2017 in review: round-up of our top posts on communicating your research with social media

Twitter can help with scientific dissemination but its influence on citation impact is less clear Researchers have long been encouraged to use Twitter. But does researchers’ presence on Twitter influence citations to their papers? José Luis Ortega explored to what extent the participation of scholars on Twitter can influence the tweeting of their articles and found that although the relationship between tweets […]

Where are the rising stars of research working? Towards a momentum-based look at research excellence

Traditional university rankings and leaderboards are largely an indicator of past performance of academic staff, some of whom conducted the research for which they are most famous elsewhere. Paul X. McCarthy has analysed bibliometric data to see which research institutions are accelerating fastest in terms of output and impact. The same data also offers a glimpse into the future, helping […]

Academic journals with a presence on Twitter are more widely disseminated and receive a higher number of citations

Previous research has shown that researchers’ active participation on Twitter can be a powerful way of promoting and disseminating academic outputs and improving the prospects of increased citations. But does the same hold true for the presence of academic journals on Twitter? José Luis Ortega examined the role of 350 scholarly journals, analysing how their articles were tweeted and cited. Findings reveal that articles from those journals that have their own individual Twitter handle are more tweeted about than articles from journals whose only Twitter presence is through a scientific society or publisher account. Articles published in journals with any sort of Twitter presence also receive more citations than those published in journals with no Twitter presence.

LSE’s “request a copy” service: widening access to research both within and beyond academia

The 2016 introduction of HEFCE’s open access research policy and specifically its “deposit on acceptance” message has led to a large volume of restricted-access items being placed in institutional repositories. Dimity Flanagan reports on how LSE Library’s “request a copy service” has offered would-be readers a way to overcome this obstacle to research, and how the data the service provides […]

Book Review: Disrupt This! MOOCs and the Promise of Technology by Karen Head

In Disrupt This! MOOCs and the Promise of Technology, Karen Head draws on a “view from inside” of developing and teaching a first-year writing massive open online course (MOOC) to critically interrogate the claim that such technology will fundamentally “disrupt” educational structures. This is an eloquent and intricate analysis that shows how personal experience and practice can add nuance to questions regarding the egalitarian […]

Where’s the evidence? Obstacles to impact-gathering and how researchers might be better supported in future

Despite the increased importance of demonstrating impact, it remains a concept many academics feel ill-equipped to measure or evidence. Clare Wilkinson reveals how researchers from a broad range of disciplines think about evidencing impact, what obstacles might stand in their way, and how they might be further supported in future. Knowledge around research impact continues to exist in siloes, with […]

Increasingly collaborative researcher behaviour is the real threat to the resilient academic publishing sector

Traditional academic publishing has been rumoured to be imperilled for decades now. Despite continued criticism over pricing and a growing open access movement, a number of recent reports point to the sector’s resilience. Francis Dodds suggests this is partly attributable to the adaptability of academic publishers but also highlights attitudes of researchers surprisingly committed to the status quo as another […]

A closer look at the Sci-Hub corpus: what is being downloaded and from where?

Sci-Hub remains among the most common sites via which readers circumvent article paywalls and access scholarly literature. But where exactly are its download requests coming from? And just what is being downloaded? Bastian Greshake has analysed the full Sci-Hub corpus and its request data, and found that articles are being downloaded from all over the world, more recently published papers are among the most requested, and there is a marked overrepresentation of requested articles from journals publishing on chemistry.

Introducing Canary Haz: discovering article PDFs with one click

Access to PDFs of research papers is too often overly complicated and restricted. Canary Haz, a free browser plugin that helps researchers access the PDFs they need with just one click, has been released in response to this frustration. Peter Vincent, one of the co-founders, explains a little more about how Canary Haz works, while also encouraging feedback from the wider research community.

Minor, substantial or wholesale amendments: it’s time to rethink changes to published articles and avoid unnecessary stigma

The present system of labelling changes made to published articles is confusing, inconsistently applied, and out of step with digital publishing. It carries negative connotations for authors, editors, and publishers. Is there a way to efficiently and neutrally flag a change to a published article in a way that says what happened that is separated from why it happened? Virginia Barbour, Theodora Bloom, Jennifer Lin and Elizabeth Moylan propose a new system for dealing with post-publication changes that focuses on moving away from the current, confusing, stigmatising terms, differentiating the scale of changes, and differentiating versions of articles. While some hold the view that post-publication corrections must be tied to punishment of “offenders”, the role of journals is to be neutral, to maintain the integrity of the literature and not to punish researchers.

Artificial intelligence can expedite scientific communication and eradicate bias from the publishing process

Scientific publishing already uses some early artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to address certain issues with the peer review process, such as identifying new reviewers or fighting plagiarism. As part of a BioMed Central/Digital Science report on the future of peer review, Chadwick C. DeVoss outlines what other innovations AI might facilitate. Software with the capability to complete subject-oriented reviews of manuscripts, coupled with automated methodological reviews, could enable a fully automated publishing process – including the decision to publish. Although automated publishing would allow researchers to share their findings faster, while also removing human bias, there are obvious ethical dilemmas related to this dehumanisation of the process.

Why has submitting a manuscript to a journal become so difficult? A call to simplify an overly complicated process

It is widely acknowledged that submitting a paper to a journal is a fraught activity for authors. But why should this still be the case? James Hartley and Guillaume Cabanac argue that the process has always been complicated but can, with a few improvements, be less so. By adopting standardised templates and no longer insisting on articles being reformatted, the submission process can quickly be simplified.

A system that prioritises publications means early career researchers’ scholarly attitudes and behaviours remain conservative

Early career researchers (ECRs) are the largest community of researchers but despite this we know little about their scholarly attitudes and behaviours. Reporting the first-year findings of a longitudinal study of an international panel of ECRs, Dave Nicholas reveals that many remain conservative in their scholarly attitudes and practices. ECRs are concerned by “risky” open peer review, regard archiving their work in repositories as a non-priority, and display little interest in open science or altmetrics. Many ECRs see opportunities for change, but do not feel able to grasp them as they are shackled to a reputational system that promotes publication record and citation scores above all else.

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This blog post is based on the author’s co-written article, “Early career researchers: Scholarly behaviour and the prospect of change”, published in Learned Publishing (DOI: 10.1002/leap.1098).

Using Twitter as a data source: an overview of social media research tools (updated for 2017)

Following his initial post on this topic in 2015, Wasim Ahmed has updated and expanded his rundown of the tools available to social scientists looking to analyse social media data. A number of new applications have been released in the intervening period, with the increasing complexity of certain research questions also having prompted some tools to increase their data retrieval functionalities. Although platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp have more active users, Twitter’s unique infrastructure and the near-total availability of its data have ensured its popularity among researchers remains high.

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