4:AM: What we learnt

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It only seems like yesterday that we were in Bucharest for the 3:AM altmerics conference, so it was a bit of a surprise that September came around so quickly and we found ourselves heading to Toronto for 4:AM, which was co-hosted this year by the Ryerson Social Media Lab.

Mike Taylor presenting at the altmetrics17 workshop

Our week began with an information-packed day at the altmetrics17 workshop, where we saw loads of great examples of researchers using our data and took part in some thought-provoking discussions – a lot of the conversation highlighted how far we’ve come, but also that altmetrics are still such a young field, we still have far to go.

Wednesday found us in the beautiful Sears Auditorium for the first day of 4:AM. Opening the sessions was Dr Anatoliy Gruzd, who presented an inspiring talk that looked back on how the way researchers share and communicate their work has changed over time, and discussed the exciting potential for new insights (with a particular focus on network analysis) to be developed in the context of altmetrics.

The rest of the day passed in a busy blur – there were summaries of the latest developments
and a nod to where we might look to go next from a selection of organisations, including talks from Altmetric’s Euan Adie and Jean Liu (who presented a rather wonderful storybook journey).

Jean Liu presenting ‘The Donut’s Quest: A thrilling tale of Altmetric for books’

Sessions on practical and novel and experimental uses of altmetrics demonstrating some really interesting applications for the data – questioning in more detail how we should interpret what the data shows. In the afternoon tackling the challenges of altmetrics brought up an angle that had not really been discussed at all during our previous conferences: what are the implications of trying to promote your research more broadly online for female academics? Some of the issues reporting were fairly startling and seemed to hit home for many of the attendees.

A quick fire poster session at the end of the day (including a fascinating investigation of altmetrics as part of a scholarly legacy and an introduction to the HuMetrics project from Altmetric’s Stacy Konkiel) got everyone well primed for a drink whilst viewing the results of the research projects.

On day 2 we were up bright and early to hear the highlight presentations, which gave some good insight into the more unique uses of altmetrics: at a museum and from a funder. Judit Bar-Ilan and Isabella Peters also gave a useful update on the latest developments of the EU Metrics project.

The Twitter Effect session that followed included a whole bunch of great talks, which looked at the data in much more detail. We often worry that altmetrics discussions focus a little too much on Twitter, but if anything this session really demonstrated that people are now questioning the data in new ways, and producing some really valuable insights as a result.

A highlight after lunch was a guest talk from local science communicator and PhD candidate Samantha Yammie, who discussed the need for and challenges of communicating science over multiple platforms. Samantha shared her experience of engaging with a broader network via her instagram account in particular, and reflected on what her activities there might mean for her future.

Samantha Yammine presenting on using Instagram for science communication

The final afternoon of the conference was dedicated to two sessions: the social side of altmetrics and the value of connected systems – both of which included presentations that really demonstrated how far our thinking in the field has come since we first launched this event back in 2013.

After 3 hectic days (4 for those of us who also attended the do-a-thon!) the Altmetric team left feeling reinvigorated and full of ideas for how to take things forward! It was great to see that we’re no longer just asking questions like “Do these metrics correlate?”, but instead “How can we improve these metrics by making them network aware, thinking about the values that underpin the metrics we create, and making them more accurate?”

Key takeaways for us were the interest and discussion around network analysis, identification of ‘influencers’, and the potential of partnerships across organizations. The need for transparency and an ethical, critical approach to metrics remains as important as ever, and we’re excited to see how the ideas we took away from the conference evolve over the next 12 months.

Until next year!


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