Fun with Metrics
Writing about web page https://exchanges.warwick.ac.uk/issue/view/27
Today I’ve been having a quick exploration of the numbers around the most recent couple of issues of Exchanges. Metrics are for (most) journals a hotly contested topic, with their value quantitatively established and promoted with profound pride by editors and publishers alike. Regular readers of this blog will be aware than I’m from the qualitative school of research and have some deep ideological objections to the metrification and quantisation of academic publication, and consequential transformation in a highly fetishised quasi-market mode. Ahem. To read more on this topic, see my publications or come and have a chat with me, although I cannot promise not to get onto my soapbox!
Personally, I’d rather see the valorisation of an article through post-publication discourse in the social and public spheres, than watch the uptick of citations or downloads. However, for most of our authors and readers alike metrics and journal publications, love ‘em or loathe ‘em, are intrinsically linked. I can appreciate being able to see how people are reading the work author’s have slaved over for months, in an employment sector often detached from tangible esteem measures, can be a key personal satisfier.
As an editor-in-chief too, I confess I do get a little frisson of delight watching the download statistics slowly (and not so slowly) grow post-publication . For the authors, seeing these figures climb mean people are at the very least reading their publications, although how they are using it, citing it, teaching from it, learning from it, remain to be elicited. As a journal publisher, it helps me to promote the journal as a publication destination for future authors, and to answer questions to my employers about the continued viability of the title.
In recent issues of Exchanges, we’ve shifted to include more ways within articles to recognise and identify authors, notably ORCIDs, twitter handles and biographical sketches. This means it has become easier to spot a portion of the buzz around an issue and its concomitant articles. Certainly, Vol 7.2 (Cannibalism Special Issue) has generated a highly visible amount of discussion following its publication, which I hope will continue as more people read the issue . Including author twitter handles means I’m at least able to observe part of these conversations, even though monitoring discussions within departments, conferences and the like isn’t practical. I fervently hope this most exciting issue will continue to receive a suitably wide discussion, as we continue our promotional efforts over the next few weeks .
But back to my original point: metrics. I was curious this morning, now we’re just over 10 days post publication, to see how the issue was progressing. So, I ran some quick, back-of-the-envelope calculations to contrast v7.2’s readership numbers with the preceding issue. Here’s what I found.
Table 1: Download stats/article for the two most recent issues of Exchanges 
|Issue||V7.2 (Cannibalism)||V7.1 (Regular issue)|
This is by no means conclusive but these numbers suggest the level of interest in this issue is potentially above the norm for Exchanges. If this degree of reader engagement continues, it wouldn’t surprise me if after 100 days post-publication most of this issue’s articles will have developed an especially commendable download rate. Kudos to the authors, who through being associated with such a broad, critical mass of learned discourse, will be able to reap additional benefits. I’ll certainly endeavour to return down the line to see if my assumptions are being met.
Additionally, this also suggests how adopting a publication mode which embraces more special issues such as this one can be considerably beneficial to Exchanges health and longevity as well. The more readers we garner, the more likely people will cite the articles, helping enhance the title’s valorisation and recognition, which in turn encourages more submissions. As the managing EIC, right now, I couldn’t be more delighted with how all these efforts have turned out. Even if it has substantially increased my own workload!
 Incidentally, my own IP is masked from the stats, so it doesn’t matter how many times I open or download an article to check something, my interactions aren’t actually counted. But then, I’ve already read each article a handful of times already on its journey to publication…
 I’m still keen to develop post-publication commenting functions for readers and authors on our journal site, but currently, am awaiting an update to the platform before I can make any strides in this direction. If you’re one of our readers, authors or reviewers and you’d like to see article comments; drop me a line – as the more people who ask, the more I can lobby my lovely technical team to devote some time to it!
 Another medium-to-long-term goal is to introduce altmetrics scores for each article, to try and capture a value for how ‘talked about’ each issue is in the public domain. Watch this space for details as soon as I have them, but I can assure you, this is one of my ‘top 5’ goals for Exchanges in 2020.
 V7.2: 11 days post-publication, V7.1, 101 days post-publication