports that will appear in the next issue. These are final versions of the articles, fully citable with definitive volume number and pagination. Henceforth, all Original Contributions and Reports will be posted online one issue in advance of the print version. This strategy will effect a meaningful reduction in the time from acceptance to appearance in the public domain (from the current mean of ≈8 weeks to 5 to 6 weeks) without sacrificing quality or the authors’ ability to protect their intellectual property. As of today, the embargo date for the articles posted under Online First changes to coincide with that of the concurrent print issue.
We launch this initiative as an experiment rather than as definitive policy for various reasons. The initiation of Online First entails new expenses for software and server maintenance that must be justified by the enhanced value of early accessibility to scientific content. We will assess the value of this initiative by monitoring the frequency with which the early postings are accessed, the growth of citations, and the rate at which individual subscribers activate their online subscriptions (at 35% of the individual subscriber base, Circulation Research leads the AHA journals in the prevalence of online activation, but this percentage is nevertheless puzzlingly low). We will also conduct online surveys of the Editorial Board and of a broad spectrum of readers and authors after ≈10 months to gauge the impact of this practice. Finally, by couching the present practice as an experiment, we retain the flexibility to push the envelope further, with the goal of aggressive abbreviation of the time from acceptance to publication.
As always, the Editors welcome your comments and feedback. You can reach us at circulation.research@ circresearch.com or via the “Feedback” utility on the journal’s Web site.
- © 2001 American Heart Association, Inc.