July 09, 2012

Mendeley and ResearchGate: profile sites and repositories used in tandem to raise research profiles.

Writing about web page http://opus.bath.ac.uk/30227/

There are so many places for authors to put their papers and information about their papers online, so what is the best way to make use of them? I don't have the answer exactly, but I have plenty of ideas!

Drive traffic to the repository by creating links to your papers

Brian Kelly of UKOLN (see Brian's UK Web Focus blog) and I have co-authored a paper for the international repositories conference, OR2012. The full reference is:

Kelly, B. and Delasalle, J., 2012. Can LinkedIn and Academia.edu Enhance Access to Open Repositories? Submitted to: OR2012: the 7th International Conference on Open Repositories, 9-13 July 2012, Edinburgh, Scotland.

and naturally, it is in an open access repository and linked to from this post.

The article title mentions LinkedIn and Academia.edu, and this blog post title mentions Mendeley and ResearchGate, but the concept that the article explores and that this blog post is about, is that these kind of external, profile hosting sites could be useful to researchers in raising the profile of their work, especially when used in conjunction with repositories.

I have blogged in the past about these kinds of profile hosting sites and listed a few other such sites in a piece about Academia.edu, and I have written on this blog about the number of Warwick researchers I could find on such profile sites.

One point explored in the paper is that the profile sites offer a way for authors to create inbound links to their papers in a repository, and such links might help to optimise those papers' search engine rankings, since the number of links to a page or site are a factor in search engine rankings.

I don't quite understand how search engine rankings work (that's their business, and it's getting ever more complex... SEOmoz have a useful article), but inbound links have long been a factor, one way or another. And as a former repository manager and a long-time information professional, I'm very, very aware of the important and sizeable role that Google has to play in bringing visitors to papers in a repository. Some of my early blog posts on the WRAP blog attest to that.

So profile sites are useful to researchers in offering a quick and easy way to generate inbound links to your repository papers: it's a simple concept, but as the example of Brian's work that is given in our paper demonstrates, there are probably a lot of other factors as well that might raise the profile of a researcher's papers.

Maintaining profile details on these sites

Naturally, Brian Kelly and I have profiles on these sites, and our paper is appearing on our publication lists on these sites... thanks Brian, for uploading it and making it easy for me! I confess, that I have left partial profiles on most of these sites: it takes a lot of time to create and update profiles properly. Brian is really good at doing this but I'm not a great example to other authors about how to use these sites.

The two sites I have been looking at most recently are Mendeley and ResearchGate:

I like ResearchGate for making it easy for me to "claim" articles that it has found, as ones that I am an author of. In particular, I like that it harvests records from my institutional repository, so if I kept that up to date with all my papers, then it would be relatively little effort to also keep my profile on ResearchGate up to date. Bravo, ResearchGate! (I have blogged about ResearchGate recently, in greater detail).

However, the thing that I find most irritating about ResearchGate when it comes to using it in tandem with an open access repository, is that it invites me to upload the full text of my paper in a huge box on the top right hand side, and it displays my paper to others with a "Request Full-text" button. Meanwhile, the link to the repository where the full text is available is almost invisible and it is not recognisable as a potential full text source. It simply says "Source:OAI" and the "OAI" part is a link to the WRAP repository record from where the full text can be retrieved.

This makes me have considerable sympathy with authors whose papers I have requested copies of, when I was a repository manager, because it is irritating when your article is already available on open access to all, to be asked to put it in another place as well!

Mendeley has similar features and issues in that I can import records from all sorts of sources using its "web importer", including Google Scholar which does index a lot of repository content... but it's not so simple to use as ResearchGate, when it comes to updating my profile with my own papers from the institutional repository. When I carry out a search on Mendeley itself, I find a sophisticated advanced search form, which I like, although I don't like that I can't edit my search string in the search box after running the search. I tried to do that after my first advanced search and got no results but when I went back to the advanced search form and put my revised criteria into the form, I got results. I think that's clunky and there is work to be done on it as a publications discovery tool.

On Mendeley, I am able to refine the results of my search further by selecting a tick box on the right hand side "Open access articles only". I tried this and was disappointed. It finds papers that I have written, but it doesn't know that the ones in WRAP are available on open access.

How do I tell Mendeley that the paper is already available on OA? Why doesn't it already know?

Both Mendeley and ResearchGate have got it wrong

Or at least, from an open access point of view, they have got it wrong. It ought not to be up to the author to upload their content into several places online. And they should be making it easy for people searching within their environments to get through to the existing open access versions of papers: after all, it's hardly in the spirit of OA to make it difficult for people to access the open access version!

Repository managers' perspectives

One of the points that Brian and I made in our poster for OR2012 was to ask 'why don't repository managers recommend use of external researcher profile sites?' Well, it would help if the profile sites worked nicely with repositories, I think.

And of course another answer to our question is that repository managers have enough of a struggle getting papers for the repository itself, never mind encouraging authors to put their papers elsewhere as well.

Beyond that, it is likely that others at the University are advising on the use of social media, so it might be something that repository managers don't see as their role.

Recently, I posted to a repository managers e-mail list to double check if any of them were recommending such sites:

One replied to say that she had noticed some researchers from her institution who were putting their documents onto sites like these, in full text, but not into the institutional repository. So perhaps repositories should be harvesting from the likes of Mendeley and ResearchGate, too.

At the University of Glasgow, they are sometimes using the "Related URL" field to link to a version of the article on Mendeley (see this example record), which is a step towards integrating these two approaches.

Social Media more generally

One repository manager responded that she did encourage authors to use social media "like LinkedIn, Twitter and a blog". And I was sent a very useful link to a blog post by Melissa Terras at UCL, entitled "Is blogging and tweeting about research papers worth it?" (Short Answer: yes, if you want to attract visitors!)

I think that the use of "social media" is a much bigger topic than the use of profile sites as such. I know that most of the places where researchers can put their profile information are also social media tools in some sense. But this blog post is not intended to cover the social aspects of these tools: that is perhaps for a future blog post!

One more relevant aspect is that publisher websites do often encourage authors to use such profile sites and social media in general, to raise the profiles of their papers. I have blogged about publishers' instructions for authors already.

And finally, I must say that Brian Kelly is an excellent example of an author who uses profile sites and social media. He has uploaded details of his papers onto these sites, but he has also deposited OA copies into his institutional repository and blogged and tweeted about his papers before the conference itself, to raise interest in them. I'm not at all surprised that Brian is the author of the 15 most downloaded papers in the Bath repository, from his department!


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