Qualitative study of the communication processes of Revista Latina de Comunicación Social (RLCS) from 1998 to 2009
Abstract: This article presents the results of a metrics study performed the Revista Latina de Comunicación Social (Latina Journal of Social Communication) from January 1998 to December 2009. The quantitative analysis explores the communication processes registered in 878 articles, through five bibliometric indicators: gender, academic degree, country of origin, co-authorship and institutional affiliation. This last criterion was applied only to Spanish authors as they account for 55% of the scientific production in the Revista Latina de Comunicación Social (hence RLCS). The results indicate that there are 1,047 authors, of which 44% are women and 56% are men. This study addresses the position of RLCS in Latin America and highlights the academic contribution of countries such as Argentina, Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Cuba, and Chile. Moreover, the study addresses the participation of 42 Spanish universities in RLCS, which is also Spanish. So of these universities stand out because they have registered more than 20 authors each (e.g. the University of Seville, the Autonomous University of Barcelona, the Complutense University of Madrid, the University of the Basque Country, the University of Santiago de Compostela, the University of Malaga, and the Rey Juan Carlos University). Finally, the article identifies the institutional affiliation of 285 (27%) authors who published in co-authorship, and classifies the types of collaboration of the Spanish authors in three categories: intra-institutional, inter-institutional and international.
Keywords: metrics studies; scientific production; academic networks; co-authorship; information analysis; bibliometric indicators.
Summary: 1. Introduction. 1.1. Background and characteristics of the object of study. 1.2. Scientific and technological recognition and positioning of RLCS. 1.2.1. Impact factor. 1.2.2. Presence in English-speaking countries. 1.2.3. Digital Object Identifier System (DOI). 1.2.4. Open access to scientific knowledge. 1.3. Quantitative study of communication processes through the science metrics. 1.4. Communicational perspective of the science metrics. 2. Objective. 3. Methodology. 4. Analysis of the results. 4.1. Gender of authors. 4.2. Identification of single authors and co-authors. 4.3. Gender of single authors. 4.4. Academic degree of authors. 4.5. Number of international and national (Spanish) authors. 4.6. Spanish universities with higher incidence. 4.7. Types of collaboration established by national authors. 5. Conclusions. 6. References. 7. Notes.
Translation by Cruz Alberto Martínez-Arcos (University of London)
Founded and edited by José Manuel de Pablos Coello, the Revista Latina de Comunicación Social (Latino Journal of Social Communication) started publishing online in January 1998, after several months of study and planning throughout 1997 and backed up by the research team of the University of La Laguna: the Laboratory of Information Technologies and New Analysis of Communication . Produced in the Faculty and Department of Information Sciences at the 13-year-old University of La Laguna, the Revista Latina de Comunicación Social (hereafter RLCS) keeps on consolidating itself as an online, peer-reviewed publication that is indexed in major databases of the area of communications. In fact, according to the Internet Guide for Journalists, published by the Spanish University of Navarra, RLCS has become a bridge of academic collaboration between two continents:
[It is a monthly] online journal published since 1998 by the University of La Laguna (Tenerife, Canary Islands) that offers free and full access to academic articles on various areas of communication on both sides of the Atlantic (Directory of Academic Publications, 2002, p.1). [The journal became a yearly publication in recent years, after having initially been monthly, then quarterly, and later half-yearly.]
Identified by Daniel E. Jones (2005) as the “oldest and most consolidated specialised online publication”, RLCS has strengthened its prestige and academic trajectory against the disbelief on the digital media when it was created, when “the scientific material was only conceived on paper” (López-Ornelas, 2007). However, more than a decade after its first issue, the journal has become a scientific-technological prototype in the editorial area of the Communication Sciences since it also manages the Plataforma de Revistas de Comunicación, PRC (Platform for Journals of Communication) .
This initiative has contributed to the consolidation of projects focused on the online dissemination of scientific communication like, for example: the Revista Mediterránea de Comunicación (Mediterranean Journal of Communication), which is available at http://www.rmedcom.org/ and is edited at the Department of Communication and Social Psychology at the University of Alicante (Spain); the Miguel Hernández Communication Journals (http://mhcj.es/), accredited by the Miguel Hernández University (Elche, Spain), and Pangea (http://revistapangea.org/), a journal constituted by the Ibero-American Academic Network of Communication (RAIC, according to its initials in Spanish)  (http://www.redraic.com/), which is responsible for seven editions of the Ibero-American Biennial of Communication, and is aimed at promoting interdisciplinary cooperation, interaction and research among scholars of the communication and information sciences from Spanish speaking countries (RAIC 2010).
The platform will provide support from 2011 onwards to two new scientific journals: Fonseca, Journal of Communication, which will be edited at the University of Salamanca, and the Revista TecCom, Estudios de Tecnología y Comunicación (TecCom Journal of Technology and Communication Studies), which will be edited at the Complutense University of Madrid.
These online initiatives were created following the idea of RLCS’s editor, who considers that the indexed journals in Spain are very few (the smallest number in the Social Sciences), and proposes that all departments should have a journal that should be always useful for professors from other centres, which is a demand of the concept of “editorial endogamy”, which implies that people “need to travel” in order to publish.
The advances in ICTs have encouraged online publications to enter spaces that were never designed for scientific dissemination, like the social networks of Twitter and Facebook , which RLCS started using as dissemination platforms in early 2010.
With regards to this scientific-social alliance, Flores (2009) points out that Facebook is being considered as a social medium of communication endowed with tools that facilitate and develop the involvement of users in the generation of online content. Regarding Twitter, Flores indicates that one of its most outstanding features is the help it provides to the members of informal networks to reaffirm their presence and identity in a given topic.
On the same line, Muriel (2008) explains that Twitter, apart from being perceived as an alert system, is also seen as a tool for the interactive dissemination of conversations in formal and informal spheres. This is very encouraging because Spain ranks third in the world in the use of this network, while Japan is the second and the US the first.
This information alleviates the speculation regarding the value of Twitter because the majority of users are looking online for news and social networks to channel their academic concerns or concerns related to scientific research, as indicated by the sociologist and former journalist Alberto Arébalos, the co-author of the book La revolución horizontal (The horizontal revolution), which was published by La Gaceta, 2010.
So far we have dealt with the most basic features of the object of study in terms of dissemination and visibility, which is the basic criterion for informative quality:
In order for a scientific journal to reach a basic level of quality it must meet a series of criteria that make reference to informational, editorial and scientific quality (Guillamón, 2006: 6).
1.2. Scientific and technological recognition and positioning of RLCS
In 2001, four years after its creation, RLCS joined the Impact Factor of the Spanish Journals of Social Sciences (IN-RECS/Comunicación), which is a study conducted by the Research Group for the Evaluation of Science and Scientific Communication (EC³) of the University of Granada.
This first step becomes a stepping stone towards academic recognition, as it confirms that in the so called digital era the importance of publishing has not changed because the academic systems continue to be structured to reward and encourage the publication of good ideas for the scientific community (Varian, 1998).
Table 1 summarises the trajectory and positioning of RLCS in the analysis conducted by the EC³; which as a preliminary result exposes the need to strengthen the presence of the publication in international areas.
Table 1: Annual summary of RLCS in the IN-RECS
Source: EC³ Evaluation of Sciences and Scientific Communication
The provisional version of the 2009 Impact Factor, published on 18 October 2010, showed for the first time in the area of communication an impact above 1. While none of the 260 indexed journals of juridical sciences reached 1, of the 620 journals of social sciences four did reached one, in this order: International Journal of Clinic and Health Psychology (1.643 - Psychology); RLCS (1.380 - Communication); El Profesional de la Información (The Information Professional) (1.183 - Library Science) and The Spanish Journal of Psychology (1.100 - Psychology).
1.2.2. Presence in English-speaking countries
The dissemination of a publication must be conceptualised based on its capacity to gain visibility in the scientific community it targets, because the interest of authors to publish their work on it depends largely on this capacity (Delgado, Ruiz-Pérez and Jiménez-Contreras, 2006), which is maximum if the journal is online and is included in important specialised databases.
Aware of the importance of being included, consulted, and cited by English-speaking academic communities (see table 1), in 2010 RLCS started the full English translation of its articles and the percentage of visitors from the United States went up to 1.5%, according to the statistics of visits to its homepage. Paraphrasing Delgado et al (2006), RLCS gave this step after reflecting on strategies needed to reach other readers and other databases, such as the former Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), which is responsible for the major analysis of citation in the Anglo-Saxon world.
To reinforce and close this point it is important to remember that, as Abadal and Rius (2008) indicate, the publications that offer articles in a foreign language improve significantly their “dissemination and impact”, and that while it is true that this is a considerable effort and expensive process, it actually increases the possibilities of indexation and inclusion in the most prestigious databases.
1.2.3. Digital Object Identifier System (DOI)
In May 2009, with the support of a group of specialised scholars , RLCS moved forward on the issue of intellectual property by starting to gradually incorporate the Digital Object Identifier System (aka DOI) to all of its scientific production . The decision was motivated primarily by the interest in raising the quality, visibility of the journal and its access to new databases, catalogues, newspapers and periodicals libraries, and electronic directories. This is the reason why the subject of indexing had been addressed prior to the incorporation to the DOI. Table 2 presents the classification and the number of indexes where RLCS had been indexed until August 2010.
Table 2: Indexing and dissemination of RLCS. Source: RLCS (2010).
It is important to note that the indexing to these sites has not been a simple task because each inclusion involves, apart from time, the obligation to keep the level of quality, as well as the adequacy of the articles to specific codes and formats, which sometimes requires the aid of a computer specialist.
It is also worth highlighting that the benefits are not limited to dissemination and visibility, but also include the academia’s appraisal which generates future citations, because today the databases have become the evaluators and certifiers of the scientific quality (Cordero, López-Ornelas, Nishikawa and McAnally, 2009).
1.2.4. Open access to scientific knowledge
Also important is the inclusion of RLCS in the Directory of Open Access Journal, DOAJ, of Lund University (Sweden), because the visibility and use of scientific findings increases with the open access to that knowledge, which generates, in addition, the possibility of increasing the rate of citation of articles (Canessa and Zennaro, 2009).
Within the area of Media and Communication of DOAJ, there are 75 affiliated journals, of which 7 are Spanish (9.33%). RLCS is one of these Spanish publications and one of the two that use the DOI. Table 3 presents the relationship of the journals affiliated to the DOAJ and REC (the Portal of Spanish Scientific Journals of Communication), in order to indicate the position of RLCS among its Spanish counterparts.
Table 3: Journals in DOAJ and REC with DOI
So far we have addressed three aspects inherent to RLCS: a) the dissemination of its scientific findings, b) the ‘open’ protection of the intellectual property of its authors and, c) the academic recognition that generates a cyclic and fundamental process in any scientific journal (Macías-Chapula, 2001).
The following section tries to expose the close relationship between the communication processes of a journal and the science metrics.
1.3. Quantitative study of the communication processes through the science metrics
The evaluation processes of a scientific publication have evolved significantly. Currently, the quality level is measured through complementary ways: the first -and oldest- evaluation is based on the opinion of experts and peers validation; the second and most-recent is achieved through the implementation of metric indicators (Macías-Chapula, 2001; Aguillo and Begoña, 2006). In this way, the study of the communication that is produced in an academic publication has renewed the main function of journals because apart from of disseminating the scientific findings of a given area, they become their own object of study (López-Ornelas, 2007).
The paradigm of the science metrics is increasingly integrated to the general structure of the system of scientific communication, where its main role involves the analysis of communication processes generated in printed and electronic periodic publications. In this sense the traditional is subject to further analyses in a context that is determined by the information technologies (Ubarría, 2005), so that the data obtained by bibliometrics, scientometrics, informetrics, cybermetrics and webmetrics are presented as an added value, because they allow to identify, analyse, and register the trends, phenomena and regularities of a publication (Arroyo et al, 2005; Aguillo, 2008; Chiroque-Solano and Padilla-Santoyo, 2009).
The following table presents the definition, classification and comparison of these sciences according to the work of McGrath W. (1998) (as cited in Macías-Chapula, 2001). The particular interest of the table is not only to expose their content, but also to motivate the future analysis of the communication processes generated in RLCS and similar publications.
Table 3: Adaptation of the typology for the definition and classification of bibliometrics, scientometrics, and informetrics, according to McGrath W. (1998, as quoted in Macías-Chapula, 2001).
Note: The two left columns referring to cybermetrics and webmetrics were not included in the original table and were added by the author of this article as comparative points.
1.4. Communicational perspective of the science metrics
Figure 1: Communicational perspective of the processes of internal and external communication, through the analysis of the science metrics
The bibliometric indicators selected in this study are gender, academic degree, country of origin, co-authorship, and institutional affiliation of the Spanish authors. It is necessary to note that the approach of these criteria only provides a tenuous analysis of what can be perform with the science metrics, as seen in figure 1.
4. Analysis of the results
4.1. Gender of authors
Graph 1: Annual registration of authors across gender (1998-2009)
Considering that 1999 was the year when more authors registered (183), it was relevant to break down some of its characteristics: 150 articles were published in 12 numbers, 130 (87%) were works signed by a single author and 20 (13%) were co-authored. Table 5 shows authors’ country of origin, which highlights a meaningful participation of authors from Spain, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Brazil. Figure 2 shows the percentages of national and international authors.
Table 5: Nationality of authors who published in 1999
4.2. Identification of single authors and co-authors
The theme of collaboration between authors is paramount as it is perceived as necessary for the advancement of any science (González-Alcaide, et al., 2008). Through the information on institutional affiliation, it is feasible to obtain indicators of collaboration, which are understood as the co-authorship indexes, number of signatory institutions per article, and level of national and international collaboration between the signatory institutions (De-Filippo, Sanz and Gómez, 2007). Graph 3 shows the corresponding percentages of the 1,047 authors, where 762 are single authors and 285 are co-authors.
4.3. Gender of single authors
Regarding the genre of single authors, 42% (322) are women, and 58% (440) are men, which means that there is 16% more male collaboration (see graph 4).
Graph 4: Annual registration of co-authors across gender (1998-2009)
Of the 27% (285) of authors who published in collaboration, 49% (140) are women and 51% (145) are men. The difference is minimal However there were contrasts in the years 1999 and 2009 (see graph 5).
4.4. Academic degree of authors
The academic degree of the authors was classified in 8 categories. Table 5 shows the number of authors and the percentages obtained in each category. It is necessary to note that the authors that did not disclose their academic degree were located in the “unspecified” category.
Table 5: Authors’ academic degree
Table 5 shows that 45.64% of authors hold postgraduate degrees (M.A or Ph.D.); 40.21% only holds Bachelor’s degrees; 10.41% are Ph.D. students; and 3.62% are M.A. students.
4.5. Number of international and national (Spanish) authors
One of the rules established by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT) to guarantee the scientific quality of the Spanish peer-reviewed journals is that a minimum of 15% of their authors must be foreigners. It should be noted that other Spanish agencies stipulate that the international authorship is related to conventional and dissemination criteria (Delgado, Ruiz-Pérez and Jiménez-Contreras, 2006).
What follows is the description of the number of national and foreign authors registered in this analysis; such results show that regardless of the type of criterion used to classify this information, RLCS amply meets the aforementioned percentage.
Graph 6 shows that 43% of the authors are foreigners, while table 7 breaks down the amount of authors by country and year. As the journal has gained weight in Spain, the proportion of Spanish authors has increased progressively. The large number of Latin Americans is explained by the high rate of Ibero-American professors who have completed their Ph.D. studies at the University of La Laguna (the headquarters of the journal) and, as a requisite to achieve the degree, published in RLCS in the two years prior to the defence of the thesis.
Table 7: Nationality and number of authors per year
4.6. Spanish universities with higher incidence
4.7. Types of collaboration established by national authors
As mentioned, the participation of national authors accounts for 55% of the total sample, and for this reason it is appropriate to determine the types of collaboration they established, based on the definitions posed by González-Alcaide et al (2008, p.643). See table 8:
Table 8: Types of collaboration established by national authors, according to
As table 8 shows, there have been 6 intra-institutional collaborations, 15 inter-institutional and 6 international. The tendency is towards a greater proportion of this type of collaborations. The collaborations not reflected in this typology correspond to national authors who collaborated with colleagues from the same department/area and institution. For the purpose of a better classification these co-authorships are identified as “type 0” in graph 8.
Graph 8: Types of collaborations established by national authors
The total of articles produced through co-authorship was 114 of 878, of which 71 (62%) were written by national academics and 43 (38%) by internationals (11%).
The main objective of this research was to make predictions and decisions on the scientific development of RLCS; in this sense, it has been gratifying for the author to see that RLCS is clearly going in the right direction, particularly because it has implemented precise strategies to increase the citation of its articles in international fields (see table 1).
However, the study recognises that 43% of foreign authors do not necessarily augur international citation nor constitutes a high degree of internationalisation, because a scientific publication can be considered international only when it manages to join the communication channels of the global science and manages to impact the international science (Russell, 2009: 9). Therefore, the next objective for RLCS should be to raise the citation of its articles in international fields, and the route to achieve this goal seems to be the production of an English-language edition and its inclusion in Anglo-Saxon databases.
Another significant decision taken by RLCS in terms of growth is the innovations in its rules for publication, which have allowed the restructuration of essential criteria of content and format. This decision, apart from strengthening its quality, will remedy some gaps related to the lack of authors’ information (lack of academic degree, university affiliation, country of origin, etc.).
As a final point, it must be acknowledged that this article has only addressed a small part of all of what can be studied through the science metrics (see figure 1), particularly because cybermetrics and webmetrics will allow the analysis of the interrelationships generated between the publication and its users, i.e., to determine who consulted it, when, from what country, using what browser, through what search engines, through which phrases and keywords, etc. Some of this information can be found in the statistics about the visitors to RLCS’s homepage, which is another open door for scholars (http://webstats.motigo.com/s?id=4621075). The statistics about the visitors to RLCS’s homepage show that it is mostly visited by Spain, with 69.1% of all the visits, followed by Mexico (7.6%); Argentina (5.5%); Venezuela (3.1%); Colombia (2.4%); Peru (1.6%); USA (1.5%); Chile (1.3%); Brazil (0.8%); Cuba (0.8%) and the rest 6.1%.
Studies on the communicative interrelations generated between journals, their authors and users still require the recognition from the editors, because the more constant the processes of introspection are, the more effective decisions about the needs, trends and future of the scientific publications can be taken.
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 This research team continues registered in the Vice-chancellorship of research, development and innovation of the University of La Laguna (http://viinv.ull.es/grupos/1164/ )
 The PRC is a virtual space of cooperation for academic journals of communication: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Plataforma-de-Revistas-de-Comunicacion/123281487704824#
 The RAIC project was conceived as part of the 5th Ibero-American Biennial of Communication held at the Monterrey Technological Institute of Advanced Studies (ITESM), Campus Estado de Mexico in 2005, to bring together Latin American professors who have concluded doctoral theses in Spanish universities. The project was developed at the University of La Laguna (Tenerife, Canary Islands).
 RLCS account on Twitter is http://twitter.com/revistalatinacs and Facebook is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Revista-Latina-de-Comunicacion-Social/353509473274
 José Ignacio Aguaded, editor of Comunicar; Elea Gómez Toledo from CINDOC-CISC; Carmen Fonseca, consultant for Comunicar and RLCS and manager of RLCS’s incorporation to the DOI; Alejandro Ruiz Trujillo, computer specialist of Comunicar; Susan Collins and Lisa Hart of Publishers International Linking Association - Crossref, and Alejandro Álvarez Nobell, Professor at the National University of Córdoba, Argentina, responsible for the transmissions.
 The data in this table were obtained in August 2010. For more information, visit http://www.revistalatinacs.org/directorios_intensivo.html which contains the names and electronic addresses of RLCS’s indexes and databases.
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