In an online survey conducted in the spring of 2009, the ACR collected information on journal readership patterns, satisfaction, and content interests. The survey was sent to a sample of ACR and ARHP members who had not submitted manuscripts to Arthritis & Rheumatism (A&R) or Arthritis Care & Research (AC&R) within a recent 12-month period. It was also sent, with additional questions regarding submission and review, to all members and nonmembers who had submitted at least one manuscript to either journal during the 12-month period. Because of the international scope and reputation of the ACR journals, along with the fact that most members are in clinical practice and do not generally conduct and publish research, 63% of the submitters to the journals are not members of the ACR or ARHP. The ACR journals have long been viewed as the place where both members and nonmembers seek to publish their high-quality work.
Content Rated Highly
Among ACR and ARHP members who were not also manuscript submitters, most (89%) rated the quality of A&R’s content as good or excellent. Most of this same group (77%) rated the quality of AC&R’s content as good or excellent. Manuscript submitters’ responses followed the same trend, with 92% rating the content of A&R as good or excellent and 80% rating the content of AC&R as good or excellent.
In answer to a survey question about the quality of A&R relative to five years ago, a significant proportion of the respondents noted that they did not receive the journal five years ago. Excluding these individuals from the calculation, 36% of the member respondents who had not submitted manuscripts believe the overall quality of A&R is currently better than it was five years ago, and 41% believe the quality is comparable. Member and nonmember manuscript submitters had similar views about the quality of A&R’s content relative to five years ago.
Not including those who did not receive AC&R five years ago, 63% of the respondents who had not submitted a manuscript believe its overall quality is currently better than it was five years ago, and 35% believe the quality is comparable. Member and nonmember manuscript submitters had similar views about the quality of AC&R’s content relative to five years ago.
Online Versus Print
Online versus print readership of the journals was of interest to the ACR, and was addressed in several of the survey questions. Among non-submitter ACR and ARHP members, about half reported that they access A&R and AC&R in print primarily or solely. Only about one in 10 access the journals online only. In contrast, members and nonmembers who had submitted manuscripts to either journal were much more likely to read the journals mostly or entirely online. Sub-analyses showed age-related trends, with older members and submitters reading more in print, and younger members reading more online.
Manuscript Submission and Review
Among members and nonmembers who had submitted articles to A&R, 76% were satisfied with or extremely satisfied with the length of review time, 71% with the time from acceptance to publication, and 74% with the quality of manuscript review. The numbers were similar for those who had submitted to AC&R, with 84% satisfied with or extremely satisfied with the length of review time, 75% with the time from acceptance to publication, and 79% with the quality of manuscript review. Of authors who had submitted an article to A&R or AC&R in the past year, the vast majority said they will probably or definitely submit work to that journal in the future (91% for A&R and 80% for AC&R).
What Has Changed and What Will Change?
In open-ended comments, several respondents mentioned that, as clinicians, they would like to see more clinical practice–oriented articles. The focus of AC&R has evolved from publication only of articles for rheumatology health professionals to include articles dealing with a broader range of topics, including clinical practice and research, epidemiology, and health policy. ACR members in clinical practice who have not looked through their issues of AC&R lately might be pleasantly surprised. A&R will continue in its mission to publish novel and important clinical and basic research and will strive to include content that is relevant for practicing members.
Over the next one to two years, look for more electronic interactive features to accompany the online versions of A&R and AC&R. Members already have the option to receive their journal subscriptions online only, but for the many who still enjoy turning the pages, the print editions are not going away.