Title: Oxford Journals Collection

Publisher: Oxford University Press and HighWire Press

Cost: All abstracts and some full-text articles are free

URL: http://www.oxfordjournals.org

Reviewed: March 12-19, 2006

The Oxford Journals Collection  shows the mighty synergy between valuable content,  and powerful and swift software. The volume  of open access full text articles (nearly 100,000), open access abstracts (about 179,000), and open access bibliographic records (close to 900,000)   makes this service very impressive.  The software gently and smartly leads the searcher also to other relevant sources . 



The Oxford Journals Collection (OJC) represents  the largest segment within the database hosted by HighWire Press (HWP) for journals of scholarly publishers. Of course, largest depends on what dimension is considered. I will come to that but before that I have to say a few words about the HWP collection for the proper context. HWP  now hosts more than, 1,000 journals. (In a side note I have to add that some of my numbers may be a little higher or lower than what you find on the home page of HWP because my numbers reflect the test results  of March 18, while the HWP home page information panel may  be updated by the time you read this)..

OJC can be  searched directly from the www.oxfordjournals.og page, or as part of the HWP cumulative/aggregated database.

You will find about 1.2 million open access full text articles on HWP, representing close to  40% of all the articles  of its database.  There are open access abstracts for about 1.9 million articles. Bibliographic description is available for 3.3. million articles. (I use article from now on in a broad sense, including all types of typical journal materials, such as feature articles, reviews, letters to the editors, corrections, etc., as well as conference papers and so called working papers so popular in economics).

If you include  the PubMed file in your search on HWP, the total number of open access bibliographic records in HWP goes up to 17.3 million, and the number of open access abstracts of articles to  about 7 million.  Unfortunately, the HWP version of the PubMed records do not display when articles, such as all the 5,000+  ones  in the Journal of the Medical Library Association and its predecessor are open access. Instead, it links the user to the Infotrieve document delivery service which charges $28 for every item from this publication.   This is a weak point of HWP as there are links in PubMed to 1.2 million open access full text articles with obvious icons.

The HWP stable itself is large but it is not the largest. Elsevier (through its ever improving Scirus subsidiary) has open access bibliographic information for about 6.4. million articles, and open access abstracts for about 4.2 million articles. There are about 7.5 million full text articles in the native Elsevier ScienceDirect database, but except for some temporary freebies these are accessible only for subscribers (although the full text is searchable for anyone).


The most obvious comparison for OUP is of course, CUP, Cambridge University Press. It is not hosted by HWP, but runs its own service, licensing  third-party software. At first, it seems to be very comparable to OUP (as it is in the print journal arena) with about 200 journals. However, test searches indicate that about 112,000 CUP journal articles are available online, 1/8th of what currently OUP offers through HWP. Some of them are open access, but the number of such articles cannot be determined, and CUP does not offer details about the extent of the coverage of the journals as HWP does.



OJC is present with about 190 journals in the HWP stable. This is less than  a 20% share at the journal level, but in terms of the number of full-text articles, OJC leads the pack with about 850,000 articles from journals of Oxford University Press. This is more than a quarter of the total articles (about 3.3 million) currently available through HWP. For perspective: SAGE has twice as many journals hosted by HWP as OUP but my test showed that the total number of articles from SAGE journals is about 110,000.

Again, for a perspective: OJC has almost as many (about 100,000) open access full text articles from OUP journals alone, while SAGE offers open access full text articles only for temporary trial period. Still, SAGE is an excellent source for open access bibliographic records, abstracts, and various  services created by HWP, which is far the best digital facilitator.

The highlight of OJC is the significant subset of full text open access journal articles  in addition to the open access 800,000+ bibliographic description records, and the nearly 180,000 open access abstracts. HWP identifies in a list the open access journals with the  Free Site and Free Issues labels. There are no such labels or markers on the journal list page of the oxfordjournals.org site. You may check the complete list of OUP journals hosted by HWP here and the version by OUP here. The former  shows which journals have free issues. I just summarize the highlights which may not be obvious from the list for the casual visitors and reviewers. 

Although OUP has ďonlyĒ two free sites, they host the top ranking Nucleic Acids Research and the Nucleic Acids Symposium Series which offer more than 12,000 full text documents. There are many other OUP journals labeled as having Free Issues, and sometimes the label is an understatement. For example, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute has more than 5,200 open access full text articles, which represents 90% of the entire online collection of this top notch journal. The same proportion is true for the 3,000+ items from another much respected journal, Molecular Biology and Evolution.  For Rheumatology the proportion is only 85%, but the absolute number of open access journal articles  is close to 6,000.

A relatively large proportion of open access article from a journal may not imply a high absolute number. For example, 75% of the Annals of Occupational Hygiene are open access, but this translates to just 500 articles. The retrospective coverage of the open access journals goes back to 1996 at most, assuming that the journal was available at that time, and was published by OUP. No matter what, this is a very valuable asset of OJC, and should get more publicity on its home page, and in its journal list. 

Open access availability is not immediate at publishing.- except  for the Nucleic Acids titles). Many of the articles become open access after a 1-year or a 2-year moratorium. The life science journals dominate the free subset, which is appropriate. The arts and humanities and the journals practically have no full-text freebies, and they hardly have free abstracts. Social science journals are somewhere in between in terms of open access content

There were a few journals in the OUP stable that I didnít find in the pull-down journal list of the search template of OJC , such as Classical Quarterly, Classical Research, Greece & Rome.  In spite of these literally classic titles, OJC is not a brown study. It has many journals for contemporary issues, such as the Enron scandal. There were 40 scholarly articles retrieved for that single word which has become the symbol of excessively greedy and sleazy business behavior by rich businessmen in the past few years.

As most of the largest publishers, OUP covers all disciplines, and it is particularly strong in the Humanities, which is primarily important for subscribers, as even free abstracts in these fields are few and far between. Print subscribers typically qualify for access to the post-1995 issues, even if they have been subscribing to a print journal for 15-20 years. This is because OUP just launched a series of Archives collection in the Sciences, Medicine,  Social Sciences, Law, and Humanities on a subscription basis. Nevertheless, the full text of the articles in pre-1996 issues are searchable by anyone.

OJC also features some important computer science and information technology journals, such as The Computer Journal, a.k.a. IT Now. A well-known, Web-born  open access journal, the Journal of Digital Information (JoDI) is not available for searching in OJC, but at least it is listed among the journals Ė on the home page of OUP journals, and you are transferred to its original site, which is independent from the OJC sites. This is regretful not only because OUP was the co-founder of this journal, and one of the pioneers of supporting the creation of open access journals, but also because this journal does not benefit from the advantages of the advanced link and citation search options of OJC. This leads me to the software issues.


OJC represents the perfect (or almost perfect) synergy between worthy content and smart software, which brings the best out of it. More than half of the OUP journals are covered by the Web of Science database of ISI, which indicates their importance, even if you are not familiar with the discipline. The Journal Citation Reports database attach  tangible measures to selected journals, such as their absolute and relative citedness.  Many of the 106 OUP journals in Web JCR rank in  the top ten percentile of their respective category.

The HWP software is far the most sophisticated and still intuitive among the software packages  used for journal archives. The query template is somewhat different from the standard HWP search template, but the customized version is excellent. I would not cram, however, the options that much to the left side of the template.

You may search for words or phrases in the title, the title and the abstract, or in the full text. The Boolean operation is specified through radio buttons (for all words, any word, or exact phrase), as well as for author names.

Scientist may prefer to do known item searching by using a special cell combination of publication year, volume and start page of the article on the search template. Searching directly by the Digital Object Identifier code (DOI) is also possible and increasingly useful as more and more article carry this code in both the print and digital rendition.   

The topical search can be limited to one or more of the 6 major discipline groups into which OJC journals are clustered (humanities, law, life sciences, math and physical sciences, medicine, and social sciences).

The search can be also limited to one or more journals which are to be selected in a pull down menu. Results can be displayed in condensed or standard format, and sorted by date or relevance rank.

The full richness and brain of the software becomes apparent after scanning the result list and picking items displayed one by one. Beyond the usual set of bibliographc information and abstract of the article, the side box offers a number of options.

Exceptionally, I incorporate this side-box in the flow of the text because listing the options would not do justice to this feature set - in case you donít click on my usual screenshot links. I highlighted with dark green the options available for anyone, and with light green the options for Web of Science subscribers only. 



The most valuable options are related to citations. You may ask for an e-mail alert when the article is cited, retrieve records within OJC which cite this article, find similar articles within the journal, within ISI Web of Science (if you have subscription to it) which are based on automatic co-citation analysis. You can see Ėeven if you donít have a subscription to Web of Science- how many times the article was cited within web of Science.

This particularly useful feature is delivered automatically, but it is not available for all the journals, just to the ones selected by OUP (and implemented by HWP). You can initiate   a search in Google Scholar to find out how many times the article was cited by sources covered by Google Scholar, which merely returned the URL of the source article on an empty screen without any explanation. This feature was the only one that did not work , either in this case or in many other cases I tested. On contact HWP advised me that they are discussing this problem with programmers at Google.   If you go to Google Scholar directly, it reports 14 citing works.

The PubMed link works fine, but in this case it does not add any extra information. It can be useful, however, in cases where the article in the archive is not free, but PubMed points the user to an open access version in another source, such as PubMed Central. Links to searching by author worked both in Google Scholar and PubMed, but especially for the first author,  Google Scholar retrieved an excessively large number of false hits.

The citation counts reported by Google Scholar must be taken with great reservation as they are often extremely inflated, and include phantom citations which you can find only if the full text of the purportedly citing documents are accessible to you. See examples in this story-book and learn from it.  The author searches in PubMed find a manageable set of other works of the author.

The link to other citing articles will display the thumbnail images and compact bibliographic data of the citing articles from other journals hosted by HWP. There is another link to Google Scholar at the top of this list, to give another chance to Google for making up the first failure, but this one fails, too.


This is an outstanding source even for those who donít have subscription for OUP journals in their library, to discover good articles, and even to find an open access version of the ones that seem relevant and pertinent. This is yet another example of what intelligent and experienced designers can achieve if they understand the dynamics of citation indexing and citation searching.