DCA Project Draft
Word Count: 1514
In Northeastern’s chemistry program, the department trains and strongly encourages its undergraduates towards a career in drug development research. In fact, most students in chemistry – including myself – have their first co-op in pharmaceutical science. Although drug discovery training may be the department’s main goal, it sometimes limits the imagination to other chemical disciplines. Chemists conduct research in other fields including cosmetics, energy, construction, and consumer health. The American Chemical Society (ACS) promotes publications that feature progress in the chemistry fields, including a personally interesting journal on food chemistry.
The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (JAFC) is an online publication from the ACS which is designed to provide information on research advances in the chemistry of agriculture and the biochemistry behind the nutrition, perception, and toxicology of food. The site is made so its viewers can browse through recent journals, subscribe to the publication, and submit their own research. It is directed towards a highly trained discourse community which includes professors and students in academia. There is also a secondary discourse community which includes professionals in industry. While professors and students may use this information for continuing education and drafting research studies, industrial chemists may apply it to develop a product. The design, layout, content, and ability to navigate within the site demonstrate how it is targeted toward these exclusive discourse communities.
The ACS has designed the JAFC webpage so that only an audience interested or rooted in chemistry would be able to find it. For example, I found this journal by first going to the ACS page – of which I am a member – and then scrolling through a list of ACS publications until I found the JAFC, which seemed personally interesting to me. It is not beyond reason that other members of ACS or people who simply know about the ACS, like scientific news reporters, would also be able to find the journal this way. For more general audiences, even a Google search with terms like ‘food science’ and ‘agricultural chemistry’ do not result in any hits for JAFC on the first page of search results. This already narrows down the audience viewing the site mainly to those who know about or have membership in the ACS.
The template design for this webpage is very academic, similar to the appearance of a university-based site. There are framed sections of green font which aesthetically match a journal about agriculture. In high contrast, the background is plain white, which focuses the viewers’ attention on the green sections. These sections, including “Browse by Issue” and “Articles ASAP” lead the viewer directly to journal issues1. The text is a standard font, which is sized down to fit a large amount of information, including new arrivals, popular issues, and articles in the news. The name of the journal is simply written at the top left with the symbol of the ACS branded above it. The symbol informs the reader that the journal is backed by the ACS, which instills confidence in the academic discourse community about the quality of the material.
The homepage offers several different paths to get to the same published content. As stated, the green, tabbed sections across the top of the site are direct links to journals. Under the tab, “Browse the Journal,” a scroll-down list appears with the option, “List of Issues,” featuring a list of every issue ever published1. The same information is divided by decade published, volume number, and issue number in the green, “Browse by Issue” tool on the far right side of the homepage1. On the same note, the “Articles ASAP” tab is framed across the top of the page and in another set of tabs below the photo gallery1. Likewise, the currently featured issue can be found using the green, “Current Issue” tab or by clicking the graphic of its front cover located almost directly below this tab1. The redundancy of the homepage is an intentional design feature of the journal, which wants its primary, academic discourse community to explore issues and articles.
The organization of each tabbed section is designed to lead the user to journal articles. The majority of the text is composed of hyperlinks to guide the viewer to a specific issue or subject. On the homepage, there is a large slideshow gallery displaying 10 featured articles. The graphics next to the gallery feature other popular publications, and below the gallery there is a checklist of recently published articles. Other graphics on this site accompany the abstracts, or summaries, of published content. These images clarify the advanced content in the abstract, and are meant to inform. Even the advertisements on this site are professionally oriented. There are ads for chemical synthesis databases, patent information databases, and special issues of other ACS journals. The discourse community consists of academic or industrial chemists looking for these services and information.
The journal is relatively easy to navigate using three sets of framed tabs: one for the ACS Publications in general, one for the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, and one featuring most popular and most recent publications. Four of the seven tabs: “Browse the Journal,” “Articles ASAP,” “Current Issue,” and “Subscribe” direct the viewer to a page where they can purchase articles or subscriptions1. There is also a search bar highlighted in yellow which is used to search by DOI or topic – specifically for users who already know which article or subject they need. The navigation stays consistent throughout the site, with the addition of new toolbars once the user has found an article. The tools enable a viewer to see the abstract, download its citation, explore other articles from the same author or same topic, and post to social media like Facebook and Twitter.
As a scientific publication, the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry operates based on subscriptions. Although some featured articles are available for public viewing, a membership to the ACS and an additional membership to the journal are required to read most of the articles. This price barrier makes the content of the journal exclusive to a specific discourse community. The primary community is comprised of academics like professors and graduate students who would buy a university-wide subscription. This profits the ACS most and, in turn, academics are more likely to make their own advancements and feed back into the publication. The publication values them more, which is why the institutional and student subscriptions are discounted. The secondary community consists of professionals who buy subscriptions on an individual basis. This does not benefit the journal as much, and professionals are less likely to publish a scholarly article than to patent their findings.
Even if a layman were to pay the subscription fees, the content of the journals is intended for a discourse community with a very specific knowledge base in agricultural science, biochemistry, and food and flavor chemistry. Once again, this narrows the scope of the discourse community to students, professors, and professionals trained in those fields. The journal articles are very liberal with technical terms. In an article about bitter taste receptors, the researchers discuss “pathways specifically interacting with individual L-amino acids in HEK 293T cells2.” This information is worthless to someone who does not know about stereochemistry, biomolecules, protein receptors, or cell lines. Even the abstract is composed with mostly technical jargon like the names of amino acids and acronyms for various human taste receptors2.
The site also allows agricultural scientists to connect with each other. Users have the option to send and receive email alerts, Facebook and Twitter updates, YouTube content, and podcast downloads directly from the journal. There is also an “Announcements” section on the homepage that offers links to community discussions about research and symposiums where scientists in the field present their findings to their colleagues1. This is further evidence that the primary discourse community is academic scholars, who have an incentive to connect with each other and exchange ideas about research discoveries.
The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry’s site offers a wealth of information to its discourse community which primarily includes professors and students, as well as other professionals in industry. Its comprehensive collection of articles from 1950 to the present allows its viewers to reference research progress in the chemistry and biochemistry of people’s interaction with food. This is important in continuing education, keeping up with the latest discoveries, drafting a research proposal, designing a research study, or improving a product. The site’s high contrast design features, layout of links and graphics, and navigational tools all direct its visitors to a journal issue matching their interests. Once there, the viewers can purchase subscriptions and connect with colleagues. This site is tailored towards a highly educated community of active research scientists in agricultural chemistry.
1. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The American Chemical Society. <http://pubs.acs.org/journal/jafcau>.
2. Amino Acids and Peptides Activate at Least Five Members of the Human Bitter Taste Receptor Family. Susann Kohl, Maik Behrens, Andreas Dunkel, Thomas Hofmann, and Wolfgang Meyerhof. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2013 61 (1), 53-60.