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What I want from tiny publisher websites

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Do you belong to a tiny scholarly society? The kind that has just a few hundred members and no paid staff? Do you publish something? A newsletter, conference proceedings or a small journal?

Well, listen up, because I have a few suggestions based on some recent frustrating experiences.

I understand that as a tiny society, you can’t afford professional web development like Elsevier or Springer or ACS. I get that you can’t really afford to purchase and manage DOIs for all of your society’s content.

But there are still a few things you can do to make things easier for those of us looking to access your content.

First, be explicit about what is openly available and what you need a subscription to access: don’t make me click on each year of content to figure it out.

Second, if you are publishing something formal, use accepted practice:

  • For journals use standard volumes, issues, page numbers (or article numbers)
  • For books or conferences proceedings, use appropriate chapter numbers, page numbers, dates, etc.

Third, think about the copyright implications. If you want to allow some uses of your published material, be explicit. Use regular licenses, like creative commons. Simply saying “educational use is okay” doesn’t quite cut it, because there are too many situations that some folks consider educational use but others don’t.

Fourth, think about the money. Are you making money selling print copies of your stuff? If not, think about making your publications available on your website for free.

Finally, have a good website search. If you are a tiny publisher, chances are you are a non-profit and can use Google site search for free. In the past, I have had to recommend that users try the “site:” feature of a regular Google search because the built in search tool only searched publication titles (not abstracts or the full text).

I belong to several very small organizations that rely on volunteers for website management and publications, so I understand how difficult it can be keep all of this stuff up. Do you know a friendly librarian? Ask them to have a look at access to publications on your website, they might be able to suggest a few fixes that could make your information easier to find.

Bonnie Swoger About the Author: Bonnie J. M. Swoger is a Science and Technology Librarian at a small public undergraduate institution in upstate New York, SUNY Geneseo. She teaches students about the science literature, helps faculty and students with library research questions and leads library assessment efforts. She has a BS in Geology from St. Lawrence University, an MS in Geology from Kent State University and an MLS from the University at Buffalo. She would love to have some free time in which to indulge in hobbies. She blogs at the Undergraduate Science Librarian. Follow on Twitter @bonnieswoger.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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