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Survey Introduction | Survey Results | Survey Conclusions | Information links | Comments

April, 2001


  • OHSU authors have cited over 4000 articles in Nature and contributed over 30 articles from 1994-1999. A survey, linked to the OHSU Library Web site from March 1 through April 6, 2001, questioned OHSU scientists about the effect of Nature publisher's decision to delay parts of the Library's electronic version of Nature.

  • There were 146 responses; about 75% who listed a department were in the basic sciences.

  • The highest usage Nature publications were Nature, Nature Genetics, Nature Neuroscience, and Nature Medicine.

  • 90% indicate use of the Library's electronic journal as the most frequent way of accessing Nature publications. Only 5% of those surveyed subscribed to one of the Nature Publications.

  • 57% agreed with the statement that the 3-month delay of News and Views, Commentary, Book Reviews, Correspondence, Essays and Progress Updates on the electronic version would be detrimental to their research because they will not have access to the information when they need it.

  • 55% indicated the Library should drop the license upon renewal in 2002 if the embargo continues and 45% indicated the Library should renew the license even if the embargo continues.


The Nature Publishing Group site licensing arrangements for electronic access to the Nature titles have been very controversial in the academic and research library communities. Many major research institutions have refused their conditions. They challenged the cost of electronic access, the 3-month embargo of parts of the electronic version, and site definition for licensing purposes. A 3-month delay of News and Views, Commentary, Correspondence, Book reviews, Essays and Progress Updates will occur only in the Library's subscription to the electronic version of the Nature weekly and monthly publications -- not to individual subscribers.

Nature was listed as the number one journal of importance to OHSU faculty, staff and students in a journal survey conducted in June 2000. In addition, OHSU authors cited 4112 articles in Nature and contributed 31 articles from 1994-1999 (ISI Journal Citation Report). Therefore, if OHSU scientists are using the Library's electronic journal as their primary source of access to Nature, a 3-month embargo of parts of Nature may be detrimental to researchers.

The Library community's reaction to site license restriction took Nature by surprise. NATURE Marketing Director Della Sar told the LJ ACADEMIC NEWSWIRE that the "unexpected reaction" of the library community seemed to defy market research done by the publisher.

"During 1999 and 2000 we carried out extensive market research amongst our 48,000-plus personal subscribers," says Sar. "The response from the subscribers was, that [since] all of them have online access to all content at no additional charge, and certainly well ahead of receipt of their paper copies in most cases, they primarily use their library copies for archival research. In fact there was almost no personal subscriber who said they used the library copy for the news section."

Asked if this unexpected reaction might cause the publisher to amend its current embargo policy, Sar said no. "We are naturally constantly discussing our license terms," she noted, "but...have no immediate plans [to amend the policy]. Sar noted that the current model was tailored to meet library needs by offering access, albeit restricted by the embargoes, 24 hours seven days a week, campus-wide.

Will the embargo of parts of the Library's electronic version of the Nature titles have a detrimental effect on OHSU research and teaching efforts? The OHSU Library staff informally surveyed readers of the Nature titles via a Web-based form about their use of the print and electronic version of Nature publications. The archived Nature survey is available on the OHSU Library Web site.

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The Nature survey was on the OHSU Library Web site from March 1 through April 6, 2001. There were 146 responses; about 75% who listed a department were in the basic sciences (44 of 56 responses).

1. Which Nature publications do you regularly review (check all that apply)?

Nature publications use ranked highest to lowest:
Number responded
Nature Genetics
Nature Neuroscience
Nature Medicine
Nature Cell Biology
Nature Reviews Neuroscience
Nature Biotechnology
Nature Molecular and Cell Biology
Nature Reviews Genetics
Nature Immunology
Nature Structural Biology

2. What are the most frequent methods of accessing these publications (Select one)? Additional comments below

Number responded
I usually read my own print subscription
I usually read my own electronic subscription
I usually read my department's print subscription
I usually read the OHSU Library's print subscription
I usually read the OHSU Library's electronic subscription

3. How will a 3-month delay of News and Views, Commentary, Book Reviews, Correspondence, Essays and Progress updates in the Nature publications affect you? (Check all that apply). Additional comments below

Number responded
No effect because I read the print version
No effect because I don't find those parts of the publication of interest to me
I will start my own personal subscription and get the complete contents on my electronic version
I will come to the Library to read the embargoed portions
This practice will be detrimental to my research because I will not have access to the information when I need it

4. Next year the OHSU Library should: Additional comments below

Number responded
Drop electronic access if the embargo is not lifted
Continue to get the electronic format even if embargo continues


OHSU faculty and students have indicated that Nature is a very important journal to their research and have cited it or published in the journal over 4000 times. Approximately 10% of the respondents subscribed to or used the print version of Nature publications. The loss of the embargoed section was not a concern for 11% of the respondents, but 57% thought the practice would be detrimental to their research.

The responses were fairly equally divided about whether the Library should drop the electronic format to Nature in 2002.

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Stuttgart University maintains a provisorial list of universities who have declined and of those who have signed the license, with references and links where available. It is located at http://www.ub.uni-stuttgart.de/ejournals/Nature_andere_Univ.html

The communication of research results impacts everyone involved in science. Nature has launched an online debate on the most crucial and talked-about aspect of scientific publishing -- the impact of the web on the publication of original research. The debate is freely accessible via Nature's home page or directly at http://www.nature.com/nature/debates/e-access

We encourage you to express your views directly to the Nature Publishing Group. Please e-mail Ms. Della Sar, Director of Global Marketing d.sar@nature.com, Ms. Annette Thomas, Managing Director a.thomas@nature.com or Mr. Philip Campbell, Editor, p.campbell@nature.com.

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2. What is the most frequent methods of accessing these publications? Other comments:

  • Previously I subscribed to Nature Immunology and Nature Medicine and shared Nature with a colleague.
  • I will keep my print subscriptions to Nature and Nature Immunology and cancel my print subscription to Nature Medicine if I can have reliable electronic access.
  • I subscribe to Nature, and use OHSU library site for others (Nature Neuroscience, etc.). The drop in neuroscience content in the main Nature journal will cause me to drop the print subscription at the next renewal, likely to be replaced by print subscription to Nature Neuroscience.
  • Over the past few months I have only sought a few papers from Nature magazines that my department does not subscribe to.
  • I subscribe to Nature Genetics and access the others online.
  • I also have personal subscription to Nature Genetics.
  • My PI's print subscription.
  • I also have personal subscriptions to some of the above.

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3. How will a 3-month delay of News and Views, Commentary, Book Reviews, Correspondence, Essays and Progress updates in the Nature publications affect you? Other comments:

  • The primary reason that I read the Nature journals is for the research articles. Other features are of interest.
  • I will have to make special trips to the BICC from the VA, which will impair my research schedule. I will not buy my own subscription. We should not let them push us around.
  • Although I have access to the printed version, it makes it difficult if I want to search for a topic and I don't know which issue it is in.
  • I'll probably not read them, even though I want to.
  • I will borrow a colleague's print version.
  • If I feel a strong need for an article, I'll go to the library. Otherwise I will wait a few months for the electronic version.
  • The diversification of the Nature series means that the major use of the original Nature journal is for general topics. I cannot justify paying the yearly rate for this, but would regularly use an online version. In return, I would be able to afford a print version of the more relevant Nature Neuroscience journal. Print is useful for ease of transport while on the go, or lying down in the evening, but only useful for journals of consistently high interest and news.
  • It will be a great, great inconvenience because I have check the journals as they come out every week.
  • I will not read Nature.
  • I'll work around it.
  • I am most interested in items that come up on a Medline search and these do not.
  • I will read other weekly science periodicals such as the excellent and superior American publication "Science".
  • Will simply turn to other sources for this info, e.g. Science magazine, other web sites.
  • I will read them if relevant in 3 months or else send someone to the library for a photocopy.

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    4. Next year the Library should -- Other comments:

  • The research portions of Nature publications are of the most importance to me.
  • Boycott only if this policy will likely be effective in altering Nature's Policy.
  • Despite the embargo, e-access to Nature is much too valuable to lose.
  • Will the embargo really hurt them or just increase their sales of individual subscriptions?
  • I suggest that we DO NOT extend our electronic access to Nature at all until they repeal their 3-month lock out and revise our fee agreement.
  • I find these actions to be offensive, especially since they can afford to repeatedly mail letters seeking subscriptions.
  • Those sections of the publications are not important enough to lose access to articles.
  • Nature needs to provide the most direct, expedient, access to its reports. Although the service cannot be expected to be free of charge, it should be available without a delay. The delay is a major inconvenience, and a waste of time to busy investigators and curious minds.
  • But apply extreme pressure to lift the embargo.....however e-access to the articles is vital for research, so a boycott may be counter productive.
  • At least threaten to. The electronic versions are useful even with out the News & Views.
  • Easy access to journals is critical for researchers. Nature should keep in mind that if they restrict access, researchers under time constraints will find other sources of information.
  • It would be extremely inconvenient for to lose electronic access to the research articles.
  • It is a matter of principle.
  • The students and postdocs need electronic access. Occasionally, I need electronic access to articles before my print subscription arrives, or because I can't find my print journal.
  • Although it would be better to have immediate electronic access, it is still considerably more expedient to download electronic versions of articles than to walk to the library, hunt for the issues, and copy the articles.
  • I support having the electronic access, as many students and post docs cannot afford to purchase individual subscriptions.
  • The embargo is very irritating and counter to free exchange of scientific information. However, dropping electronic access all together would do more harm than good to those of us who depend this source of information.
  • I find electronic journals extremely useful when writing manuscripts.
  • Has the publisher given any reasons for this practice of delaying those sections? I just read the letter below. I think that the increase in cost alone warrants dropping the electronic version.
  • This sets a frightening precedence that, if successful, others are bound to follow.
  • Embargo seriously degrades value received for price paid.
  • If enough large institutions boycott them, they will be forced to comply.
  • The printed journal is widely available. The most important access is for reprints of nature letters and articles.
  • Although my access to the information will be delayed, it will be worth it. The more universities that join the embargo, the more effective it will be.
    Return to question 4

    For more information on the Nature survey, contact Diane Carroll or for information on the Nature license negotiations, contact Cindy Cunningham.

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