How Much Quality Research Is Omitted From Academic Libraries?

Academic libraries all over the world spend billions of dollars every year to make quality research readily available to scholarly researchers. However, it’s virtually impossible for any library to garner all the research being published in a specific field because it’s either too complicated or unaffordable by their limited budgets. Having said this, I would expect that at least most of the research published in the most reputable and best-organized countries could find its way into libraries’ discovery systems. In other words, all the research from the top countries has to be available in an academic library. No omission should be taken lightly. Then, the question is: how much quality research is being excluded from academic libraries? And, more importantly, how to fix it?

Before diving into the depths of the answers, we have to draw a distinction between academic journals and other research materials e.g. theses, dissertations, non-journal articles, etc. As far as the latter is concerned, the advent of such wonderful open access platforms such as the Bielefeld Academic Search Engine ( has made it relatively easy to have at your fingertips discovery of research materials stored in libraries repositories worldwide. Also, Google Scholar, which is the preferred search engine for researchers, by the way, has reduced barriers to access of all kinds of materials. However, the issue with Google Scholar is that its prioritization of citations in ranking its search-results blocks the serendipitous discovery of novelty or rare articles that have not reached enough popular votes to make it to the first pages. Thus, Google Scholar makes already popular articles even more popular creating what is referred to as a filter bubble (

If I was not clear enough in the previous paragraph, let me be bluntly clear in this one: while there seems to be a good availability of non-journal articles and other research materials in academic libraries, the same can’t be said of journal articles. Empirical evidence shows that a significant number of academic journals that are published in the most academically relevant countries in the world are omitted from the main library discovery systems. The reason is that discovery in academic libraries is dominated by large publishers whose commercial interests are vested in the academic journals they sell. Most librarians and academic researchers have been incentivized and brainwashed to look no further than the most popular academic journals published by these giant corporations. For instance, many universities are expected to publish a number of articles in specific journals that happen to belong to large commercial publishers, which in turn, perpetuates their already highly profitable business. With such a skewed reward and incentive system, is there any surprise in the fact that many librarians don’t bother about what their libraries are missing? The biggest issue is that academic researchers who are tasked with creating life-enhancing knowledge are omitting important research that could otherwise boost their output and productivity. Let’s look at some facts:

What are the 10 most important countries for academic research?

For the purpose of this article, I define as academically important those countries that publish the most cited articles in the world. This is measured by the total number of citations that accrue to journal articles published in a country over a period of time. There follows that countries are ranked according to the volume of citations their publications capture.  You can find the academic ranking of countries in “Scimago Journal & Country Rank” They have done a terrific job at keeping track of the volume of publications and number of citations per country using their ranking methodology that weighs citations according to the prestige of the citing source.

As per 2018, the 10 top-ranking countries in academic research are:

Source: Click Here

What’s the coverage, in academic libraries, of journals published in the 10 best-ranked countries?

To put it differently, how many academic journals published in the top-ranking countries are available in the average academic library? Most research that is conducted in academic libraries and that involves academic journals are carried out directly or indirectly through a combination of the following search and discovery systems: Scopus by Elsevier, EBSCO Academic Search, ProQuest Central or any other database whose content is already indexed in any of them. Therefore, by examining the coverage of academic journals in the first three, we can have a fairly accurate picture of what can be found in academic libraries nowadays:

  • Scopus title list in October 2019
  • ProQuest Central title list in February 2020
  • EBSCO Academic Search Ultimate title list in February 2020

The average academic library is likely to have discoverability of anywhere between 11,000 up to 26,000 academic Journals published in the top 10 best-ranked countries in the world. Now the question is: is this good enough to support comprehensive and complete research? The reader should bear in mind that the above list constitutes a ranking of the countries with the highest volume of scientific citations, and as a result, it means that these are the countries that in 2018 were the most influential in global scientific research.

How much quality research is omitted from academic libraries?

To answer the question we will compare the total number of academic journals indexed at article level by J-Gate that are published in the 10 best-ranked countries with those in Scopus, EBSCO, and ProQuest Central. The difference represents what academic researchers are missing from the most scientifically influential countries. Is this important? As a researcher, you can’t afford to exclude from your work research that derives from the most influential countries. Otherwise, the researcher’s work may be good but definitely not comprehensive or good enough.

Most academic libraries are omitting between 10,000 to 20,000 academic journals from researchers’ discovery experience. Therefore, while nobody could question that these researchers’ work may be good enough to pass basic thresholds, it is definitely impugnable to say that it is complete and comprehensive. To put it differently, no researcher can claim that her work is complete if there are thousands of articles from the most influential countries in the world that have been left out.

Should Indian Journals be taken seriously?

The reader would have noticed that India is now ranking number 10 in the world based on the volume of citations her journals attract. However, I know for a fact that there are librarians and researchers that when they hear that a journal has been published in India, they flinch and balk at it. As a result, they make no concerted effort to explore and exploit them. This is all grounded in ill-founded perceptions that while they may apply to some publications, do not apply to most. The fact is that India is one of the world’s fastest-growing research hubs and her ranking has improved faster than most countries in the last 20 years. By the way, let’s not forget that the CEOs of such American behemoths as Google, Microsoft, MasterCard, and Adobe are all Indian nationals.

Back in 1996, India ranked number 16 worldwide in the number of citations. Wind forward to 2018, and it now ranks 10th. In the last 22 years, India has outperformed and displaced Japan, Netherlands, Switzerland, Israel, Sweden, and Belgium. Hence, yes, Indian journals should be taken seriously.


Till the next article on the quest for innovation…


Walter Kny

CEO & Founder

InnoLibrary Global

February 13th, 2020

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