How do researchers share articles? Some useful links

This is a topic that interests me: how do researchers choose what to read? Where are the readers on our platforms coming from, when we can’t track a source URL? What are researchers doing in collaboration spaces? (Research processes are changing fast in the Internet era.) Is journal article sharing that is taking place legal and/or ethical? I’m a big fan of Carol Tenopir‘s work investigating readers’ behaviours and I think there’s much to learn in this area. Sharing an article does not equate to it having been read, but it is a very interesting part of the puzzle of understanding scholarly communication.

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Usage is something that altmetrics are displaying (the altmetric.com donut has a section for “Readers” which incorporates information from Mendeley), and it’s just possible that usage would become a score to rival the impact factor, when evaluating journals. It does often seem to me like we’re on a quest for a mythical holy grail, when evaluating journals and criticising the impact factor!

Anyway, what can we know about article sharing? In my last blogpost I highlighted BrightTALK as a way to keep up to date with library themes. The LibraryConnect channel features many useful webinars & presentations (yes, I spoke at one of them), and I recently listened to a webinar on the theme of this blogpost’s title, which went live in December 2015. My notes & related links:

Suzie Allard of the University of Tennessee (colleague of Carol Tenopir) spoke about the “Beyond Downloads” project and their survey’s main takeaways. These include that nearly 74% of authors preferred email as a method of sharing articles. Authors may share articles to aid scientific discovery in general, to promote their own work, or indeed for other reasons, nicely illustrated in an infographic on this theme!

Lorraine Estelle of Project COUNTER spoke about the need for comprehensive and reliable data, and to describe just how difficult it is to gather such data. (I can see that tracking everyone’s emails won’t go down well!) There are obviously disciplinary and demographic differences in the way that articles are shared, and therefore read, and she listed nine ways of sharing articles:

  1. email
  2. internal networks
  3. the cloud
  4. reference managers
  5. learning manager
  6. research social networks
  7. general social networks
  8. blogs
  9. other

Lorraine also introduced some work that COUNTER are doing jointly with CrossREF: DOI tracking and Distributed Usage Logging that are definitely worth further reading and investigation!

Wouter Haak from Elsevier spoke about what you can see about readers of your articles on Mendeley’s dashboard, as an author. He also spoke about a prototype they are developing for libraries, on which institutions could see the countries where collaborations are taking place from within their own institution. More intriguingly (to me), he talked about a working group that he was part of, whereby major scientific publishers are apparently agreeing to support sharing of articles amongst researchers within collaboration groups, on platforms like Mendeley, Academia.edu and ResearchGate, which he describes as “Scholarly Collaboration Networks”. Through such a collaboration, the sharing activity across these platforms could all be tracked and reported on. Perhaps it is easier to lure researchers away from email than to track emails!

 

[Photo credit: Got Credit]

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Publish then publicise & monitor. Publication is not the end of the process!

Once your journal article or research output has been accepted and published, there are lots of things that you can do to spread the word about it. This blogpost has my own list of the top four ways you could do this (other than putting it on your CV, of course). I also recommend any biologists or visual thinkers to look at:
Lobet, Guillaume (2014): Science Valorisation. figsharehttp://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1057995
Lobet describes the process as “publish: identify yourself: communicate”, and points out useful tools along the way, including recommending that authors identify themselves in ORCID, ResearchGate, Academia.edu, ImpactStory and LinkedIn. (Such services can create a kind of online, public CV and my favourite for researchers is ORCID.) You may also find that your publisher offers advice on ways to publicise your paper further.

PUBLICISE

1) Talk about it! Share your findings formally at a conference. Mention it in conversations with your peers. Include it in your teaching.

2) Tweet about it! If you’re not on Twitter yourself (or even if you are!) then you could ask a colleague to tweet about it for you. A co-author or the journal editor or publisher might tweet about it, or you could approach a University press officer. If you tweet yourself then you could pin the tweet about your latest paper to your profile on Twitter.

3) Open it up! Add your paper to at least one Open Access repository, such as your institutional repository (they might also tweet about it). This way your paper will be available even to those who don’t subsribe to the journal. You can find an OA repository on ROAR or OpenDOAR. Each repository will have its own community of visitors and ways in which to help people discover your content, so you might choose more than one repository: perhaps one for your paper and one for data or other material associated with it. If you put an object into Figshare, for example, it will be assigned a DOI and that will be really handy for getting Altmetrics measures.

4)Be social! Twitter is one way to do this already, of course. but you could also blog about it, on your own blog or perhaps as a guest post for an existing blog with a large audience already. You could put visual content like slides and infographics into Slideshare, and send out an update via LinkedIn. Choose at least one more social media channel of your choice, for each paper.

MONITOR

  1. Watch download stats for your paper, on your publisher’s website. Measuring the success of casual mentions is difficult, but you can often see a spike in download statistics for a paper, after it has been mentioned at a conference.
  2. Watch Twitter analytics: is your tweet about your paper one of your Top Tweets? You can see how many “engagements” a tweet has, i.e., how many clicks, favourites, re-tweets and replies, etc it accrued. If you use a link shortening service, you should also be able to see how many clicks there have been on your link, and where from. (bit.ly is one of many such shortening services.) This is the measure that I value most. If no-one is clicking to look at your content, then perhaps Twitter is not working for you and you could investigate why not or focus on more efficient channels.
  3. Repositories will often offer you stats about downloads, just like your publisher, and either or both may offer you access to an altmetrics tool. Take a look at these to see more information behind the numbers: who is interested and engaged with your work and how can you use this knowledge? Perhaps it will help you to choose which of the other possible social media channels you might use, as this is where there are others in your discipline who are already engaged with your work.

 

Ultimately, you might be interested in citations rather than engagements on Twitter or even webpage visits or downloads for your paper. It’s hard to draw a definite connection between such online activity and citations for journal papers, but I’m pretty sure that no-one is going to cite your paper if they don’t even know it exists, so if this is important to you, then I would say, shout loud!

A super-quick way to create a blog post!

There are 2 super-quick ways to create blogposts in WordPress that I’ve tried out, although if you read my investigations below, you’ll see why I only recommend the first one!

1) the “Re-blog” option.
Found something interesting on another WordPress blog? You could tweet about it, or you could actually re-blog it to your own blog. Here is an example of my use of the re-blogging feature, which I like but use sparingly. After all, this is my blog: it’s for my work! For me personally, re-blogging also feels a bit like cheating but I’m growing used to it. There is actually something very social about re-blogging and I wouldn’t mind at all if others re-blogged my posts. So on reflection, its OK from time to time and for particularly well written stuff!

2) the WordPress bookmarklet
This post actually began when I pressed on the “blogpost” bookmarklet, to generate a blog post from a webpage. It generated a title for me:

Researchers argue for standard format to cite lab resources : Nature News & Comment

And then in the content it simply had:

via Researchers argue for standard format to cite lab resources : Nature News & Comment.

Hmm, not so pretty or so useful to readers. This is not really super-quick because it requires me to add more content. I suppose it’s useful as a way for me to create a quick draft post that I can come back to, if I want to blog about a particular webpage.

Thanking for re-tweets: efficient, friendly & worth a try

Twitter is really social media and not just a broadcast & info consumption channel. Sometimes though, it’s hard to find time to invest in being more social. Saying thanks for a re-tweet is something I’ve already blogged about, but I’ve never felt that I’ve got entirely the right approach. What happens when I’m on holiday, or ill, or just too occupied with other things?

Recently I saw a thank you to me, and I noticed that it was from a service that auto-tweets, but I still thought it sounded nice so I investigated. In general, I don’t value auto-tweets, and I don’t want to automatically, meaninglessly thank folks for everything, but I really like what Sumall do. Here is an example of a tweet that they sent out on my behalf:

My best RTs this week came from: @aleebrahim @SciPubLab @ilk21 #thankSAll Who were yours? http://sumall.com/thankyou 

This was favourited and re-tweeted by one of the recipients, so I’m not alone in liking the way these tweets are written!

Be sure to investigate the settings if you use Sumall. You might want to unsubscribe from the daily email reports if you’re not a social media pro. You can also edit your Twitter preferences and tell it not to bother bragging about your Twitter performance every week/month. And you can perhaps use it to investigate some stats so that you know which are your high-hitting tweets, so that you can strategically brag to your own managers!

 

Digital tools for research #ECRchat yesterday on Twitter

I took part in this online twitter chat yesterday, which discussed tools that researchers might find useful. There is a storify summary:

[View the story “Digital tools: ECRchat 23 April 2015” on Storify]

It was interesting to see how the chat built up, and people got more involved at the end of the hour, rather than at the beginning!

There have been quite a few useful ECRchats, and it’s one of the more active twitter hashtags that I follow, along with #phdchat, #openaccess #altmetrics and #peerreview

Academic blogs: they risk plagiarism, don’t they? Three key aspects to consider.

After attending the Digital Academic event in Warwick on 23 March, on behalf of Piirus, I reflected on one of the conversations relating to plagiarism. Should researchers worry about plagiarism, if they begin to blog? Here are my thoughts on three important aspects of this concern:

1.  Hey, that was my idea!

There are academics who would not put their ideas into a blog post, because releasing them into the open is to run the risk that others will get a journal article or book out on the ideas before they do. And its the journal articles and books that are the real currency of academic reputation, not blog posts. The argument against this concern is that a scholarly idea would be based upon substantial research: how could others re-do your research and publish before you? But there are times (perhaps discipline dependent) when a particular phrase or way of interpreting known research is what really makes a research output “zing”, and others could steal such a phrase or perspective.

Other researchers take the view that, if you blogged your idea, then you already claimed it as your own, so blogging is actually protection against plagiarism. This is great in theory: it’s publicly seen to be yours and so not even those with low moral standards would risk their reputations by plagiarising it. And if they did, you can prove that the material was yours first, with the date of your blog post’s publication.

Another reason to blog your ideas first, are apocryphal tales of papers languishing in peer review for just long enough for the referee to get their own paper on the same theme published. A quick blog post about your recent submission to a journal could be in your best interests!

However, we often say in English that “great minds think alike”, so in a case of apparent plagiarism, it might be just that someone else happened on the same idea. Your complaint that it is plagiarism might never be heard, or might be seen as sour grapes over what is mere bad luck. If you never let your idea out in the first place, you could at least be sure in such a scenario that it was just bad luck. On the other hand, if you blogged your idea then perhaps the person who stumbled on it too would get in touch and together you could create a richer, collaborative research output. Perhaps!

I can only conclude from these perspectives and scenarios that reaching the right audience at the right time is really crucial, and how you choose to do this will be a personal and discipline-specific decision. This is nothing new, but now there is the blog as a possible channel too. For some authors the only way to reach the right audience is in traditional journals, so those “zing” ideas are omitted from their blog, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t blog too! Maybe they could use a blog to promote a paper or book after publication. Blogs can be a great way to provide “teaser” content for a book, to promote it, if your publisher approves.

2.  Traditional publishers can provide protection

Some authors feel safer when their output is taken on by an established organisation, rather than releasing their work in what is essentially self-publishing through a blog. Even if you could prove that someone has plagiarised your work (from a blog, a journal article, a conference paper or any source), then you would need the scholarly community to recognise that someone else had committed bad practice, to get any kind of redress. To achieve that recognition could take considerable energy, time and resources to even attempt to achieve.

If your idea was first published by a society or publisher then they might have processes and resources with which to negotiate with the producer of the plagiarising article, and so provide you with support in your complaint. It is possible, but of course not guaranteed that you will find this supportive: your interests and the publisher’s interests might not coincide.

A case of plagiarism may also be a breach of copyright, and you may have the option of engaging a lawyer to defend your copyright. But remember that copyright law is all about the right to make money from your intellectual output. Perhaps a publisher will protect your work by way of protecting their own income: they will certainly understand commercial aspects, but of course their interests and yours might differ.

3.  Rejected for self-plagiarism

It could happen: your journal article is submitted to the most prestigious journal in your field and you get a rejection because substantial chunks of the the content is found to appear elsewhere. Or perhaps worse: your article is published but then retracted as it is recognised as a redundant publication, with content that has previously been published. What a mess!

Of course, this regrettable situation could happen from one journal article to the next and not only from blog content. In fact, if your blog is aimed at a different audience, then you’re less likely to inadvertently repeat phrases in what amounts to self-plagiarism than when writing traditional outputs. There is also always the option of saving your blog post for after the publication has come out.

Final thoughts

The risk of plagiarism from others reading your blog post is no worse than when you have a conversation with someone at a conference, and in fact openness can lead to collaborations and other benefits, which is why that conference conversation might have happened in the first place. The risk of plagiarism is one that you need to weigh for yourself, and as the speakers at the Digital Academic event described, blogging brings opportunities that traditional publications alone might not do, so that risk might be one worth taking.

My favourite social media “rules”

If you’re thinking of creating your own social media strategy (or updating an existing one), then you could do worse than read through these 80 “rules”. It seems aimed at companies using social media for financial gain, and some of the advice seems suitable to those building social media tools. A lot of it is focussed on the role of the audience or tool users, and much of it is just good advice for us all. Here are excerpts from a few of my favourites:

  • No. 9. “Go wherever your audience is”: So, choose Twitter or Facebook, or Google+, according to the people who you want to reach.
  • No. 12. “Update your page or delete it”: Easier said than done, but definitely good advice!
  • No. 23. “Just because you can measure everything doesn’t mean that you should”. They also develop the point to say that “likes and mentions look good on a report, but will not keep you in a job”. They suggest that ROI (Return on Investment), or NPS (Net Promoter Score) will, but perhaps your own job will depend on other criteria!
  • No. 24 Social media is not cheap or easy. (It later explains in rule 74 that Gangnam Style was a carefully planned success, rather than a viral success!)
  • No. 42 “If fans start publishing and sharing your content without permission, offer to help”

Finally, lots of these rules seem to say that it’s all about speed, not perfection, and that you should have a higher purpose. To paraphrase: get stuff out there, and make sure it’s going to make lives easier, happier, or more rewarding!

 

Further thoughts on Peer Review & speeding up traditional journal publication

Back in January, I wrote about Peer Review. It’s a big topic! Here are some more reflections, following on from my last blog post about it.

Speeding things up, in journal article publication. (On “Peer review takes a very long time”)

picture of a pocket watch

I wrote that peer review “takes a very long time” because many scholars want to get their work out there to be read, as soon as possible. Of course, this is a loose concept and “a very long time” is relative. Some might think that I am criticising publishers for being slow, but I’m not pointing the finger of blame! I know that publishers have been addressing the issue and peer review has sped up in recent times, especially since there is now software to can help track it: SPARC has a handy round-up of manuscript submission software. However, the peer reviewers themselves must respond and they are under a lot of pressure. The system can only be as fast as the slowest reviewer, and there are all sorts of (entirely understandable) circumstances that might slow an individual down.

I should take a look at some of the developments that have helped to speed up traditional scholarly communication, though:

Scholarly publishers have invested in initiatives like Sage’s OnlineFirst to help peer reviewed research articles to reach audiences before journal issues are complete, thus cutting publication waiting periods.

Some publishers have also introduced mega journals with cascading peer review systems, which are also often based on Gold Open Access. Impact Story’s blog has a great post about how authors can make the most of these types of journal.  These speed up an article’s time to publication because after a peer review that led to rejection from one title, your paper can get fast-tracked through to publication in the next “tier” title at the same publisher, without the need to submit again and start the process from the very beginning.

And of course, as a librarian I should mention the sophisticated alerting services that help researchers to find out about each others’ papers as soon as possible: researchers are no longer dependent on the print copy landing on their desk, and finding the time to browse through the table of contents!

Putting it online yourself is quicker: why not try that?

Some research repositories might take non-peer-reviewed content, and in theory, authors could always put a copy of their work on a personal web-page before peer review if they’re confident in it and just want it out there. There are disciplinary differences in authors’ reactions to this idea. This article in PLOS Biology makes the case for the biology community following in the footsteps of physics, in using pre-print servers to share such early versions. Its authors point out that there are benefits to doing this, including:

Posting manuscripts as preprints also has the potential to improve the quality of science by allowing prepublication feedback from a large pool of reviewers.

Many authors would not share their early manuscripts in this way, because they value peer review as a process of polishing their work. I think this is a reason for peer review to take place in the open, because then it becomes apparent just how important a contribution a peer reviewer might have made to a paper. As I said in my previous post, peer reviewers should get credit for their work, but perhaps I should have made it clear that I’m not talking about it looking good on their CV, or their peer review activity going down well with their Head of Department!

 

Even authors who are happy to share un-polished pre-peer-review versions of their work (aka pre-prints, aka manuscripts) might be wary if it is not the norm in their discipline, because it might prejudice their chances of publication in the big-name journals of their field. Authors will likely have to agree to clauses stating that the work has not previously been published elsewhere. When I worked at the University of Warwick, in the early days of their institutional repository we surveyed a number of big publishers to ask if they would consider repository deposit to constitute prior publication, and thus a breach of this kind of clause in their authors’ agreement. Some said yes, some said no.

This is not such a clear area for authors, and for many it’s not worth the time of enquiring or the risk of finding out the hard way, i.e. through rejection of their article because plagiarism detection software identifies it as previously published online. Researchers need the quality “badge” that a journal gives them, for their CV and their institution’s performance review processes: publishing articles is not all about communication to other researchers, but it is also about kudos.

 

For some authors therefore (I would guess most), the earliest version they might share would be a post-peer-review version (sometimes called a post-print, sometimes called an author’s final version), which if there are no embargo periods from the publisher, would become available at the same time as their article became available through an OnlineFirst scheme.

 

 

Post peer review: commentary and altmetrics

I mentioned post publication peer review in my previous post: I thought about it as an alternative to peer review then, and perhaps I should think about it more as something that is complementary to peer review. Perhaps peer review doesn’t need to be either traditional or post publication but it is already really a process that doesn’t end with publication.

 

There are many ways that researchers are sharing and commenting on each others’ work after it has been published, therefore after the peer review process for traditional articles. We can track these interactions on sites like Researchgate and Mendeley, and through altmetrics software that collates data on such interactions… but altmetrics and its role is a subject I’ve looked at separately already, and it’s one I’m likely to return to again later!

How to spend 30 effective minutes on social media

I came across a great blog post by Kevan Lee on Buffer that outlines all the kinds of activities you could be doing on social media, and provides different types of plan for how to use 30 minutes, on social media. (There’s quite a bit of good advice over on Buffer, if you’ve got time to read around.)

This particular post helped me to reflect on my social media mini-strategy that I wrote about in May last year, along with the work I’m now doing for Piirus, managing their blog. I recognised that what I do personally with social media, is rather different to what I do for Piirus. The kinds of activities that I focus on for myself, from the list in the Buffer blog post are: Curating, Crafting and Experimenting. I keep wishing that I was more social but I can’t do everything! I focus on my online profile, and on learning.

However, when I’m working for Piirus, the way I’d spend that 30 minutes is to follow this recipe from Kevan’s blog post:

How to spend the 30 minutes:

  • 5 minutes rescheduling popular content
  • 15 minutes queueing content from your go-to sources
  • 10 minutes responding to mentions on social media

This is pretty much a daily activity for me, on behalf of Piirus, although some days I take less than 30 minutes. Other days, I spend more time, and take a look at some analytics (so that I know what is popular content) or I look for events and ways to engage.

Which “recipe” for 30 minutes might you use, and which activities do you invest most time on in Social media? Reflecting on this blog post might help you to identify the strategy you are already following, or the one which you might wish to follow.

What use is social media to a researcher? Find out at a Google Hangout event

I’m very pleased to be taking part as a panellist in an online Q&A session called “How to be a successful digital academic to boost your career.” It takes place on 27th Jan at 12 noon, GMT and is hosted by none other than the Thesis Whisperer, Dr Inger Mewburn!

We’ll be exploring the theme of social media and its usefulness to academics. Do you think social media is useful, or do you wonder how you could possibly make use of it, as a researcher? I’m sure that the expert panel will have some ideas of interest to you! Themes of online engagement through blogs, as well as writing for online audiences are bound to emerge, in addition to digital networking.

I was invited in my capacity as editor of the Piirus blog, and I’m sure I’ll explain a little bit about how Piirus differs from other online tools. It’s more of an online dating or introductions agent, and its extremely light touch. Its purpose is to help researchers make connections beyond their disciplines and beyond national borders. It also comes from the academic community itself, and is based at the University of Warwick alongside jobs.ac.uk, the hosts of the Google hangout event.

If you’ve never attended such an event online before, well they are something like a webinar, and something like a live conference panel session. You get to type in questions to the host, who will pass them on to the panellists. You can even send in questions in advance. During the event, you can sign in and then see and hear the panellists discussing the questions. If you can’t attend the event live, well no worries: it will be recorded so that you can watch it later.

There is a lot more information about it, over on the event page on Google+. I hope you find it valuable!