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January 25, 2013

Sharing metrics relating to articles

Writing about web page http://altmetrics.org/manifesto/

This time last year, PLoS started to display even more article level metrics. I felt intrigued by the openness about article downloads on PLoS. It led me to wonder whether other publishers were sharing such information so publicly.

Repository tools are available to display accesses for articles in the repository, as at the Bath University repository in this record of a journal article. Some repositories have chosen not to make such statistics publicly visible, however.

I don't see many publishers publicly displaying article level metrics like this, but publishers do sometimes showcase the most downloaded content publicly on their website. For example Springer journal home pages display their most downloaded articles: see the journal Artificial Intelligence

Other publishers share download statistics with the authors, although not publicly displaying them on article records. For example, Nature describe this as a benefit to their authors.

I'd be glad to hear of other examples of publishers displaying these download statistics. I think that authors should be able to monitor activity around their papers for themselves, and I wonder if there is a role for such statistics in helping our readers to ascertain the highest quality papers.

However, I am slightly cautious about download statistics being publicly visible because there are often many versions of a journal article available: on the author's website, on the publisher website and in a repository, for example. And I think that all of these versions should be available because this provides an insurance and archival possibility for authors as well as additional discovery and access options for readers, but that a focus on download statistics could lead authors to become wary of sharing their articles in so many places.

The Internet allows us to create lots of metrics about a researcher or a work, as evidenced by all the altmetrics activity (see my link, above). But just because a measure exists, should it be publicly visible? How should we use these new measures? My own answer is "with caution" and indeed that the author is best placed to make use of the download statistics, because the author will be best able to understand what they mean.


January 08, 2013

Some Twitter tips for the New Year

I've heard it said that:

You get the Twitter feed that you deserve!

The key to using Twitter effectively is to know who you want to listen to and be in discussions with. There is nothing inherently frivolous about Twitter itself, it's just that you do need to be brief and that can lead to spontaneity and frivolity but equally, you can spend a long time crafting a perfect 140 character tweet to express your idea in as brief a way as possible.

Twitter is a great way to get a summary or overview of what's going on in your field, if you follow people who do craft their tweets carefully. Twitter is not only a great way to listen to those people but also to interact with them: you can publicly tweet at people who you want to reach and you can tweet directly at people who follow you, for a private conversation.

If you can't find the right people then you could always start tweeting on your topic yourself, and others will find you. It's worth investigating the profiles of people who follow you on Twitter, to see if you might want to follow them back.

And if you find you're not following the right people after all, well you can clear out your twitter feed and unfollow people here or there. It's up to you to create and curate your own experience of Twitter!


December 12, 2012

Where is my most up to date profile?

Writing about web page http://scholar.google.co.uk/citations

I have blogged about author profile sites a number of times. I've investigated quite a few of them, and I've not properly invested in my own profile on any of them. So as a totally unscientific measure of the ease and useability of the many sites where I could have put my profile, I thought I would look at my own profile on these sites to see which one is the most complete, in terms of the listing of publications I have authored!

And the winner is: Google Scholar! http://scholar.google.co.uk/citations

The truly surprising thing here is that this is the profile site I have invested least in. I haven't even blogged about it properly!


December 05, 2012

What do publishers do for authors?

Is there an advantage to setting up your own journal or publishing your work online yourself? What do journal publishers actually do for authors? Since RCUK funded authors are soon to be paying large sums of money for OA publication of their articles, where is the value for that spend? This piece explores a little bit of what publishers do.

The Finch report has highlighted the need for publishers to be able to continue to invest in publishing innovations. On page 51, it states that

Access on its own does not necessarily make for effective communication.

and on p95 it says that

Quality assurance through peer review coupled with the wide range of discovery, navigation, linking and related services provided by publishers... are of critical importance to both authors and users of research publications.

Back in 1997, Fytton Rowland described four functions of a scholarly journal:

  1. dissemination - publishing and marketing activity.
  2. quality - this is where editorial, peer review and quality assurance come in.
  3. canonical version - a work that others can refer to. Involves archiving, issuing DOIs and ISSNs, etc.
  4. recognition & credit for the authors.

In my view, the recognition authors want is quite often tied to the dissemination and quality activity. If your peers don't know about your article (the dissemination hasn't been good enough) then the recognition and credit can't follow. If the journal you are published in is not one of the high quality ones then it follows that the audience and recognition you might get for being published there might be less. Although if your work is of high quality itself then it might help to raise the perceived quality of a publication.

Authors have told me that they want the following things from a publisher:

  1. To edit and improve their work.
  2. Bestow prestige on their work.
  3. Publicise their work & bring them an audience. The audience they want might be scholars or a broader reach, leading to "impact".
  4. Protect their work against plagiarism.
  5. A perpetual record of their work.
  6. Money: probably more applicable to book deals but for journals, at least the author won't want it to cost them a huge amount to publish.
  7. Timeliness: some authors want their work published as soon as possible.

I daresay that the list could grow a lot longer for some and be shorter for others, but essentially authors often have to balance their needs when choosing where to publish.

Earlier this year (2012) Jason Priem described a "de-coupled" journal" and how the journal system could be reformed to provide essential functions of:

  • archiving : relates to "canonical version", in Rowland's list above.
  • registration : relates to "recognition", above.
  • dissemination : also mentioned above.
  • certification : relates to the quality function, above.

The concept of a de-coupled journal is one where there is more variety in how each of the different functions are provided, so that they might not all come from the publisher. Eg archiving might be shared with repositories which store a preservation copy. Dissemination activity can be carried out by authors themselves. The online environment brings a variety of channels and services that authors can use, beyond the traditional publishing system.

I wanted to explore more of what publishers do:

Filter for quality: co-ordinating the peer review process

Editors provide one layer of a quality filter, and then the peer reviewers provide the next level. Editors and peer reviewers refine and polish articles for publication, so they also enhance articles in terms of their quality.

Managing a journal and co-ordinating the quality process is no small task, even when the peer reviewers and editors work for free. The authors need instructions, the editors benefit from tracking tools to monitor where peer reviewers are at in the process and to chase peer reviewers. Copyediting and proof reading tasts need to be carried out. Digital media or associated data might also need corrections and modifications to the way they display.

There are lots of experiments with the peer review process:

Is there a role for more post-publication peer review? eg F1000 offers this. Accessible science might need to be more peer reviewed than science that is only for sharing within the academic sphere, where researchers are able to assess quality for themselves owing to their expertise, whilst members of the public and amateur experts might not be as well able to assess the quality of articles they find.

Many journals publish articles with a comments field at the bottom, rather like on blogs, but relatively few articles attract worthwhile comments. Journals (eg PLoSONE) sometimes publish information on downloads, "tweets" and "likes" for their articles, so that readers can use those measures as post-publication quality markers, too.

Alternatively, peer review could take place even before an author submits an article: American Journal Experts offer a pre-submission peer review service, for a fee. It could save you time if you have the money to spend and the process is indeed rigorous and helpful, since they promise turnaround times of days.

Dealing with ethical concerns

Pre-publication, the ethical concerns could be said to be a part of the quality filtering process. Before publication, publishers:

  • issue instructions to authors
  • use editors and peer review to screen articles,
  • require authors to sign agreements.

Editors need to be experienced and knowledgeable in their field to identify ethical concerns. Scientific "mis-conduct" is not defined in exact terms and practices might vary. Ethical considerations might include:

  • the work of others is properly acknowledged, credited and referenced.
  • data should be accurate and preserved and accessible - as appropriate.
  • the article should be complete and publication well timed (eg results not being shared prematurely).
  • co-authorship is properly attributed.
  • confidentiality is respected and maintained.

Publishers are not the only filter for ethical considerations, of course: such issues are included in grant proposals to research funders and the process by which they are reviewed. Institutions might have ethical review panels to approve grant proposals even before they are submitted to the research funders.

After publication, publishers might use retractions or corrections to deal with ethical concerns. This is perhaps more of a service to readers than to authors, but it does help to maintain a journal's prestige if ethical matters are dealt with professionally.

ALPSP's Learned Publishing journal from April 2011 features an article about ethical considerations. Advice from the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) is particularly useful and well presented, with flowcharts.

Dissemination & discoverability

An earlier guest post on this blog, by Yvonne Budden, describes the importance of metadata to resource discovery. By providing good quality metadata, publishers are bringing readers to the article you have written, and helping you to find articles that you should be reading.

Search Engine Optimisation seems to me a "dark art" but it is important for scholarly articles to be discoverable through Google and Google Scholar: that's where a lot of researchers will be looking for stuff.

Some publishers are huge and they build and market their own discovery platforms for scholarly articles. Other publishers ensure that their content is indexed in others' discovery environments. Most publishers offer table of contents alerts.

Publishers have staff dedicated to marketing and sales, helping to ensure that their work reaches key target audiences. Perhaps in an Author-pays OA world, sales staff will be selling the services on offer to authors rather than the services offered to subscribers and readers. Marketing staff will be building the prestige of the publisher and journal brands.

Journal publishers should monitor the audiences for their publications and ensure that their material is discoverable in the places where people are looking for it, in the way(s) that they like to search.

International copyright protection?

In my view, authors are concerned that others should not copy their work without attribution but this is more a question of plagiarism. I don't think they mind about the actual copying so long as they are credited. With the RCUK policy on Open Access, the articles that they pay Gold OA fees for should be made available for others to copy for any purpose, as long as the work is properly attributed, using the so-called CC-BY licence. With such a licence, the copyright is not something to be protected.

I'm also not sure to what extent publishers pursue copyright internationally when they own it and don't licence copying, and I expect a variety of practice between publishers and from one nation to the next. After all, copyright law must vary on an international scale. So I'm leaving my big question mark in the heading of this piece!

Awards schemes that they run or sponsor

See my earlier blog post on Journal awards for examples of the kinds of award schemes that publishers might offer... or indeed put their journals forward for.

Awards act as a route to recognition but also as a way of building prestige of a journal if at the title level and from an external and prestigious source.

Open Access repository deposit

Research which has been funded by the Wellcome Trust has to have outputs deposited into Pubmed Central: authors who pay a fee for the Gold Open Access route, which the Wellcome Trust will pay for, can have publishers make this deposit on their behalf.

Publishers sometimes also allow authors to make deposits. The Sherpa ROMEO tool makes it easy to look up publishers' policies on repository deposit by authors, although authors really ought to keep copies of the agreements they sign with publishers as these will be the legally binding expectations, rather than the publisher's latest policy.

Summary

In summary then, it seems to me that publishers should be doing the following things for authors:

  • co-ordinate the editorial and peer review process to filter for quality and also polish works.
  • provide instructions and support to authors, peer reviewers and editors.
  • build the reputation and prestige of their titles through professional handling of ethical concerns.
  • provide quality metadata to the right search tools.
  • ensure that their content is easily discoverable on the web via search engines.
  • measure downloads and activity around articles: this could be used to enhance their dissemination activity but could also be used as a further mark of quality if displayed to readers.
  • adapt to the OA and copyright needs of researchers as authors and readers.
  • provide authors with clear agreements and keep SherpaROMEO's records up to date.
  • offer awards and put their journals forward for awards, by way of offering recognition for authors and building prestige for their journals.
  • invest in publishing innovations... which could be around any of the themes above.

It's quite daunting to think of setting up a journal and doing all this yourself. Do leave a comment and let me know all the things I've missed out!


November 08, 2012

"Just About" New YouTube channel of our tips for researchers

We are creating short video clips of the best tips we give to researchers in our information skills workshops, on literature searching and disseminating your research. The series is called "Just about" as the clips are about 3 minutes long and they are each about one particular tip.


October 09, 2012

Which index measures your research?

I recently compiled a little list of measures like the h-index, intended to measure the performance of individual authors. Have I missed out your favourite(s)? Which one(s) do you like and why? How should they be used? (Or not used!)

Personally, I like the h-index best because it is well established and relatively simple to understand. However, it needs to be expressed along with the date and the data source used. Any of these measures ought to be presented along with some explanation and/or examples of well known researchers' scores, to give it context. Sometimes, researchers are asked for their h-index, but if their g-index or m-index score is more impressive, then why not give that too?

h-index – an author with an index of h has published h papers each of which has been cited in other papers at least h times: there’s a great Wikipedia article about it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H-index

g-index – while the top h papers can have many more citations than the h-index would suggest, the g-index is the highest number g of papers that together received g squared or more citations. This means that the g-index score will be higher than that of the h-index. (I found this explanation at: http://www.researchtrends.com/issue1-september-2007/from-h-to-g/ )

m-index (aka m-quotient) - h/n, where n is the number of years since the first published paper of the scientist. (supposedly handy to differentiate between authors of different vintage in the same discipline)

contemporary h-index –where younger papers accrue higher weightings for each citation, as calculated (and documented) on Publish or Perish (http://www.harzing.com/pophelp/metrics.htm#hcindex).

hI-index – This takes account of co-authorship also documented on Publish or Perish.

hI, norm index – see Publish or Perish

hm-index – see Publish or Perish

AWCR - see Publish or Perish

AWCRpA - see Publish or Perish

AW-index - see Publish or Perish

i10-index – Gscholar “My Citations” gives me this score: “i10-index is the number of publications with at least 10 citations. The second column has the "recent" version of this metric which is the number of publications that have received at least 10 new citations in the last 5 years.”

n-index - Researcher's h-index divided by the highest h-index of the journals of his/her major field of study (n is the first letter of Namazi) Proposed in an article at: http://dx.doi.org/10.4103/0378-6323.62960

A-index – average no. of citations in the article set that makes up the Hirsch core. (Hirsch core is the set of articles whose citation scores count towards the h-index score.) The muddled explanation is mine but you can read about it properly at: http://eprints.rclis.org/bitstream/10760/13282/1/hIndexReviewAlonsoCabrerizoHerrera-Viedma.pdf An excellent article reviewing these measures, published in 2009.

R-index - square root of the sum of citations in the Hirsch core (in the same article linked above!)

m-index – (yes, it looks like another type of m-index entirely & probably explains why the measure listed above is also known as the m-quotient) the median number of citations received by papers in the Hirsch core. See the article linked from my A-index explanation.

NB there are many other measures explained in that article, but by this point I gave up trying to understand them! I quote from the conclusion of that paper instead:

that many h-index variations, although being designed to overcome some of its supposed limitations, do indeed correlate quite heavily. This fact has made some researchers think that there is probably no need to introduce more h-index variations if it is not possible to prove that they are not redundant in real examples.”

The article also concludes: “h-index is quite dependant on the database that it is used and that, in general, it is much more difficult to compute those indices using Google Scholar than ISI Web of Science or Scopus.”

GScholar Metrics use different metrics again which sound like the h-index, but these are really aimed at publication level rather than the author… see: http://scholar.google.com/intl/en/scholar/metrics.html#metrics And indeed Scimago will give you an h-index for a publication, and others have calculated h-indexes and variations of h-indexes for departments and groups of authors.

So, which index has your vote?


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.


August 20, 2012

Is the LinkedIn “appearances in search” metric of interest to an academic author?

Follow-up to Who is interested in my online profile? from Library Research Support

LinkedIn recently emailed me details of who is looking at my profile. It reminds me of a previous blog post that I wrote, about who’s looking at my profile online: I often wonder if academic authors might find it valuable to track who is interested in their work.

LinkedIn told me how many profile views there have been in the last three months, how many “appearances in search” there have been, and who has been looking at my profile. I can see why it would be relevant for academic authors to see the details of others who have been looking at their profile: these might be other academics in the same field, so watching this measure is a bit like seeing who wants to listen to you at a conference. If, indeed, LinkedIn is a conference that you are attending!

I wondered what “appearances in search” meant, and found an explanation in some LinkedIn Q&As, that it is about my profile matching others’ search terms when they were not searching for my name specifically. Should academic authors be interested in this metric? I think probably not, and here is why!

I’m not 100% sure, but it seems to me that the “search” referred to must be the LinkedIn search box, on their own site. So these stats are also reflective of the amount of activity happening in LinkedIn. Since it’s not a dedicated, academic forum, our academics might not be too worried about LinkedIn activity.

If your discipline has some really active discussion groups on LinkedIn, or you wanted to generate interest in your work beyond the academic community and within the LinkedIn one (which is pretty large), then you might want to watch LinkedIn metrics more closely. You might want to see more of those search appearances being converted into profile views, as evidence that your work is relevant to that community, and as a channel to direct readers to your scholarly articles and other outputs. In order to do this, you would need to ensure that your profile describes your work accurately. But this is a good idea anyway, so I see no reason to pay attention to the number of “appearances in search”!

I blogged last time about Google Adwords but I must have had a free preview or something because I can’t find the same feature for free now. I often pop in to Google Analytics and Feedburner to see who is looking at my blog, and I regularly look at the stats for the Library’s Support for Research pages, and using these tools I can see who is looking at my site(s) and what keywords are bringing them there. These are far more rich and valuable to me than the LinkedIn stats, so I guess that they will be to academic authors, too.

But how nice of LinkedIn to send me the stats from time to time: it works for me as a reminder to update my profile!


August 02, 2012

What happens after you send off your article?

Well, at first maybe nothing! You might have to wait a long time: each journal will have different procedures and timescales, and there will be some practices that are more prevalent in each discipline, but here is a little list of the basic next steps that authors might come across.

1) Desk rejection: this is when your article is rejected without being sent for peer review. More and more journals are bringing in this initial filtering stage as they are being inundated with articles for review, and the peer review system is under pressure. Three basic ways to avoid this kind of rejection are:

  • read the journal's instructions and advice for authors and follow them!
  • make sure your writing and language is correct (and follows the conventions and instructions of the journal you are submitting to.)
  • make sure that your article is within the scope of that journal's remit, i.e. your content matches their subject area. You do need to choose the right journal to submit your article to.

The Construction Management and Economics forum has 30 tips on how to avoid a desk rejection!

2) Your article is sent off to referees, for peer review. There are differences in peer review processes, such as the number of peer reviewers, blind or double-blind review, editor's right to final decision, etc. Practices vary by discipline, but the basic possibilities are:

  • Open: both authors and reviewers know each other.
  • Blind: author doesn’t know reviewer.
  • Double blind: neither author nor reviewer are known to each other.

After the peer review then you might get one of the following responses:

  1. Accepted unconditionally (rare!)
  2. Accepted in the event that you improve it in certain ways,
  3. Invited to revise and re-submit. This might feel like a rejection but it is an opportunity! Beware of journals' advertised rejection and acceptance rates, which are unlikely to count this response as a rejection.
  4. Rejected with comments. Use these to refine your article and then submit the article to a different journal. Sometimes a different journal from the same publishing house might be suggested.

When considering how to respond to the peer reviewer's comments, there are three golden rules:
(1) respond completely;
(2) respond politely; and
(3) respond with evidence.

These are described in: Williams, Hywel C. (2004) How to reply to referees’ comments when submitting manuscripts for publication. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 51 (1). pp. 79-83.

At this stage, you might be asked to pay an article processing charge and to sign an authors' agreement, although you might have had to deal with these parts of the process at the submission stage. Charges are sometimes made for colour illustrations, for more pages than their limit, and/or for Open Access availability.

When your article has been accepted then consider your publisher's policy on repository deposit, along with your repository's ability to handle embardo periods. You might be able to put an open access version into your institutional repository.

3) Expect more waiting for your article proofs. When you get these, keep an eye on the deadline date for you to respond. If you have co-authors then you should share these with them, and perhaps give them a deadline too. Proofing corrections might be done on the manuscript itself, or in a separate document which refers to page and line numbers. Your proof reading is not just of your text, but of titles, figures, references, etc.

Sometimes the proof comes along with editorial queries for you to respond to: use these to make corrections. Note that proofing corrections should be minor.

4) After proofing and corrections, your publisher might make your article available online on their website.

5) Your article appears in the journal issue.

6) Marketing of your work: this is something you can do, as well as the activity that a publisher will do to market and sell their journal titles.

7) We hope that this won't happen, but there can also be subsequent procedures:

  • Erratum: production errors in your article that the journal publisher will issue a correction for.
  • Corrections: part of your article is flawed and the article is corrected.
  • Retractions: Serious flaws, ethical problems or erroneous data might lead to this. So might "redundant publication" where the publisher discovers that the author has published the same research findings elsewhere.

8) Someone cites your article! If you want to track these and the journal you have published with is indexed by Web of Knowledge, then investigate citation alert tracking on WoK. You can track citations on Google Scholar.


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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