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September 12, 2012

UK research sector, publishing trends and facts from the Finch report

Writing about web page http://www.researchinfonet.org/publish/finch/

I have been tweeting all the "Finch report facts" that I found in this recent report on accessibility to research publications. This blog entry presents some of those "facts" back in a discussion of what it seems that the Finch report is saying about the UK research sector and publishing trends, when I look at those "facts" plainly and bring in other contexts and ideas.

I'm not commenting here on the recommendations of the Finch report, nor the debate about routes to open access, although I did pull together a Storify collection of reactions to the Finch report, in case you want to read more about those topics.

UK Researchers' productivity

The UK research sector has some particular characteristics. I tweeted:

Finch report fact p37: There are 250, 000 researchers in the UK & p38 'their rate of productivity is more than 50% above world average'

This rather depends on how you measure productivity!

I also tweeted:

Finch report fact p37: UK is successful at research publications but 'relatively weak in producing other kinds of outputs such as patents'

So perhaps the productivity referred to is really all about publication activity, and I went back to the report to check where the productivity fact came from: it's a paragraph all about the number of articles written by researchers, so it's most likely although not entirely clear that the productivity referred to is about numbers of articles. A footnote against this particular fact also states that:

"It should be be noted that it is sometimes argued that high rates of research productivity in the leading research countries are achieved in part by establishing dependency cultures in other countries."

Have UK researchers achieved high publication rates due to multiple author collaborations? Possibly.

Why are UK researchers achieving high publication rates? Is it driven by RAE and REF processes?

The UK's measures of research performance have centred around research outputs which might encourage UK researchers' productivity against this measure. Looking at the RAE 2008 data (Merit project) we can see that of the 222,177 outputs that were measured, 167,831 were journal articles. I'm rubbish at maths but even I can tell that's about 75%. I expect that for the sciences, the percentage of journal articles that make up their outputs for measurement is even higher.

Another couple of tweets, then:

Finch report fact p71: 120,000 articles by UK authors are published each year. According to p62, this is 6% of articles published worldwide

Finch report fact p62 'researchers in the UK comprise just over 4% of the global research community'...

So, UK researchers are publishing plenty of articles and contributing to scholarly knowledge worldwide on a larger scale then their numbers represent.

REF 2014 will be looking at impact as well as outputs, which brings a different dimension into the measurement since RAE 2008 and that might also affect UK researchers' activity in the future.

The potential effect of performance measurement mechanisms on actual performance is addressed in a RIN report on Communicating Knowledgefrom 2009, describing a bibliometric analysis of the outputs produced in 2003 and 2008 by a sample of authors who were included in those two RAEs. Amongst many other interesting findings, they reported a slight increase in the no. of publications per author in 2008 compared to 2003, but a significant increase in no. of multiple-author works. These are multi-institutional and international. They did not find an apparent difference in citation behaviours between the two time periods. All very interesting!

In REF2014 the assessment panels for the science, technology and medicine subjects will have citation data provided to them. On UK researchers' citation scores, I tweeted:

Finch report fact p38: citations to UK articles increased between 2006 and 2010 by 7.2% a year, faster than the world average of 6.3%

and:

Finch report fact p38: UK’s “share of the top 1% of most-highly-cited papers was second only to the US, at 13.8% in 2010.”

Not only are our researchers producing lots of articles, they are also producing highly cited articles. There have been numerous studies and debates about the value of citations as a measure of the quality and influence of research papers (my own main reservation is the difference in disciplinary practices around citation), but at any rate there is plenty of citation activity and evident attention for UK authored articles, according to citation measures.

In agreement with the findings of that 2009 RIN report and the footnote on the earlier fact about UK researchers' productivity in terms of numbers of research articles, I also found in the Finch report:

Finch report fact p71 Nearly half (46%) of the peer reviewed articles with a UK author published in 2010 also listed an author from overseas

I believe that multiple authorship and involvement of overseas authors could be significant in achieving those high citation rates. The more collaborations and network contacts or reach that a researcher has, the more people will be aware of that author's work in terms of its findings but also its quality, and so the more likely the work is to be cited by those contacts or indeed their contacts in turn.

An international scale

UK researchers are operating on a world stage, of course. There are other facts in the Finch report that give some context to the UK researchers' performance. I didn't tweet this quote from page 38 because it was too long(!), but I find it very significant:

...part of the explanation for the UK’s success is that it attracts internationally-mobile researchers. UK researchers are also more likely than those in almost any other major research nation to collaborate with colleagues overseas...

Even though the UK researchers are publishing a lot, researchers from other countries are also publishing a lot:

Finch report fact p37 Rise in the no. of UK-authored articles has not been as fast as in very high growth countries such as India and Brazil

So I think that those collaborations and multi-authored articles are very significant, and the international scale of research is one that favours the UK because it's known for its high quality research already. I really think that this is key to UK "success" in the context of citations, because those collaborations and networks occur due to the migration of internationally mobile researchers to the UK. It seems to me that international reach is a very important element of impact that UK research assessors should be interested in.

Meanwhile, according to the Finch report, the UK doesn't spend a great deal on research. Apparently, the UK ranked 16th for "research intensity" amongst OECD countries in an Elsevier report that is cited on page 38, in a footnote. In actual figures:

Finch report fact, p37: 28% of UK R&D is in HE Sector. UK is 'strongly dependent' on gov.t, charity & overseas funds ow.ly/c50pU...

Finch report fact p38: 09-10 UK total expenditure on R&D: £25.9bn of which £10.4bn from gov, £5.5bn of which from Research Councils & HEFCs

Perhaps the relatively high reliance on government and the HE sector to pay for our research is also part of the reason why the UK has been more successful at getting articles published than at producing patents and other kinds of research outputs.

Perhaps another reason why UK researchers are so much involved in publishing activity is that the UK is also a key player in the worldwide publishing industry:

Finch report fact, p15: UK publishers are responsible for 5000+ journal titles & 1/5 of articles published each year

The UK also seems to be playing an important role in the development of the online open access repositories landscape:

Finch report fact: US, Germany, & UK account for over 1/3 of repositories worldwide. There are 200+ UK repositories: 150 are institutional

And the UK publishes about 7% of open access journals:


Finch report fact, p32: Currently 7600+ open access journals listed in the DOAJ, from 117 countries: 533 in UK ow.ly/c4ZLa #oa


UK researchers do seem to have good access to published articles:

Finch report fact p47 93% of UK researchers had “easy or fairly easy access" to papers. Those without most often find a different item.

Finch report fact p48: Researchers are more likely to have problems accessing conference proceedings and monographs, than journal articles.

Although library expenditure in the UK is falling:

Finch report fact, p23: library expenditure in UK Unis fell from 3.3% to 2.7% as a proportion of total expenditure ow.ly/c4ZfC #oa

The Finch report also says on page 51 that "Access on its own does not necessarily make for effective communication" and although I know that the report is really referring to the role that publishers play in enhancing discoverability through their search platforms and other work, I also interpret it to mean that all those networks and collaborations of our authors are helping to ensure that they are building on the best research that is out there.

It seems to me that international reach is a very important element of impact that UK research assessors should be interested in.

Publishing trends

Open access is one of the changes to publishing that has taken place in recent years, as the worldwide web has enabled online access to scholarly content. It's the main focus of the Finch report, so there are lots of facts relating to it! There are at least two routes to making content available on open access: the gold route where authors pay a fee or "article processing charge" (APC) for the publisher to make the final version available to readers for free, and the green route where authors own copies are deposited into open access repositories, where readers can find it.

My first publishing trend "fact" is:

Finch report fact p39 in '09 OA journals accounted for 14% of articles published worldwide in medicine & biosciences, and 5% of engineering.

The report goes on to say that only 6-7% of articles published in 2009 were available in repositories. This looks as though the repositories are not as successful a route to open access as the OA journals. But the data is only for 2009, and only for limited subject areas. The report itself highlights that science technology and medicine account for 2/3 of OA journals:


Finch report fact, p33: 2/3 of OA articles are published by 10% of publishers: STM account for 2/3 of journals ow.ly/c4ZV8 #oa


At this point it is worth referring to Steven Harnad's blog post "Finch Fiasco in figures" because he's looked into all this in a much more scholarly way, and has a great graph (figure 6) showing the relative balance of green and gold open access availability of articles: it looks like he has very different data, but even in his graph, the balance looks worst for green OA in the biomedical sciences, so the Finch report should also present data across all the subjects, in the interest of objectivity.

On page 69, the Finch report suggests some reasons for the "low take-up of OA" in humanities and social sciences, and it seems clear to me from the reasons given that the report means the low take-up by publishers, ie that gold OA routes are not so readily available in these disciplines. The reasons suggested are: rate of publication and rate of rejection, length of articles, and the larger amount of material in a journal that is not an article and therefore would not bring in an article processing charge as income. Further, on p71 the Finch report refers to the tradition of the independent scholar remaining strong in the humanities: these researchers would have no mechanism through which to pay an APC.

Another trend that the Finch report refers to is the decline of the monograph:

Finch report fact: p44 refers to decline of the monograph as print runs have shrunk, prices have risen & UK libraries spend less on books.

I've already included the fact about the relative decline in expenditure on libraries in UK universities, and the Finch report also points out another difference that electronic format makes in that it means VAT must be paid by Libraries, whilst printed versions don't attract VAT. I know that many of the libraries I have worked at have had their book budgets squeezed by rising journal subscription costs over the years, so I don't doubt that the monograph is not what it was. But I believe that the research monograph carries as much research credibility as it ever did, even if it is not attracting the same revenues for publishers.

A conclusion?

After meandering through these "facts", I'm pleased to see that the UK research sector is publishing so much and attracting so much attention worldwide, in relation to the amount of investment. I believe that we should keep up our international and collaborative efforts in order to sustain this, and we should also keep up our involvement in publishing activities, perhaps by investing in OA routes as this makes access fairer to all. The Finch report recommends that the UK support gold OA publication: perhaps it will as the RCUK policy seems to have followed this route.

Most of all though, I'm interested in what researchers will do. They are making decisions on where to publish what, with whom they will co-author and whether to deposit in a repository or not and all such things. The rest of us (publishers and librarians) are trying to respond to their need to communicate with each other, and to find out what each other are working on.


July 19, 2012

Guest post by Yvonne Budden: Metadata and Online Discoverability

Yvonne Budden is the University of Warwick's E-Repositories Manager responsible for the Publications service and WRAP, her specialisms include open access, digital repositories and copyright. She also has ten years experience creating and managing metadata.

Metadata is a key tool to aid the dissemination of research, it's not the most exciting of topics but it can make all the difference when trying to locate electronic resources. Good metadata can help elevate the ranking of an item in search tools and guide specific audiences to a resource and conversely bad metadata can mean an item is never found. This post will look at some key concepts of metadata and end with some things to consider if you're looking to publish a yourself.

Metadata is the commonly used term to describe information about other things, for example the metadata of an mp3 will include things like the track title, artist, running time, encoding used etc. Any contextual information provided about something can be considered metadata. Most researchers have a profile page with information about their educational background, department and institution affiliation, research interests, grants, publications etc., this information can be considered metadata about a researcher. Looking specifically at metadata for outputs there are three main types:

  • Descriptive metadata - which describes the output for discovery and identification and can include; title, creators, abstract, keywords, journal title, DOI and many more.
  • Structural metadata - indicates how compound objects inter-relate, for example how pages should be ordered in a book.
  • Administrative metadata - provides information on how the output should be managed, includes date of creation, file type and other technical information. It also describes the intellectual property rights of the item, such as who owns the copyright, and any metadata required for the long term preservation of the item.

Most publishers produce metadata for items they publish and this metadata is then passed an array of services. For journal items the metadata is harvested by Web of Science, Scopus and other indexing services, as well as by Google and Library catalogues like Warwick's Encore service. Book metadata is harvested by bookseller services, libraries and data aggregators. Open Access repositories like the Warwick Research Archive (WRAP) create, harvest and disseminate metadata as widely as possible as part of their role in showcasing Warwick research. The software used for WRAP is specifically optimised to allow its metadata to be easily discovered and indexed by Google and the team undertake work to enhance and expand the metadata supplied by publishers and researchers for better rankings and discoverablity.

Metadata is what drives most of the search engines and discovery platforms for research. All of the services that create metadata, including researchers need to be aware of what the metadata says, as Emerald Publishing's guide for authors puts it:

"The online environment presents researchers with a huge amount of choice in their search for relevant articles. As an author, it is important to remember that your article is competing for attention alongside other articles and online resources." [2]

Search engines pick up on the metadata in the html headers of web pages, online resources and blog posts and use it to rank these pages in the search. Other services like the OpenURL system that drives link resolvers like SFX and Webbridge use the data to match up metadata on articles with Library holdings to help researchers access articles and e-books subscribed to by the University with little effort to the researcher. Metadata is also used as a way of telling people and machines what they have permission to do with your research once they have found it and to allow you to make an assessment about the quality of the item.

So what to researchers need to consider when creating metadata for their journal articles, blog posts, websites or journals? Below are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Short titles - the more words in the title the less likely it is to be download, odd but true [2]
  • Keywords - use tags and keywords that your audience will understand, but try to make sure to write out any acronyms at least once. Repeating keywords in the title and abstract (but not in the same place) will increase visibility to a search engine [2], [3]
  • Consistency - when using keywords or tags try to be consistent as well as descriptive in the way you use those tags. Most blogging software and tools like Evernote will help you by presenting you a list of tags to choose from. This is especially important in blogs that have a number of contributers to keep things organised.
  • Synonyms - when writing an abstract if you have used your key term once, consider using a synonym in later sentences, partially to avoid repetition and to allow users who might have chosen to use a different term to find your work.
  • Identifiers - these are vital as they give people an easy way to share your work! Publishers do this for articles with Digital Object Identifers (DOIs). Open access databases create an unique permanent URL for each article (e.g. http://wrap.warwick.ac.uk/43230/) and some, like WRAP for Warwick researchers, create one for each member of staff (http://wrap.warwick.ac.uk/view/author_id/). Most blog software generates a unique URL for each post as well.
  • Be comprehensive - when people are adding metadata to objects the temptation can be to add only the 'required' fields, but everything (and anything) you put into the metadata can be used as a way for search engines to find your research so consider spending a little more time on it and giving your audience as many chances as possible to find your research.
  • External services - if you are publishing your own journal consider submitting the metadata to other indexing services. Some services, like Web of Science and Scopus have tight criteria on what they index but these services are the great at disseminating journal content as they are places people use to find information. If your journal is open access, listing it in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is useful as the service now holds records from just under 8000 journals and is growing every day. If you have a working paper series listing them, or even hosting them, in an open access archive, such as SSRN, RePEc or WRAP for Warwick based series' is a quick way to benefit from wider dissemination and in WRAP's case enhanced metadata.

References:

  1. Ruffilo, Nick (2011) "Five Degrees Of Metadata: Small Changes Can Mean Big Sales" Publishers Weekly Soapbox.
  2. Emerald Publishing "How to... increase online readership of your article"
  3. Wiley Blackwell "Optimizing Your Article for Search Engines"
  4. Getting your Journal Indexed (A SPARC Guide)

June 06, 2012

Open Access costs – can you get a discount?

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/library/research/instrep/oaw/royalsoc

University of Warwick authors can now get discounts on Open Access (OA) publishing fees, from the Royal Society.

The Library has recently entered into an agreement to save you 25% on the open access charges for any Royal Society journal. If your article is accepted for publication, you will be asked to identify yourself as part of a member institution, resulting in the 25% discount being applied upon payment.

Details of the scheme can be found on the Royal Society website or on the Library’s website.

Note that this is not the only scheme available: we also have a BioMed Central subscription to entitle you to a discount on OA fees, and Wellcome Trust funded authors at Warwick also have a fund to cover their OA fees.


May 02, 2012

Guest post by Sam Johnson: Funded by the Wellcome Trust? Get funding for open access publishing fees

Today’s post is from Sam Johnson, Academic Support Librarian for Life Sciences, Medicine & Psychology, and the University of Warwick’s main contact for information about funding to cover the publication fees of Wellcome Trust-funded research.


Are you working on or have you recently completed research funded by the Wellcome Trust?
You will be aware that you are obliged to publish your research in an open access (OA) publication, so that anyone can access and read your findings in full text. OA costs can be quite considerable and in recognition of this, the Wellcome Trust has given the University a sum of money to support the open access publication of its research.

Why Open Access Publishing?
The aim of open access publishing is to disseminate research as widely as possible and to make the full text of current research easily available to anyone in the world. Open access publishing also helps to raise the impact of your research and your own research profile by making it more visible and easily accessible. Whilst OA is great news in terms of generating visibility for your research, the OA publication costs are the responsibility of the author/s and they can be quite significant..

The Wellcome Trust, along with most research funders, have an OA policy that mandates that their funded research is disseminated as widely as possible to maximise the impact and value of the findings. For more information see their Author’s FAQs.

Apply for OA Wellcome funding
Please email Samantha.A.Johnson@warwick.ac.uk for an application form. This will then be forwarded to Research Support Services for processing. Applications will need to come in soon as the funding needs to be spent by the end of September.


March 21, 2012

Finding journal articles when we have no subscription

Warwick has a large and excellent collection of journal subscriptions but we don't subscribe to every journal! I sometimes find myself giving this same advice to PhD students, about finding journal articles in full text when we have no subscription to the journal(s) that they want access to.

If there are particular journal articles that you want access to, then you might be able to find some for free by searching on Google. In my experience, Google is better than Google Scholar at finding open access articles, if you already know article title and author to search by. Another place to look for open access versions of journal articles would be on a repository cross-searching tool like BASE for open access early versions of the articles.

Students can also complete document supply requests, with the support of a supervisor. Or if you can find a library which subscribes to a print version of the journal then you could possibly arrange to visit that library (see the Library advice page on Using other Libraries). COPAC is a good website to use, to find out about other libraries’ holdings, as it is a union catalogue of a number of UK research libraries.


February 10, 2012

High acceptance rates & any almost any topic: bulk publishing journals

My thoughts on a new breed of online journals...

SAGE Open and Springer Plus look to me like similar journals the PLoS One model (both were launched relatively recently). PLoS One was launched in 2006: 6 years ago, and it has an impact factor of around 4. Not bad, but is the bulk publishing model something that has worked for the science and medicine community but might not work in other disciplines?

PLoS One are said to have a 70% acceptance rate, and Springer Plus are currently tweeting about how they publish on any topic, but they are also publishing in the sciences. SAGE Open are for the social sciences and humanities in general, and all three of these journals charge authors fees of around $1000.

PLoS claim to discount or waive the fee if the researcher cannot pay, and Springer Plus also offer discounts for those from low income countries. SAGE Open are cheapest of the three, at $700 and are offering an introductory author discount rate at the moment of $395… but who is going to pay, with what?!

We don't have a central authors' fund at Warwick. I'm not sure what the latest news is from institutions that have tried them, but I did hear a while ago that they were under-used by authors.

BioMed Central also publish journals on open access with fees set at journal title level: most in the region of $2000, but the library’s subscription entitles authors to a 50% discount. This is an area for me to investigate in future, because we do get stats from BMC about authors' take up of that discount... and that might be an indication of authors' willingness to use a central fund in some way. That and the handful of enquiries that reach me each year.

But are the biomedical sciences different? The Wellcome Trust not only mandate that research outputs should be made available on OA, but that the publisher should be paid to do this. They pay for it: we have a Wellcome Trust fund at Warwick, for authors whose work is funded by them. Another possible indicator of authors' interest in central funds to investigate... So one major funder could be forcing the publishing environment, and publishers like BioMed Central (incidentally, part of the Springer stable) and PLoS are able to charge fees and get them paid.

So, I also need to watch what funders in the other disciplines are mandating.

What is different about PLoS One and Sage Open and Springer Plus though, is not that they are open access journals which charge authors a fee, but it is their lack of subject specificity which interests me… bulk publishing is a model that would not work if you’re charging traditional subscription fees, but it potentially works on the digital, OA environment.

Lots more space to watch!


January 17, 2012

Open Access briefing paper from SCONUL

Writing about web page http://www.sconul.ac.uk/news/OAbriefing/OA_impact_briefing.pdf

Alma Swan's latest briefing paper for the Research Libraries UK and SCONUL is available online. It has some great little graphs showing the citation advantage of open access publication for those in Engineering, Clinical Medicine and the Social Sciences. Also, a case study of the effect on citations of deposit in an institutional, open access repository, of an author's works.

The paper also explains the value of an open access repository in supporting the impact of research work, making the scientific findings and resources available to the public, helping to engage lay people in "citizen science" projects like Galaxy Zoo.

The briefing also discusses the value of OA to a knowledge-based economy, and it is a great, brief overview of all these topics.


November 08, 2011

A Data Management tutorial

Writing about web page http://datalib.edina.ac.uk/mantra/

The University of Edinburgh have produced this tutorial for PhD students on research data management, which is free for all to use...

To quote from the introduction: "The course content is mainly geared for three disciplines: geosciences, social and political sciences and clinical psychology, however, many of the issues covered apply equally to all research disciplines."

Each unit is designed to take one hour and there are 8 units, so it's a substantial course, involving data handling exercises. A couple of the units appear to still be in progress, but I guess if you start it now, then maybe these will be completed by the time you get to them!


August 30, 2011

Publishing and Open Access discussions

A recent posting on a mailing list I belong to highlighted the following article by George Monbiot:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/29/academic-publishers-murdoch-socialist

He makes an impressive case about the need for reform of scholarly communications, and there is plenty of debate in the comments section at the end of it!

Many people believe that open access is the aswer, and a set of briefing papers from Nottingham's Centre for Research Communications (CRC) has also crossed my desktop recently. I rather like the one from Salford's VC, Martin Hall:

http://crc.nottingham.ac.uk/projects/rcs/OA-Beyond_the_Numbers.pdf

None of this is new, and many of us have been working towards effecting changes in our own ways for years. Some of the comments on the end of Monbiot's article discuss whether 90% of articles can be found in full text online already. There are disciplinary differences and there are secrets to discovering the stuff that is out there. Google Scholar doesn't index papers on Mendeley, as I mentioned in this blog last week. Google itself indexes a lot more of the web than Google Scholar does, but you do have to know what you're looking for and be skilled in searching because it indexes a lot of non-scholarly stuff. And there are other places than Google to search, of course!

There is an "information divide" in terms of those attached to Universities (and therefore journals subscriptions) but also in terms of those with information skills. High level information skills will help you to find stuff if it is out there. It isn't really obvious at the moment what is out there... and publishers are pretty good at making sure that you find their stuff!


August 22, 2011

Academic Search Engine Optimisation

Writing about web page http://dx.doi.org/10.3998/3336451.0013.305

I've linked to this article: J. Beel and B Gipp, 'Academic Search Engine Spam and Google Scholar's Resilience Against it', Journal of Electronic Publishing, 13 (3), 2010

The article discusses possibilities for academic search engine optimisation, and what happens when this becomes spamming activity. It has a very neat description of how people go about spamming search engines, and it considers some of the ways that scholars can manipulate academic search engines.

If (like me) you aren't already aware of all these nefarious techniques, then the article will be an eye-opener! The researchers experimented on Google Scholar, using the following approaches:

  • "When creating an article, an author might place invisible text in it. This way, the article later might appear more relevant for certain keyword searches than it actually is."
  • "A researcher could modify his own or someone else’s article and upload it to the Web. Modifications could include the addition of additional references, keywords, or advertisements."
  • "A manipulating researcher could create complete fake papers that cite his or her own articles, to increase rankings, reputation, and visibility."

I find it interesting that three of the sites they used in their manipulation were Mendeley, Academia.edu and ResearchGate. I've blogged about these sites and their ilk before and I've suggested to researchers that having details about their work on these sites would help them raise their profiles on the Web. The article says that only the papers uploaded to academia.edu were crawled and indexed by Google Scholar... which is kind of good news for the robustness of Google Scholar. And also an indication that for those searching for full text versions of articles on the web that they should go directly to the kinds of sites which might hold them (I do recommend Mendeley), and not only rely on search engines.

After reading this article, I want to know how to go about modifying a journal article after it has been published (including those not your own!), in order to add references. The authors didn't go into detail about how to do that, but you can imagine the havoc it would play with Google Scholar's citation scores if we were all doing it!

I note that the authors described the journal 'Epidemiology' as "a reputable journal by the publisher JSTOR". JSTOR is not a publisher, it is a content aggregator. 'Epidemiology' is published by Wolters Kluwer. It probably takes a librarian to know this, and I wonder whether it is relevant anyway. It could be a deliberate faux pas on the part of the authors, because it kind of illustrates their point that people don't know where content online is coming from! And the authors are right that a journal available on JSTOR is a reputable academic title.

The discussion section of the paper describes that it is a lot of effort to spam academic search engines, that the benefit is not immediate or measurable for academics, and that academics are unlikely to undertake such work because their reputation is so valuable and could be permanently damaged if a search engine were to ban all his/her articles once spamming activity was discovered. The authors raise the matter of whether a journal or conference might engage in search engine spamming: they don't mention academic institutions, but I believe that Universities could also have a motivation.

I do worry about where we draw the line between authors or journals raising their profile in legitimage ways, and where spamming begins. I have long advised authors to include key words in their article titles because of the way journal indexing tools work in ranking results, and this seems to me to make good sense from both a "discovery optimisation" point of view and from an academic accuracy perspective. I also believe that self-citation is a good idea, in that I think false modesty is pointless and potentially damaging, but authors ought to know whether their earlier work is relevant to their latest article or not, and how well such practice is accepted in their own field and therefore be able to self-cite with caution.

The big question about all such profile raising practices, for me, is how far should we go? This article doesn't give the answer, but it describes an awful lot more about what could be done. They also conclude by suggesting: "the academic community needs to decide what actions are appropriate and when academic search engine optimization ends and academic search engine spam begins."


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