Episciences: a survey to better know our users

Written by Agnès Magron

The CCSD welcomed for 6 months Claire Dandieu as part of her internship for her Master 2 Digital Publication at the Enssib. She worked particularly on the Episciences platform: she conducted a survey of the editors-in-chief of the 11 overlay journals currently hosted on the platform in order to identify their uses and expectations.

The survey was conducted in the form of a questionnaire and distributed to the editors-in-chief of the 11 journals active on Episciences in April 2018.

The results of the survey are representative of our users since we got at least one answer per journal The journals have mostly responded quickly, this reactivity demonstrate a real investment in the platform and we thank them very much for their participation.

The questionnaire was comprised of three main parts:

  • A first part where the journals were invited to evaluate by rating (from « very dissatisfied » to « very satisfied », from 1 to 5) their appreciation of the main features of the platform. A free space « comment » offered the possibility to justify each answer;
  • a second part whose purpose was to understand how journals use the platform. Users were then asked about specific points of their use of Episciences;
  • a third party solicited their views about existing innovations or features available in the digital publishing environment, but not currently developed on Episciences. The objective was to obtain information on the positioning and dynamics of journals.

This survey is the state of a user return at a given moment. The answers obtained and the analysis that follows are therefore likely to evolve.

Evaluations of features and services

Users are globally satisfied with the Episcience’s offer. The main weaknesses are the general workflow judged as cumbersome, the ergonomics of the interface and the articulation with the open archive for the submission process.

Nevertheless, the support provided by the technical teams in charge of the project enhances the level of satisfaction of the editorial committees. Although several critics have reported delays in the developments during the first years of the project, the quality of the support service seems to be one of the main strengths of the project today.

An overview of the uses by the overlay journals

Article submission

72.7% of publishers of journals recommend to their authors to use an open archive in particular. In 75% of the cases (ie 6 journals), HAL is the archive most often recommended. The remaining part prefers arXiv.


Reviewing process

Of the 11 survey respondents, 9 say they use the platform for the peer reviewing activity. Nevertheless, of these 9 users, one person nuances his answer with a « yes, but not every time » and, according to our data, two others seem to not really use the reviewing process of Episciences because only one person manages both the submission and the acceptance of articles in those two cases. So, in fact, there would only be 6 out of 11 newspapers that would systematically go through the platform for the evaluation process, which represents only 54.5% of the newspapers. The peer evaluation features developed by Episciences are obviously underutilized.


We notice that the layout of the articles is an important step in the editorial workflow of the journals hosted on Episciences since 10 out of 11 journals say they apply a style sheet to their articles. Moreover, this workload is widely shared between the editorial teams and the authors (in 72.7% of cases). This means that once the evaluation cycle has been completed, document exchanges take place between authors and members of the journal externally, since the typesetting step is not yet integrated into the workflow.


Workflow management

The majority (63.6%) of the editors-in-chief consider that the platform does not offer all the features necessary for the life of their scientific journal. The explanations expressed in the comment are diverse because we find requests for new features, additional editorial service claims as well as general reviews of the workflow and its flexibility compared to the models desired by the journals.


The purpose of this last part was to solicit reactions from our users about future features and uses for their scientific journals. Ten novelties were thus presented and the answers are summarized in this table:


According to the data collected, the editors-in-chief were quite supportive of the stated proposals as the responses were mostly positive. The two innovations that are the most successful are:

  • Assignment of DOIs: 10/11 respondents.
  • Publication of open data: 7/11 respondents.

The two least desired innovations are the development of other formats and enrichment by readers: 5/11 respondents are against.

Finally, the two innovations for which the survey respondents had the most difficulty in positioning themselves are the annotation features by the editorial team and the integration of layout features in the workflow: 6/11 respondents.

This survey helps to better understand the expectations of users of the platform and to understand their uses. Thanks to the return of the users, we know that certain points like the ergonomics, the process of submission or the integration of phases of copy editing and typesetting are to be developed and improved. In the same way, it allowed us to realize that the missions and the offer of Episciences need to be reaffirmed, notably following the observation of unsuitable practices of Episciences.

Conclusion : the key advantages of Episciences

This survey has highlighted the strengths of Episciences:

  • The economic model, considered as a virtuous model by the overlay journals;
  • Referencing of articles, volumes and sections on a personalized website;
  • The possibility for members of editorial committees to carry out autonomously their peer reviewing activity, independently of traditional private editorial circuits;
  • The assistance support and daily support service in the use of the platform.

Claire Dandieu