The Visibility Principle in Scientific Electronic Journals

 Atilio Bustos

Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Chile

Paper presented to the ICSU Press Workshop, Keble College, Oxford, UK, 31 March to 2 April 1998


In the course of the year 2000 and over, journal visibility is emerging as a factor of great importance in order to gain access to the international scientific community, considering that the number of journal titles is increasing with time.
Journals must be visible to the academics, students and researchers. They play a crucial role in the advancement of science. From this point of view, visibility must be strictly correlated with high rigour in the peer review process and selection of high quality papers, giving guarantee of reliability to the global research community.

Scientific electronic journals allow us to reconsider the strategies for making a publication visible. These strategies include international availability and rapid communication within the editorial board members, server location in both hemispheres, an aggressive diffusion campaign, free accessibility to the journal, development of a site related to the main subject of the journal by including links of interest. Moreover, adding the strategies employed for paper journals, such as presence in abstracts and international databases, visibility is greatly enhanced. These efforts for gaining the attention of the scientific community must be measured at least in part by making use of a visitor counter and implementing statistics reports of the site.

Finally we ask ourselves about the ability to have a journal online in Chile. According to our opinion the answer is affirmative, since we have already exploited the above mentioned strategies for discarding the geographic barriers existing between the paper journals and gaining visibility throughout the world.

 1.- Visibility concept

Visibility is the result of a set of characteristics present of one journal, and the actions of its the editors and publishers, that contribute to the journal being recognized, read and cited by the scientific community related to the subject area. A journal without visibility disappears due to several reasons. For example if it does not attract readers or if the authors are not willing to contribute with good-quality articles. It is also the consequence of the absence of well recognized evaluators and finally when the articles do not impact the scientific community.

The new paradigm of the scientific electronic journal allows us to reconsider the way of making a publication visible. As long as this is not obtained, one cannot ascertain the success of the journal. In our vision it is not possible to break off: VISIBILITY - RIGOR - QUALITY


2.- Scientific Community and Acceptability

Acceptability is related to the respectability and reliability inspired by the Editorial Board, and it includes different agents: authors, readers, university and research institutes, and national and international agents of scientific policy.


3.- Aspects affecting visibility

There are many factor affecting visibility and we can mention among them: Editorial Board Composition, presence in Abstracts and Databases, number of copies and distribution, journal diffusion, language of the journal, formal aspects, and finally server locations and search engines.  


3.1 Editorial Board Composition

It is of great importance that the board should be composed of  highly qualified members known internationally.  The editorial institution has to maintain its independence concerning decision making; the peer review process must be rigorous and there has to be total transparency in the evaluation procedures and norms.


 3.2.- Presence in Abstracts and International Databases

Another factor which affects visibility is the journal’s presence in abstracts and international databases. Thus, it is important to achieve its inclusion in on-line alert or current contents services, uncovered database services and on-line, CD-ROM and paper abstracting services on the subject scope.


  3.3.-Number of copies and distribution of the journal

The number of copies is not a restriction in electronic media since the access to subscribed journals is different from those freely available.


3.4.- Journal’s diffusion

This journal’s diffusion has to be focussed from different angles. That is, through a direct postal mail campaign, an e-mail campaign, distribution of printed matter and presentations in shows and congresses. It is also important to establish links to other sites relevant to the same subject.


3.5.- Journal’s language

In our vision, the Spanish language is our view, a restriction which impairs visibility. For this reason our publications are in English and we have included abstracts and key words both in English and Spanish to increase the journal visibility. The web site is in both languages also.

3.6.- Formal aspects

This publication is prepared in agreement with international standards and in compatibility with existing formats. In short, we are not inventing anything new.


 3.7.- Server locations, search and metasearch engine registration

The access speed is critical. Location of one server in the Southern hemisphere is not the same as  having the server located in the USA. The type of domain relevant to e-journals is: .ORG as the most typical domain, and .EDU and .COM are the less common. Applied procedures for registration in search and metasearch engines is critical for the improvement of the visible electronic journals.


4.- Some elements used to measure visibility

We use several elements to measure the visibility of the publication. In adition to traditional indicators, for example the impact factor of any journal, the electronic journal display and new complementary forms of measuring it. One of them is the site visitor counter, and the analysis of the site statistics report, which includes: time length of use, country and city of access, downloading information, and impact factor.


5.- Chilean Serials Virtual Library Project

This is a national effort coordinated by CONICYT (National Council for Scientific and Technological Research - an Official agency of Chilean Goverment). It includes two dimensions: creating a new e-journal and transferring print based journals to electronic media.

EJB Electronic Journal of Biotechnology is a new on-line journal, created only in electronic format. It has two servers locations: in Chile and U.S.A.  It has an International Editorial Board integrated by one Nobel Prize, 72 recognized scientists in 8 main biotechnology areas, representing 23 countries all over the world. This site has been visited 6.500 times since November 1997, and the first issue was available on April 15, 1998. It can be accessed by two URLs: and



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Last updated : 14 July 1998
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