Altmetrics, oh yeah social media…

I have been laying low on social media, working this past year to position myself in the field of HE through reading, networking and experimenting with “my ways” of producing knowledge tidbits. But last week I got a friendly little reminder to get back online in a formal way; and that was that I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the 2:AM Conference and Altmetrics Workshop (see my post on the conference). The last dark years of the PhD:) = writing with blinders on to finish, have not allowed me to engage with this community as much as I would have liked; but regardless I remain to be inspired. I was able able to reflect upon this attraction following the conference to identify how and why altmetrics keeps the blood flowing in the academic chamber of my heart, at least.

Altmetrics touches on a number of my professional and personal interests. Of course the discussions of new/emerging scholar outputs is likely exciting for any academic. The call for open access is everywhere, the actual practices that we under take to do research – including reading, collecting data, analysis, but also networking, sharing info, just stimulating your brain! are intimate to our lives as researchers and they are changing where they are increasingly online or supported through online tools, cloud services, platforms. But the topic of altmetrics encompasses more specific interests of mine: a) networking in general (e.g. how can we use our networks to yield different kinds of capital, how do those network influence our access, etc..), b) science and technology in general (e.g. changing practices of knowledge production and dissemination), and c) innovation (e.g. what do we need to come to new ideas, how do we innovate). In addition, as a self-confessed data-addict – who gets giddy with the idea of any big(ger) data on social actors (individuals and institutions alike) altmetrics could just really be a girls dream date – data being generated with every click… so long story short, I am back online sharing with whomever wants to listen and be part of a growing conversation on networking for innovation, or networking for knowledge, or just networking… we will figure it out along the way.

Scientists use of the Web

Scientists are increasingly using the Web to exchange, share, and accumulate/identify knowledge. The use of the Web by scientists is a field of growing interest. Thus it made us question, who is using these Web platforms? All scientists, specific groups/ages/disciplines of science. With a group of computer scientists within the Network Institute we developed a method and tool to identify a set of known scientists to able to reflect on the representativeness of Web studies of scientists online. This work was recently presented at the Sixth Chinese Semantic Web Symposium (CSWS2012) and the First Chinese Web Science Conference (CWSC2012) in Shenzhen, China. And will be published shortly in the conference proceedings, for now you can find the publication here.


Yesterday Times Higher Education published an interesting article by Matthew Gamble, a computer scientist working on web science questions. Gamble’s article addresses the need for Web 2.0 scholarship – the use of online metrics for evaluating science; piggy backing on other discussions in the field such as alt-metrics (which Gamble also mentions).

This discussion opens doors to a number of questions about knowledge production processes as well as what is valued in science and what should/could be measured as impact. These discussions were also the topic of the recent altmetrics workshop at the Web Science Conference in Koblenz, Germany in June 2011 (which I attended). The Altmetrics workshop itself was the first steps towards building a recognized community in science who were researching alternative metrics to science. The workshop brought together researchers from multiple disciplines and facilitated great discussions on a wide number of topics that look at understanding not only Web behaviors of scientists, but collection and disambiguation problems of Web data and how to understand the implications of science and knowledge production on the Web. Overall one of the best workshops I have attended, yet, that perfectly fit my area of growing expertise.

I presented some exploratory research on the validity of online metrics in science. The work was completed with my colleague Shenghui Wang, a talented computer scientist, who I developed a crawler with (she did the actual building, I did the informing) to investigate a community of scientists online. The title was – “Who are we talking about?: the validity of online metrics for commenting on science”. You can find the complete abstract here: Paper is in the works.

Preliminary/exploratory results indicated that, in the sample of Dutch computer scientists and their co-authors from 2007 – March 2011, the higher your h-index (a measure of performance) the more likely you are to be found on LinkedIn, Slideshare and have a blog. Additionally the higher the citation score (a measure of tenure and performance) the more likely you are be on LinkedIn and have a blog. This suggests that among this community the measuring of web behaviors of a scientists own enterprise are representative of dynamics of scientist who have both a higher tenure and higher performance, thus when talking about implications of altmetrics and or analyzing behavior on these social media sites we need to be explicit about who we can generalize about and how these reflect to greater dynamics in science; as for this sample we can only reflect on the behaviors of high performance and tenured scientists. Further research needs to be completed to test this on other research communities and further develop recall precision techniques used in the web crawler to obtain the data on scientists’ presence on these sites; although we might suggest that if this holds true for other communities that altmetrics would provide a unique avenue for analyzing those leading the pack in their respective fields which would allow more immediate impact measures for understanding science overcoming the delay of impact measures that integrate citation.

Semantically Mapping Science Project @ VU Amsterdam

Since I started my PhD I have been part of the SMS-project – the Semantically Mapping Science Project (  This project aligned well with my own research of using Web data (when possible) to investigate collaboration in science, as the group of researchers related to the project are all working on different aspects of tracing Web behaviors. The project includes a number of computer scientists interested in implementing Semantic Web techniques and a group of social scientists who are working to analyze traceable Web behaviors to understand a combination of mechanisms within science from structures of science (publication practices), to understanding the dynamics of online behaviors in e-infrastructures. The under lying question that brings it all together is – Can we use Semantic Web techniques to meaningfully detect, retrieve and manipulate such web-traces of activities of scientists in order to improve Scientometrics studies?

A number of concrete projects have already emerged from within this idea with lots of others in the works, including:

work on science blogging: Paul Groth, Thomas Gurney (2010) Studying Scientific Discourse on the Web using Bibliometrics: A Chemistry Blogging Case Study, In Press. In WebSci10: Extending the Frontiers of Society On-Line.

a number of projects on altmetrics including: Julie M. Birkholz and Shenghui Wang (2011) Who are we talking about?: the validity of online metrics for commenting on science, & Daphne Duin and Peter van den Besselaar The search for alternative metrics for taxonomy  both presentations at the Altmetrics workshop at the WebSci11 conference, Koblenz, Germany.

I am looking forward to the upcoming academic semester for further expanding on these projects and getting some other ones out the door!