Ejournal usage: it’s not just about the numbers

The start of January saw a flurry of ejournal usage statistics collation for the SCONUL statistical return.  COUNTER JR1 reports were downloaded, which for LSHTM Library includes from individual publishers, the ingentaconnect platform, and JUSP (Journal Usage Statistics Portal).  JR1 reports measure the number of successful full-text monthly article requests by month and journal title.  For SCONUL we focus on the period 1 August – 31 July of each year.



SCONUL statistics are an important tool in helping libraries assess how ejournals are being used by their readers.  During 1 August 2012 – 31 July 2013 there were 333,006 successful full-text article requests from journals subscribed to by LSHTM Library.  A summary of the highest usage figures is below:

  • Elsevier: 135,712
  • BMJ Publishing Group: 34,624
  • Oxford University Press: 25,411
  • Nature Publishing Group: 18,452
  • Ovid: 12,239

Several publishers saw a significant rise in article requests compared with 2011 – 12.  Requests to titles from Wiley, Sage, the American Medical Association, and Taylor & Francis all increased.  However, on the flip side requests to some publishers saw a decline.  A reduction in JR1 requests can be caused by many factors including difficulty in navigating publisher platforms, material being published as Open Access, authentication issues, and changes in subjects being taught or researched.

A report by RIN (2009) showed that a high volume of article downloads in an institution was linked to increased research productivity and outcomes e.g. successful research grant applications, more papers being published, and a greater number of PhD awards.  If you have experienced any issues in accessing titles, or think there are ways we can improve our service, we would welcome any feedback (contact details at the end of this post).

Ejournal statistics provide a wealth of usage information and can be used to help the Library maintain a high quality service.  For example changing usage patterns can feed into the collection development process, we can ensure ‘value for money’ via our title coverage, and focus marketing drives on particular ejournal packages.  However there is a danger in being over-reliant on quantitative data supplied by publishers, and monetary value must be balanced with scholarly need.  Statistical variations between years can happen for a variety of internal and external factors.  Decisions on ejournal spending and collection development must therefore also be backed up with qualitative evidence.



Each year the LSHTM Library carries out a Journal Consultation, which is open to all LSHTM students and staff.  This Consultation asks readers:

  • The relevance of new titles suggested by members of the School
  • Whether journals ranked as low usage should be retained
  • The importance of access to back issues of journals

The 2013 Consultation received a lower response rate than we had hoped for, which inevitably impacted on the validity of any inferences made.  The 2014 Consultation will go out to staff and students in the Summer term, and more details will be made available nearer the time.  JR1 statistics can only tell us so much – we want to hear from you!  If you’d like to make any suggestions concerning the ejournals please contact us at serials@lshtm.ac.uk , tweet us at @LSHTMlibrary or come in to the Library and speak to us at the Enquiries Desk.

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