ANS online and on paper: is there a difference?
By now ANS readers are familiar with accessing articles online, either through the ANS web site, or the electronic collection provided by their organization’s library. The data on usage clearly documents the overwhelming preference that readers have for journal content online. Since all of the journal content is accessible online, you may not be aware that some of the content of the journal appears only online, and not in ANS on paper! Regardless of the format on paper or online-only, all articles that appear in ANS have undergone the exact same peer-review scrutiny, and meet the scholarly criteria established for publication in ANS. All articles have also been revised to address issues and suggestions offered by the reviewers, adding substantially to the quality of what you read.
We began including online-only content about 3 years ago. This has been a tremendous value for the journal, as well as for the discipline. When a journal is limited to paper only, the result can be a huge back-log of excellent material with long periods of time between submission and actual publication, or a severe limitation in what can be published by the journal, dictated not by quality, but by number of pages. Since each issue of ANS focuses on a specific topic, we do not carry a backlog of articles. Before we were able to include online-onl content, we had to turn away manuscripts that were reviewed favorably simply because we could not accommodate the material in a paper-only format. There are still some limitations to what we can accommodate for each issue based on the cost of production of each manuscript, but to date the addition of online-only content has made it possible to publish virtually all manuscript judged by peer reviewers to be worthy of publication.
However, many authors are still skeptical about the relative worth of material published online-only. There is still fear that if their work does not appear in the paper volume that it will be viewed as less scholarly, or of lesser value, than manuscripts published in the paper volume. And, some fear that if their work does not appear in a paper volume of the journal it will be less accessible, or that it will not be indexed in the standard index resources that scholars in the discipline use to access content related to their area of interest. These fears are gradually becoming less prevalent, as people become more familiar with the reality of scholarly literature online.
It is true that there are “red flags” related to online content, but these are exactly the same kinds of things that distinguish worth-while content on paper from content that is substantial and reliable. There are publishing outlets online and on paper that compromise integrity by publishing almost anything that an author pays the publisher to publish; this is a major red flag that deserves due investigation. Online publications, like paper-only scholarly publications, should convey the nature of the peer-review process that they use, and provide for readers and potential authors information about the criteria by which manuscript are judged by the peer reviewers.
ANS maintains the highest standards of scholarship for all material published in the journal – whether online or on paper. All information about our review process and the standards used in judging the scholarly worth of manuscripts is available on the journal web site.
Let us know your thoughts about online publishing, and share your experiences! If you have questions, leave a comment here. We will respond!