Competition between academic journals for scholars’ attention: the ‘Nature effect’ in scholarly communication
Here, we study readers’ choice in a context in which scholar’s attention is drawn to salient attributes of academic papers such as importance or accessibility. An article’s attribute is salient when it stands out among the paper’s attributes relative to that attribute’s average level in the choice set. In our model, scholars may attach disproportionately high consideration to salient attributes of academic articles. This paper shows that, depending on the writing complexity in determining article importance, scientific communication in some research fields exhibits accessibility–salient equilibria in which scholars are most attentive to accessibility and less sensitive to article importance. Generalist disciplines (the social and human sciences) with an abundance of multidisciplinary journals which publish research in several fields can be described in this way. In other academic disciplines, scholars are attentive to article importance and are to some extent insensitive to differences in accessibility. There, journals compete on article importance, which can be over-supplied relative to the efficient level of a scholarly paper. One academic discipline with an abundance of highly-specific journals within a sub-field of physics/mathematics/engineering can be described by such equilibria. We also explore the possibility of radical change in scholarly communication when the use of writing complexity in determining article importance changes drastically, whereby a journal acquires access to a revolutionary system of determining articles whose importance is at a much lower writing complexity that its competitor journal. There, when the marginal complexity in determining importance is low, a large improvement in importance entails only a small decrease in accessibility. This allows the academic journal to set a salient high article importance and to win the scholars’ attention, which is named as the ‘Nature effect’.
KeywordsScientific communication Scholar’s attention Article importance Writing complexity Paper accessibility Salience Innovation Nature
This research was sponsored by the Spanish Board for Science, Technology, and Innovation under Grant TIN2017-85542-P, and co-financed with European FEDER funds.
- Bultitude, K. (2011). The why and how of science communication. In P. Rosulek (Ed.), Science Communication. Pilsen: European Commission.Google Scholar
- Crawford, S. Y., Hurd, J. M., & Weller, A. C. (1996). From print to electronic: The transformation of scientific communication. Medford, NJ: Information Today.Google Scholar
- Fechner, G. T. (1966). [First published 1860]. In: D. H Howes & E. G. Boring (Eds.), Elements of psychophysics [Elemente der Psychophysik] (Vol. 1) (H E. Adler, Trans.). United States of America: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.Google Scholar
- Fry, J. (2003). The cultural shaping of scholarly communication within academic specialisms. Ph.D. thesis, University of Brighton.Google Scholar
- Garvey, W. D., & Griffith, B. C. (1963). The American Psychological Association’s Project on Scientific Information Exchange in Psychology. Report No. 9. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
- Garwin, L., & Lincoln, T. (2003). A century of nature: Twenty-one discoveries that changed science and the world. University of Chicago Press. http://www.nature.com/nature/history/century.html. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
- Gratzer, W. (2017). Nature—The Maddox years. The History of the Journal Nature. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature06241. http://www.nature.com/nature/history/full/nature06241.html. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
- History of the Journal Nature. http://www.nature.com/nature/history/index.html. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
- Landow, G.P. (2005). A review of Aileen Fyfe’s science and salvation: Evangelical popular science publishing in Victorian Britain. www.victorianweb.org. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
- Markel, M. (2012). Technical communication (10th ed.). Boston: Bedford/St. Martins.Google Scholar
- Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. (2012). The Penny Magazine of the society for the diffusion of useful knowledge. Windsor: Charles Knight.Google Scholar
- Talja, S. (2002). Information sharing in academic communities: Types and levels of collaboration in information seeking and use. New Review of Information Behaviour Research, 3, 143–160.Google Scholar
- Tebeaux, E., & Dragga, S. (2010). The essentials of technical communication. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Tenopir, C., & King, D. W. (2000). Towards electronic journals: Realities for scientists, librarians, and publishers. Washington, DC: Special Libraries Association.Google Scholar
- Whitley, R. (2000). The intellectual and social organization of the sciences (2nd ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar