Alerts are really helpful and (alt)metrics are interesting but academic communities are key to building new knowledge.

Some time ago, I set Google Scholar to alert me if anyone cited one of the papers I’ve authored. I recommend that academic authors should do this on Scopus and Web of Science too. I forgot all about it until yesterday, when an alert duly popped into my e-mail.

It is gratifying to see that someone has cited you (& perhaps an occasional reminder to update the h-index on your CV), but more importantly, it alerts you to papers in your area of interest. This is the paper I was alerted to:

José Luis Ortega (2015) Relationship between altmetric and bibliometric indicators across academic social sites: The case of CSIC’s members. Journal of Informetrics, Volume 9, Issue 1, Pages 39-49 doi: 10.1016/j.joi.2014.11.004

I don’t have a subscription to ScienceDirect so I couldn’t read it in full there, but it does tell me the research highlights:

  • Usage and social indicators depend on their own social sites.
  • Bibliometric indices are independent and therefore more stable across services.
  • Correlations between social and usage metrics regarding bibliometric ones are poor.
  • Altmetrics could not be a proxy for research evaluation, but for social impact of science.

and of course, the abstract:

This study explores the connections between social and usage metrics (altmetrics) and bibliometric indicators at the author level. It studies to what extent these indicators, gained from academic sites, can provide a proxy for research impact. Close to 10,000 author profiles belonging to the Spanish National Research Council were extracted from the principal scholarly social sites: ResearchGate, Academia.edu and Mendeley and academic search engines: Microsoft Academic Search and Google Scholar Citations. Results describe little overlapping between sites because most of the researchers only manage one profile (72%). Correlations point out that there is scant relationship between altmetric and bibliometric indicators at author level. This is due to the almetric ones are site-dependent, while the bibliometric ones are more stable across web sites. It is concluded that altmetrics could reflect an alternative dimension of the research performance, close, perhaps, to science popularization and networking abilities, but far from citation impact.

I found a fuller version of the paper on Academia.edu and it is indeed an interesting read. I’ve read other papers that look specifically at altmetric and bibliometric scores for one particular journal’s articles, or articles from within one discipline. I like the larger scale of this study, and the conclusions make sense to me.

And my paper that it cites? A co-authored one that Brian Kelly presented at the Open Repositories 2012 conference.

Kelly, B., & Delasalle, J. (2012). Can LinkedIn and Academia.edu Enhance Access to Open Repositories? In: OR2012: the 7th International Conference on OpenRepositories, Edinburgh, Scotland.

It is also a paper that is on Academia.edu. I wonder if that’s partly why it was discovered and cited? The alt- and biblio-metrics for that paper are not likely to be high (I think of it as embryonic work, for others to build on), but participation in an online community is still a way to spread the word about what you’ve investigated and found, just like attending a conference.

Hence the title of this blog post. I find the alert useful to keep my knowledge up to date, and the citation gives me a sense of being part of the academic community, which is why I find metrics so interesting. What they tell the authors themselves is of value, beyond any performance measurement or quality signalling aspects.

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