Friday, 27 May 2016

An introduction to Altmetrics for Librarians, Researchers and Academics

Andy Tattersall
Andy Tattersall
Andy Tattersall has an edited book coming out in June on the topic of Altmetrics. Altmetrics - A practical guide for librarians, researchers and academics is published by Facet Books. As part of the book launch Andy has created a short video explaining altmetrics in addition to writing a blog post for Cilip which can read in full below.

The book can be pre-ordered and purchased from various outlets. 

Altmetrics: What they are and why they should matter to the library and information community

Altmetrics is probably a term that many readers of this blog will have heard of but are not quite sure what it means and what impact it could have on their role. The simple answer is that altmetrics stands for alternative metrics.
When we say alternative we mean alternative to traditional metrics used in research and by libraries, such as citations and journal impact factors. They are by no means a replacement to traditional metrics but really to draw out more pertinent information tied to a piece of academic work. A new way of thinking about altmetrics is to refer to them as alternative indicators.

Scholarly communication is instrumental to altmetrics

There is also the focus on scholarly communication as altmetrics are closely tied to established social media and networks. Scholarly communication is instrumental to altmetrics and much of what it sets out to measure. These include tools such as Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs as well others including Mendeley and Slideshare.
The main protagonists of the altmetrics movement are ImpactStory which was set up by Jason Priem who coined the term ‘altmetrics’. They are joined by FigshareAltmetric.comMendeley, PLOS and Kudos, amongst others. These were mostly established by young researchers who were concerned that research was being measured on the grounds of just a few metrics. These were metrics that gave an unbalanced view of research and did not take into account the technologies that many academics were using to share and discuss their work.
Altmetrics is not just about bean counting, though obviously the more attention a paper gets whether that be citations or Tweets the more interesting it may be to a wider audience, whether that be academics, students or the wider world. The more Tweets a paper gets does not necessarily mean it is better quality than those that do not get Tweeted as much, but the same applied to traditional metrics, more citations does not always mean a great piece of research, it can occasionally highlight the opposite.

Altmetrics provide an insight into things we have not measured before

What altmetrics sets out to do is provide an insight into things we have not measured before, such as social media interaction, media attention, global reach and the potential to spot hot topics and future pieces of highly cited work. In addition altmetrics allows content to be tracked and measured that in the past had been wholly ignored. Such as datasets, grey literature, reports, blog posts and other such content of potential value. 
The current system recognised a slim channel of academic content in a world that is diversifying constantly at a much faster pace than ever. The academic publishing model has struggled to catch up with the modern world of Web 2.0 and social media and therefore academic communication has been stunted. Tools such as Twitter, blogs and Slideshare have allowed researchers to get their content onto the Web instantly, often before they have released the content via the formal channels of conferences and publications.
Tools such as ImpactStory, Figshare and look at the various types of scholarly content and communication and provide metrics to help fund holders, publishers, librarians, researchers and other aligned professionals get a clearer picture of the impact of their work. 
Fundholders can see where their funded research is being discussed and shared, as can researchers who may get to discover their research is not being talked about; which at least gives them reason to perhaps act on that. Publishers can view in addition to existing paper citations, how else they are being discussed and shared. Library and information professionals have an important part to play in all of this.

What is the role of the library and information professional?

There are certain roles in the library and information profession that have plenty to gain by becoming involved with altmetrics. Firstly those that deal with journal subscriptions and hosting content in repositories can gain a new insight into which journals and papers are being shared and discussed via altmetrics. This becomes increasingly important when making yearly subscription choices when journal and book funds are being constantly squeezed. Obviously this is not a solution or get-out clause for librarians when deciding which subscriptions to cancel, as you should not always pick the most popular journals at the expense of minority, niche journal collections, but altmetrics do offer a new set of identifiers when making those tough budgetary decisions. 
LIS professionals are often technically proficient and for those who deliver outreach services and support for academics and students there is much they can do to help explain the new forms of scholarly communication and measurement. Many library and information staff are expert users of social media and tools such as slideshare, Mendeley and blogs. Whilst library and information professionals are in the position where they are often in a neutral role, so can make informed decisions on what is the best way to aid staff discover and communicate research. These skills are starting to spread slowly within the academic community and LIS professionals are in an ideal position to capitalise on altmetrics.

The future

Certainly how academic outputs are measured in the future is anyone’s guess. We could move away from metrics to something that focuses on case studies, or move more towards open public peer review of research. Certainly the impact factor and citation indexes are with us for the foreseeable future. It’s likely we will see an amalgamation of systems with some regarded as more uniform and formal than others. 
As each month passes we see another set of tools appear on the Web that promises to aid researchers share, communicate and discover research, so we could be at risk of information overload and decision fatigue when it comes down to choosing the right tools for the job. The reality is that we are unlikely to discover a magic silver bullet solution for how we measure scholarly work. All of the options offer something and if they can be designed and coerced to work together better; scholarly communication and measurement could reach a plateau of productivity.
Yet this requires an awful lot more engagement from the academic community, one that is already under pressure from various angles to deliver research and extract from it examples of impact. Nevertheless, altmetrics clearly look like they are here to stay for the mid-term at the very least and are gaining acceptance in some parts of the research and publishing sphere. 
For now I suggest you investgate Figshare, ImpactStory, Mendeley and to name but a few in addition to signing up for an librarian account and installing their web bookmarklet. 
To summarise, if we were to draw a Venn Diagram with social media in one bubble, metrics in another we would clearly see librarians in the overlapping area alongside altmetrics. It’s really down to whether you want a share of that space?

Friday, 20 May 2016

HILJ Editorial on Big Data and why it matters for librarians

In the latest issue of the Health Information and Libraries Journal, Andy Tattersall writes the editorial on Big Data and why library and information professionals should take notice of it. 

Big data is a much-used term these days, yet it's definition varies depending on who you talk to. Dan Ariely in a Facebook status update crudely, but accurately compared to teenage sex: “Everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it." 

In addition, who owns big data, or more importantly who's role is it to oversee and look after these large datasets, increasingly hosted on publicly accessible websites. Certainly there is much scope for librarians to get involved in big data as it falls under the remit of research data management, a role often carried out in the library or associated departments.  The abstract of the article is below and subscribers to the journal can read the full editorial or at some point find the pre print full text via the White Rose Repository.

Big data, like MOOCs, altmetrics and open access, is a term that has been commonplace in the library community for some time yet, despite its prevalence, many in the library and information sector remain unsure of the relationship between big data and their roles. This editorial explores what big data could mean for the day-to-day practice of health library and information workers, presenting examples of big data in action, considering the ethics of accessing big data sets and the potential for new roles for library and information workers.
Big Data – What is it and why it matters
White Rose Repository entry

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

24 Hour Inspire and the Pop up Radio Station

Mark Clowes
Mark Clowes
Andy Tattersall
Andy Tattersall
For the last five years the University of Sheffield have hosted 24 hours of back to back 30 minute lectures in aid of local cancer charities. The event was started in 2012 by Tim Richardson who delivered 48 lectures over the course of 24 hours. Sadly Tim passed away in the following year due to the condition he was raising money to fight against. The event has continued with the support of many of Tim's colleagues and friends under the stewardship of Catherine Annabel. This year Andy Tattersall and Mark Clowes brought with them a pop up radio station to compliment this wonderful event.

24 Inspire Radio
Still standing after no/little sleep
The idea was simple, create a pop up radio station that played virtually nothing but vinyl records (well they are trendy again according to the young folks). Andy approached Catherine Annabel over a coffee some months earlier and she was instantly behind it. The idea was to use the student radio stream from Forge FM and take it over with staff playing tracks from their own collections, the only rule being 'vinyl playlists' or thereabouts. Mark and Andy are no strangers to playing on the radio and in clubs, both have a secret (well until now) hobby of collecting vinyl and playing on the airwaves and in clubs. Andy spent six years on the pirate radio stations overlooking Sheffield and playing up and down the country in underground clubs over a 12 year period, and currently hosts his own monthly radio show on the disco balearic station Purple Radio. Whilst Mark has also played at many parties and nights and releases a monthly podcast via his Mixcloud page under the guide of The Vinyl Librarian.

Graham McElearney interviewing Chris Sexton for her Desert Isand Disco
Dr Chris Sexton picks tracks for her Desert Island Disco
All of this could not be achieved without the support of many colleagues who were encouraged to come along and play their own records. We had Hadrian Cawthorne dropping some quality jazz-funk and Matt Robson playing indie classics from Journalism Studies. Whilst Chella Quint played a varied selection, busting out a few dance moves in the process. Whilst Chris Howett from the Student Union took listeners on a memory trip back to when he ran the seminal NY Sushi Night. Recently retired Stuart Barkworth from CiCS dusted down his trusty records in his attic to take listeners on an early morning journey through the late sixties and early seventies. Finally Graham McEleanery went post punk and electronic on the Thursday evening. All of this was made possible by Ian Knowles from CiCS who did all the fancy technical work and made sure the station ran well with support from colleagues. The Director of CiCS, Chris Sexton was always on hand, as an avid supporter of Inspiration for Life, bringing in food and snacks and listening to the live broadcasts as they happened.

Andy Interviewing Tony Ryan OBE
Andy Interviewing Tony Ryan OBE
In addition we had various guests pop in to see us and chat whilst the real highlights were the five Desert Island Discos where guests picked six tracks, a book and luxury item to take to a desert island. The guests included, Dr Chris Sexton, Dr Mike Weir, Professor Tony Ryan OBE, Chella Quint and Catherine Annabel. 

Mark Clowes ran his own Sheffield pop music quiz which Pete Mella from CiCS won after a very tense tie-break. The manager of Forge FM, Luke Wilson (who provided us with the radio stream and licence) brought in his own records for a roundtable review. Being a student and liking new popular beat combos, his choices reviewed by a panel of four 'experts' with our own Artic Monkeys coming out on top, everything else was trashed.

The music roundtable panel
The roundtable review panel
On top of that, Andy delivered a lecture as part of the proceedings in the main room on 'How to be a Digital Academic'. Already plans are afoot to run the radio station again with everyone who was involved last year to be part of the 2017 radio station. Whilst there are no shortage of potential candidates for the Desert Island Disco, so watch this space. It's not too late to donate, so if you want to help local teenage cancer charities, please go to the link below. Many thanks. 

We hope to get audio feeds of the shows, which ran from 3pm on Thursday till 5pm on Friday, but for now enjoy Mark Clowes very early morning shows.