Tuesday, 30 September 2014

1AM Altmetrics Conference Review

1:AM Conference

I was very lucky to attend the first UK conference focusing on Altmetrics hosted at the Wellcome Trust in Euston, London last week. With the growing interest in the topic and a term that many have heard but not yet investigated the event was sold out well in advance. I got there on Thursday morning to enter a packed auditorium to hear the conference opening from Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust who talked about the way research measurement was changing and that where Altmetrics and other such initiatives were taking us; but could in turn happen after his generation have retired. Farrar warned about the over-burdening of researchers by so many new technologies and measurements, something I am all too aware of in my role of trying to get academics to engage with new forms of technology.

The structure of the two day conference was neatly broken into specialised silos of content, all broadly looking at the future of academia from new metrics to new outputs to measure. Sessions were broken down into presentations from altmetricians (is that a job title or term for that matter?), researchers, publishers and fund holders.
Obviously given the theme and abstracts it was easy to imagine anyone glancing in from the outside may have seen the conference as exclusively presenting sessions on new forms of measurement, in particular altmetrics. Yet the the conference discussed new routes and measurements of impact, research into how citations were being affected and not affected by social media, and how fund holders were starting to look at the new technologies aligned with altmetrics; and how researchers were finding new and innovative ways to share their research.

The idea that the conference was purely about measurement was far from the truth, it was about exploring where altmetrics had been going for the last two years and where it will potentially go in the future. It is fair to say that the first altmetric conference in the UK had a real bias towards selling products, but in balance many of these products are free or certainly cheaper or more dynamic alternatives to what we have right now. The conference highlighted that the current system of purely citing papers was no longer good enough as a way of measuring and sharing research.

The entire conference was streamed live to the Web and as you would imagine had a very healthy Twitter hashtag 1AMconf with over 4,000 Tweets in two days. You can view all of the Tweets in this Google Doc. After the welcome from Jeremy Farrar the conference started with some of the main players in the altmetrics community, Jennifer Lin from PLOS, William Gunn from Mendeley and Euan Aide from Altmetric.com, et all giving an update as to the areas they had been working on and where they saw the altmetrics going. William explained that he felt the researcher was in the best position to explain their work and altmetrics, social media and other technologies gave them the platforms to do so.

The next group delivered presentations on how people were using altmetrics with an interesting presentation from Mike Thellwall, Professor of Information Science at The University of Wolverhampton. Mike talked extensively about the work he and his colleagues had done looking at whether social media had positive effects for journal paper citations. He found that certain tools, Facebook posts, Tweets, blog mentions, research highlights, forum posts and media mentions did associate with citation counts in some fields of research. Certainly a positive to take away from this presentation and a couple others that altmetrics may not as yet have the impact some may profess, but are looking like good indicators of what may get cited later on and for now help identify hot topics of research. This is of course something the social web does very well by spotting and promoting the latest information. For anyone wanting to read more of Mike’s interesting work in this field should look at his publication list here: http://www.scit.wlv.ac.uk/~cm1993/mycv.html

Professor Mike Thelwall presenting at 1:AM
 For me, no altmetrics conference would have been worth its salt without a library/information person presenting. Joan Wee from the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore talked about the important role librarians can play in altmetrics. Joan explained that librarians work in a neutral role and that the research office overseeing measurement of research would just look like assesment. Certainly this is a stance that I share being an information specialist and seeing many library and information professionals being so active within open access, bibliometrics, research promotion and heavily using social media in a mature and professional way that they should have a part to play somewhere.

There was an excellent and informative session on how science was being communicated through blogs and other informal channels. It was really interesting how Bjoern Brembs, Professor of Neuorgenetics from Universität Regensburg talked about his experiences of trying to persuade colleagues to change how they work. From using RSS to discover new and existing topics of interest to the use of collaborative documents such as Google Docs rather than the old method of using email attachment Word documents. Delegates heard of how Brian Wecht, co-founder of the impressive Story Collider uses a stand up comedian approach to deliver his research ideas and findings to lay audiences outside of academia.

There was an interesting discussion on the ethics of social media in research by Daniel O’Connor, Head of Medical Humanities at the Wellcome Trust. Daniel talked about how clinicians had used social media to engage with their patients and the interesting example of one doctor correcting their patient who was Tweeting about their treatment. He raised two types of social media ethics questions, firstly that of research being done with social platforms and research using social content. Daniel talked about where do researchers stand when there is a wealth of open data out there that participants have not provided for research purposes. In essence his talk came down to people’s expectations of privacy. Do social media users have a responsibility to protect their own privacy? What responsibilities do researchers have to respect social media users’ privacy?

Finally on day one there were four presentation from the funding sector, HEFCE Steering Group on Metrics, Wellcome Trust , Science Foundation Ireland and AMRC. They all agreed that altmetrics had possibilities with regards to measurement and impact but that it needed further research and evidence as there was a worry that researchers could be rewarded on social media skills not research skills. The potential for altmetrics and social media was that it gave charities funding research an opportunity to monitor the research they fund within the media and on the Web. Another useful point, shared by most at the conference was that researchers needed to be trained in social media, such as putting DOIs into Tweets when citing papers. To finish the day there was a discussion on how metrics were being used in institutions with one breakout group deciding to abolish journal impact factors and almetrics in favour of emojis :-)

The promise and pitfalls of altmetrics by Ruth Freeman, Director of Strategy & Communications, Science Foundation Ireland 

Day two started with a session looking at the role of publishers within altmetrics with presentations from Elsevier, Springer, PLOS and eLife. Certainly this was one focus that brought about a lot of discussion, especially towards the end of the conference, that publishers do seem to have taken a recent great interest in altmetrics. Certainly that much was for sure when Elsevier paid a huge sum of money for one of the leading advocates of altmetrics, Mendeley in 2013. Obviously as you would expect PLOS were pushing the altmetric envelope the most in comparison to the big traditional publishers who are now not only starting to integrate altmetrics into their catalogues but look at the metrics that come out of their usage. Jennifer Lin from PLOS highlighted that publishers needed to participate in an open ecosystem for data sharing for altmetrics to work.

Other morning talks were delivered by Geoff Bilder, Director of Strategic Initiatives at CrossRef and Cameron Neylon, Director or Advocacy at PLOS. The session looked at things that had not gone so well in the field of altmetrics. There was discussion regarding the need for open infrastructures and that commercial innovation was important but what was needed for ownership and an open system.

In the afternoon sessions looked at measuring and tracking other research outputs and was quite fittingly chaired by Mark Hahnel from FigShare. Talks by RDA Metrics Group, Cern and the National Science Foundation focused on how they share, measure and quite interestingly cite data. There was a presentation by Todd Carpenter, Executive Director of NISO with an update on the alternative metrics they launched last year and their role in the research evaluation process.

The last thing I attended was a group workshop, mine being chaired by Euan Adie from Altmetric.com. The remit of our group was to discuss what more could be done to engage with academics and improve the field of altmetrics. It was agreed by the group that one way to deliver outreach was to work with early career researchers, and students at all higher education levels. There was some discussion as to whether social media and altmetrics training should be delivered at university. For what it is worth, I think social media, netiquette and Web training needs to start at school level, but in terms of professionalism, career building and knowledge searching and critiquing, it would be beneficial to the majority of students in universities. There was a discussion as to whether senior academics are likely to engage with altmetrics, given it is a very different system from the one that helped promote and build their own careers. Which took me back to the start of the conference and Jeremey Farrar’s welcome talk where he felt those in his generation may not see the paradigm shift, if there is one, in how research is conveyed and measured.

For me the three greatest issues that proponents of altmetrics need to address are how do they get more researchers involved in a way that will not impact their research and workflows but improve it. How can they build sustainable and connected systems as there were various comments about the confusion created by the various platforms and metric systems. Whilst the final issue was that alongside the term ‘altmetrics’ perhaps not being the best tag as it implies an wholly new alternative to the current system, as noted by the person who coined the phrase Jason Priem from ImpactStory is that of how people see altmetrics.

This is where many doubters of altmetrics usually confuse the issue and is to some extent fault of the various groups behind it, not they are confusing it but that they are many, all with their own angles, requirements and long-term goals. Like one of the other buzzwords of the last two years, ‘impact’ that people often see it as different thing from the person next to them. Altmetrics to one person is the measurement of their journal paper by the use of social media. Whilst it can be the measurement of other things, databases, policy documents, blog posts, so not only being a new measurement of existing outputs, it measures new things, for some research groups - important things that were previously ignored. It also drills down into the data and can show where geographically a piece of research is being saved, read or talked about on the Web. As like the other term ‘impact’ it is something that has wide reaching potential, aided by social media. As with MOOCs, open access and big data, altmetrics if anything has shaken up academia and in the long run could be for the better. the first conference in the UK on the topic at least has brought many parties to the table to discuss it, which can only be good, even if newer, better, unified systems come as a result of it as the current one is starting to look a bit tired.

For anyone wanting to view any of the sessions, they are available on the Altmetrics Conference YouTube Channel - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCzpkWNIT48Lu2y6Qb3iG7g

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Social Media for Researchers - A Sheffield Universities Social Media Symposium

I attended the first joint University of Sheffield and Hallam University social media symposium for researchers yesterday at Hallam. I was there to deliver a presentation alongside Information Resources colleague and writer for this blog Claire Beecroft on Altmetrics in the Academy.
The event was run jointly by Hallam’s SHaRD Programme and Think Ahead Sheffield to help early-career researchers build a good career through workshops, mentoring and work-experiences.

The day was jam-packed with six presentations from colleagues at both institutions, one from The University of Derby and one from SciConnect. Given that social media has been the buzz term on the Web for the last couple of years the implications, potentials and threats to academia are far and wide and were all covered throughout the course of the day.

Whilst despite regarding myself to be fairly tech-savvy with a good grasp of the Web I found the sessions all to be really useful. In fact it was the first time in a long time that I had attended a full day’s event of any kind to see such an engaging and knowledgeable set of speakers. Also the dreaded fear of speaking last, in that some of your audience have dipped out early, fallen asleep, lost the will to live or in most cases heard it all before was not to be. The previous presentations drilled down into different areas of the social web from big data to blogging all with considerable expertise and thought.

The day started with an entertaining and balanced look at why researchers should engage with social media by Tristram Hooley, who is Professor of Career Education at the University of Derby. Tristram talked about the research cycle of identifying, creating, reviewing and disseminating knowledge and how Social Media could aid this thanks to the ease and opportunities of collaboration it brings. Tristam spoke about the theories behind networks and Dunbar’s Number that we are only capable of maintaining so many stable social relationships and how this could be applied to social media and the online relationships we build on top of real-life ones. Tristam went on to give important tips on how you build networks, who is worth knowing and that in essence you do not need to know everyone.

Next up was Sue Beckingham who is an Educational Developer and Senior Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam. Sue is one of the many people who I originally found on the Web through the many useful Tweets Sue was posting in addition to collections she curates on the excellent Scoop.It! tool about learning and social media. As anyone will know by using social media it is a great icebreaker and that you often have conversations or at least get an idea of what someone’s interests are before you meet them, Sue is one of those connections for me. I’d seen Sue speak at the joint Sheffield Google Apps for Education conference earlier this when I’d also delivered a presentation. Sue delivered a very measured, knowledgeable talk on why researchers should engage with social media. Sue touched onto an idea that I have long propagated, that she referred to as ‘positive interconnectedness’ meaning that you look to maximise your outputs by connecting your various web presences together by linking, embedding and sharing. It is something that I would refer to as a ‘Web 2.0 state of mind’ that you look for opportunities to minimise your workload but maximise your presence, reach and consistency. I very much liked Sue’s take on the idea of lurkers should not be referred to as that but listeners, giving it a much more positive feel in the educational setting at least. Sue’s session also touched on that growing problem, certainly something that grows bigger the more you use social media; that being the blurring between personal and professional boundaries online. It’s a point that anyone who has used social media in a personal and professional capacity will have come across. The biggest challenges being what do you say, how do you say it and where do you post and to whom. The hard and fast rule is not to say anything that you would not be prepared to say on the street in public, or at least to your grandmother. LinkedIn received huge praise from Sue as a powerful search engine and knowledge base, and the ability to use groups to share and find useful information with similar people.

Next up was Dr Farida Vis who works opposite me as a researcher on the other side of the quadrant at Regent Court at the iSchool amongst various herv other roles. Farida talked extensively about the work she had done looking at big data and analsying content coming from the social web. With involvement in a myriad of projects and programmes Farida explained the complexities, technical and ethical relating to capturing user-generated content for research. Farida talked about the possibilities for researchers using this data but explained the pitfalls from earlier interventions which were initially heralded but later proved to be flawed. One example being that of Google Flu Trends, which at the time looked like a better predictor of possible Flu epidemics than the data captured by the Centre of Disease Control in the United States. Farida told the delegates about the data collected by Google based on searches for ‘flu’ that in turn became biased as the flu story was reported in the media, causing more non-infected users to search for flu and whether outbreaks were happening in their locality. Farida gave various definitions of what big data meant with one that stuck out for me with regards to social media that it is: “Qualitative data on a quantitative scale” originally promoted by Francesco D’Orazio. The presentation gave valid arguments as to the benefits and pitfalls of big data from validation to privacy issues and whether having more data actually means better answers. Farida talked about the work she had done in the field of journalism and the problems they face in trying to verify accurate and quality information with the idea that information is treated as false until verified and gave a link to the useful Verification Handbook.

After a superb lunch, Dr Tom Stafford from the University of Sheffield’s Psychology and Cognitive Science department talked about his experience of blogging and managing social media profiles. As someone who runs six blogs, Tom talked about the reasons behind blogging and how it does not have to be a public thing, in that Tom has one blog to capture his own thoughts and reflections from his work and teaching. Tom spoke of the issue of creating large social networks for the sake of it, that if you have a small field of peers in real life, that this can be reflected on social media and they are only group you need to interact with. He also touched on the issue of popularity and that social media is full of big celebrities who have massive followings and that they can be allowed to dilute your experiences of social media if you let them. I liked Tom’s unique approach of using the session more like a flipped classroom, in that after a few sessions had already been delivered and given everyone in the room had some knowledge of social media he treated it more as a surgery to solve individual’s questions about blogging and managing online presences. Tom talked about Twitter being like having one foot in the conference bar which went down well with the attendees.
Tom’s presentation can be viewed here

The penultimate presentation came from Dr Claire Ainsworth who is the Principal Trainer for SciConnect. Again this was another very engaging and educational session on the benefits of blogging, especially when trying to reach wider audiences and make an impact, even more so when talking about what can be niche topics. Claire talked about her own husband’s research website and videos that had reached hundreds of thousands of visitors and viewers. Whilst the use of traditional media, such as television news should not be played down in the age of mass communication being on the Web.

Finally was mine and Claire’s presentation, which is embedded below and focused again on the pros and cons of using social media in research and academia. In that once you take the plunge into social media there are certain rules and etiquettes to adhere to. The main focus of the presentation was on altmetrics, what they were, the arguments behind them and whether they had the potential like MOOCs and open access to shake up academia. We explained the idea that altmetrics is not just using social media to communicate and share research outputs but also the ability to measure them in new and meaningful ways that go beyond the download and share button. For example this may mean metrics such as where was the paper read globally and how long did someone have a research paper open for on their computer. As with any aspect of social media the debate will continue and it is unlikely that we will see at any time soon a mass move by academics to use these platforms for their research outputs and connections. Nevertheless there is a growing band of academics wanting to know more about the benefits - of which there are many - and pitfalls which sometimes you only need one to really fail. A session like this one can only go some way to educating academics to such opportunities and threats.

I have to praise the organisers of the event, especially with it being such an excellent collaborative affair. The standard of talks were of very high quality, and were very balanced. All too often with technologies you get biased reporting - meaning the presenter talks just about the positives of something, almost like a sales pitch, whilst this symposium had the right balance of encouragement alongside that of care and attention. Also with a topic like this, or such innovations you invariably find yourself speaking to the same, friendly, supportive faces on campus, for me and Claire this was not the case - they were friendly, new faces. It was great to see so many researchers and professionals attend and hopefully take away a few new ideas and practices.

Twitter accounts of all the speakers:

Monday, 22 September 2014

Sound and Vision - MmIT 2014 National Conference Retrospective

Sound and Vision was the theme for the latest Multimedia and Information Technology (MmIT) national conference run by myself and colleagues from the MmIT Committee hosted at The Edge in Endcliffe Village on the 11th and 12th September. The MmIT Group is a special interest group as part of The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals and focuses on the topic areas around multimedia and technology, as you can imagine from the name.
The focus of this year’s conference was simply ‘Sound & Vision’ and hosted a selection of high quality and diverse talks on everything from Augmented Reality to building sound and vision archives.

The conference ran over two days and began with the traditional welcome by MmIT Chair Leo Appleton. Leo then introduced The University of Sheffield’s new Pro-Vice Chancellor for Learning & Teaching, Professor Anne Peat. Anne spoke about the various areas the University was working hard on to implement new platforms of delivering learning and sharing research from iTunes U to MOOCs. The iTunes U theme continued as The University of Sheffield’s Senior Learning Technologist, Dr. Graham McElearney delivered the first plenary of the conference explaining the motives and benefits of creating and hosting academic content on Apple’s education sharing platform. Graham gave evidence as to the far-reaching impact podcasts and videos can have hosted on such a platform that is available in parts of the world, which others are not and gave impressive usage and download statistics. Graham then opened up the presentation to group discussion asking delegates how they could apply something like iTunesU in their own organisation.

Delegates at MmIT discussing possible uses for iTunes U in their own organisation

In the afternoon, four workshops were run, firstly by Helen Fitton who delivered a very useful session on Box of Broadcasts which allows users to record any TV programme from the last 30 days and from over 60 channels. It allows users to create clips and compilations and embed them into their teaching materials. Whilst in the other room, Penny Andrews showcased the brilliant LibraryBox, an inventive private wireless hub for hosting all kinds of media. By connecting to the wi-fi signal generated by LibraryBox, users can browse the files hosted on the USB stick that connects to LibraryBox, stream films, read and save documents amongst other uses. LibraryBox has real potential for such as on-the-fly teaching, conferences, working in poor or rural areas and much, much more, we’ll certainly look to invest in one for ScHARR.
Later there were two parallel sessions looking at augmented reality. One from Peter Beaumont from Edge Hill University and one from Farzana Latif and Pete Mella from the Learning Technologies Team at the University of Sheffield. Both sessions gave users a real chance to play with augmented reality and look at everything from a 3D role playing game to an interactive periodic table of elements.

Storytime with Tony Thompson

In the evening conference delegates were treated to a superb three course dinner followed by an engaging after dinner talk by MmIT’s previous Chair, Tony Thompson. Tony gave a humorous, anecdote-filled and at times personal history of the emergence of analog sound and vision media. Going way back to the 19th Century, Tony waxed lyrically about wax cylinders, photographs, television, the VHS versus Betamax wars, video laser discs and anything else that any sound and vision archivist would have come across in the last hundred or so years.

After a hearty breakfast, day two of the conference started where one had finished with a second plenary from Liz McGettigan, the Director of Digital Library Experiences at SOLAS on augmented reality. Liz showcased the work that had been done in her time as head of Edinburgh Libraries using augmented reality, showing delegates the children’s reading initiative Mythical Maze. Liz talked about the possibilities for AR with a strong message that the age of passive learning was now over.
Four more workshops took place in the morning, with a useful session looking at the various hardware devices that can be used to capture sound and vision by Chris Clow and Tommy Wilson from The University of Sheffield. They showcased the work they had done building a creative media team and suite that allowed staff and students 24 hour access to create, edit and publish videos and sound recordings. Whilst Stephen McConnachie delivered a session on embedded metadata mapping and automated extraction in the other workshop.Myself and Claire Beecroft showed delegates what they could do with very little money to produce good quality, edited and hosted video and audio. Valerie Stevenson from Liverpool John Moores University ran a session archiving British Culture and showed the diverse collection that her institution holds. In addition their work on translating content from analogue to digital and the creation of a small sound studio and digitisation suite to help the transition.

After lunch the Head of Sound and Vision from The British Library, Richard Ranft gave a tour of the library and their audio and visual archives which numbers into the millions of items. Richard talked about the complexities of trying to build systems to help users navigate the databases and libraries to find what they were after. He explained the importance of this as many of the materials were important historical artefacts and that the solution lied in a combination of human and machine-driven enrichment and visualisation tools. 

In the afternoon John Hardisty delivered a workshop on how technology had helped improve library services for people with sight loss. John spoke about various interventions that had been created to help visually-impaired people and how new technologies such as smart devices were being used to help print disabled people. John’s session covered the new inventions and ideas being applied right now and what was on the horizon to help people with sight loss have access to the materials that many of us take for granted. The other parallel session was run by Iain Logie Baird who is the Associate Curator at the National Media Museum and looked at vision and sound collections in science museums. You may recognise his surname as he is the grandson of John Logie Baird, who invented the first mechanical television. He talked about the three museums in the group, The London Science Museum, National Media Museum and the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry and their extensive sound and vision collections.

Finally Leo Appleton closed what was a small, but without perfectly formed two day event and spoke about the high quality talks that were delivered. I think everyone took at least one or two things away from the conference considering the quality of speakers in attendance. Once the dust has settled MmIT will look forward to the 1st December and their AGM hosted at CILIP and two guest talks from library activist, PhD student and Voices of Library co-founder Lauren Smith and from Sierra Williams Editor of the LSE Impact of Social Sciences Blog. The theme of the talks will be around the use of social media in libraries, for professionals and information sharing. The event is free to non-MmIT members, hopefully we’ll see you there.