Being able to return to my blog for the first time in a while is truly enjoyable, and I want to share about a content hack session that I was a part of yesterday. Here goes.
Facilitating a session on the Science track at the Mozilla Festival in London, Michelle Brook and I worked with a group of interested folks to craft some basic information about how new folks can quickly learn about alternative metrics for science.
More specifically, we spent a little over two hours identifying ways to use the web to measure the “impact” of research outputs: published journal articles, Github repositories, slideshows, and more. A metric that rates only journals (as opposed to individual articles or other outputs), impact factor has remained extremely important for researchers seeking prestige through publication. Simply put, publishing in research journals that have a high impact factor (which usually are expensive and closed access by default) is an activity that many researchers consider the way to have their work seen and cited more, gaining and maintaining prestige in their academic fields. As a way of looking beyond this traditional value system, a handful of tools have emerged that give us insight into the influence that individual research outputs (and related research products) hold that has been enabled by the web. Referred to as altmetrics, these can reveal social shares (Twitter, G+, etc), page views, blog references/citations, and other online mentions of digital objects that impact factor does not consider in its value calculation. Innovative scientific research might be found, shared, and built on more quickly if all research outputs were considered, and if their perceived value included distributed activity on the web.
In the session, a handful of volunteers helped us identify what the basic elements of understanding altmetrics tools are. We looked at three different tools: PLOS Article Level Metrics (ALM), Altmetric, and ImpactStory, comparing the ways they allow us to gain insight about activity on the web around research objects. Each tool has its own advantages, quirks, and limitations, but as free web-based tools go, all proved useful in describing the various flavors online influence. The goal of the session was to craft a few walk-throughs that could get newcomers up to speed on what altmetrics tools can do, and how to begin playing with them. Ideally, tutorials like these could be adapted into lessons we could include in the Open Science: An Introduction course in the School of Open, one of Creative Commons’ Open Education initiatives.
So what did we make? Being that most of the folks who joined us the session had a background in science, a good chunk of time was spent plugging in DOIs of research articles and URLS of other outputs that the participants had published themselves. Not surprising, more than one person in the session discovered downloads and conversations about their work that they were unaware of. It was pretty awesome. We took notes in an Etherpad and a Google doc while walking through the tools, which Michelle and I are planning to wrangle into a format that will help self-learners give these tools a go. This set of content will be openly licensed (CC BY) and fit inside a lesson we can connect to the Open Science course, adding a new hands-on component we’ll have on deck the next time the course is offered.
Thanks to Michelle, and all the wonderful folks that came and did some exploring of tools for science on the web. Looking forward to similar efforts in the future!