Taking the measure of a new research impact tool: Introducing the Metrics Toolkit

It is generally best practice for scholars to use more than one metric and to thoroughly research where their publications are indexed in order to get as complete a picture as possible of their work. However, it can be difficult for researchers to differentiate between metrics and to determine what metrics to use when evaluating one’s work.

Enter the Metrics Toolkit, a great new resource created by Robin Champieux (Oregon Health & Science University), Heather Coates (IUPUI), and Stacy Konkiel (Altmetric) which provides “evidence-based information about research metrics across disciplines, including how each metric is calculated, where you can find it, and how each should (and should not) be applied” (“About the Toolkit”).

There are currently two ways to use the Metrics Toolkit- Choose Metrics and Explore Metrics

1) Choose Metrics

Lets look at an example that illustrates how you might use the Choose Metrics feature. Say you are an early career tenure track faculty member in Biological Sciences. You have had a fairly prolific year and have had a few articles accepted for publication – including one that was recently published in a highly ranked journal in your field (!). You are currently struggling to compile your first tenure and promotion report and are not sure what metrics you can use to understand the impact of your work and to share it with others. In this scenario, the Choose Metrics tool can help you determine appropriate metrics for your upcoming report, as you can limit by discipline (Science/ Technology/ Engineering), research object (Journal Articles) and impact (Attention, Reach, Or Diffusion).

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Screenshot: Choose Metrics option on the Metrics Toolkit

2) Explore Metrics

Explore Metrics allows users to browse and choose a metric that they want to learn more about.

So, say you are making progress with that tenure and promotion report. You’ve already tracked your research output by counting citations to your work. However, thanks to a former supervisor, you are aware that citation rankings can sometimes be a bit misleading (i.e. that citations are not always immediately available…that not all articles consulted during the course of research are cited, etc.) and that you should also use other alternative metrics in your tenure and promotion report. You decide that you would like to know if your prized article (the one that was recently published in that high impact journal) has been mentioned or discussed anywhere online, specifically on social media. You can learn more about these alternative ways to measure your research impact by clicking on Blog Mentions, Facebook, or Twitter.


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Screenshot: Explore Metrics option on the Metrics Toolkit

The toolkit also includes case studies of how scholars have used these metrics in grant applications, CVs, and promotion dossiers. Currently, these examples are very much tailored towards the sciences. However, the Metrics ToolKit could be very useful to those in humanities and social sciences disciplines as well. For example, the monograph is still the gold standard for promotion and tenure committees in the humanities and social sciences and the Toolkit includes metrics on monograph holdings, sales, and rankings.

Also, while the option to filter by discipline is helpful, these distinctions are currently very broad. Users who wish to filter by discipline can choose one of three options: Arts & Humanities, Sciences/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics, and Social Sciences. Publication and citation standards can vary significantly across disciplines and even between sub-disciplines, so it would be nice to have further distinctions available. For example, what is considered a “high” h -index  in engineering may be a much larger number than a high h-index in kinesiology.

The Metrics Toolkit is available under a CC-BY license, which means that it can be used on institutional and commercial sites without permission so long as you credit the authors – so feel free to share widely.

For more information, or to try out the Metrics Toolkit, click on the following link: http://www.metrics-toolkit.org


How to talk to your users about #twitterlibraryloan: From a former humanities student turned librarian

While completing my Master’s degree in English, I distinctly remember one professor singling out a student in class and asking them to buy a physical copy of the book instead of using their e-reader. Reading lists for classes were often compiled with very little thought as to text costs, availability, or accessibility – or, in other words – with little consideration of student needs. To many humanists, this preoccupation with the written word is nothing new. The humanities as a discipline has always been wedded to the monograph, leading the humanities to lag behind the sciences when it comes to open access initiatives.

So, imagine my surprise this week when I learned that historians are circumventing traditional publishing avenues and downloading parts of books using the Twitter hashtag #twitterlibraryloan.  In a manner that is reminiscent of #icanhazpdf and r/scholar, scholars are requesting parts of books using the above hashtag and members with access to the material are filling the requests.


Source: https://twitter.com/Joanne_Paul_/status/935217391478374402

But why violate copyright when you can work with a library and get the sections of the book that you need sent directly to you via interlibrary loan? And do so legally? Well, according to some scholars, requesting documents via interlibrary loan is frustrating at times. Usually, you will get the materials that you need, but it can take a long time…sometimes even a couple of weeks… to receive what you requested, and even then, there are restrictions on re-use. Today, scholars expect immediate and unrestricted access to information and libraries have failed to keep up with the demands of the academic information marketplace (Gardner & Gardner, 2017, p.141).


Source: https://twitter.com/Brenau_Library/status/638445363951616000

It is also important to note that as the demand for monographs declines, fewer monographs are being published and it is becoming increasingly difficult for scholars to find publishers who are willing to publish their work.  Libraries have also been forced to make difficult budgetary decisions lately, as academic library budgets shrink by the year and the cost of journal subscriptions continues to rise. University libraries’ purchasing of monographs has declined steadily over the past few years, as more of the library acquisition budget has been allocated to journals– a trend that will likely continue in the future. As a result, humanities scholars must find other ways to access the materials that they need for their research. Enter #twitterlibraryloan.

However, while many librarians [myself included] are sympathetic to the underlying cause of the Twitter Library Loan movement, we cannot support or endorse illegal means of accessing information. In this instance, like with #icanhazpdf, LibGen, and SciHub, the end [equitable access to information] does not justify the means [scholarly piracy]. But what we can do is use this opportunity to educate our users.  For example, in their quest to damage the profit margins of giant for-profit publishers, many of our users are oblivious to the fact that pirating materials is harmful to the entire scholarly ecosystem.  Scholarly piracy also hurts not-for-profit publishers, university presses, and small, independent publishers- many of whom are potential allies in the fight for open humanities initiatives. We should also point these frustrated scholars towards freely available, open access alternatives that already exist on the interwebs and that are perfectly legal. I’ve included some examples below:

Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB)

DOAB is an online directory that indexes and provides access to quality open access books. Currently, there are over 10,103 academic peer-reviewed books and chapters from 243 publishers

OAPEN Online Library

Contains the full text of peer reviewed OA books, mainly in the humanities and social sciences, which are free to read online

CORE- Humanities Commons

CORE (Commons Open Repository Exchange) is a free, full-text, interdisciplinary, not-for-profit repository for sharing, discovering, retrieving, and archiving digital work. Users are able to upload articles, books, book chapters, conference publications, dissertations, essays, fictional works and other types of publications using Creative Commons licensing

Open Book Publishers (OBP)

A good collection of Humanities books, available to purchase, but also free to read online

Open Humanities Press

Browse books published under a Creative Commons license and without an embargo. The publications can be read for free online and downloaded

Hathi Trust Digital Library

Offers a collection of millions of titles digitised from libraries around the world

Internet Archive- eBooks & Texts

The Internet Archive contains over 6,000,000 public domain books and manuscripts which can be read online or downloaded

JSTOR- Open Access Books

A repository of more than 2,000 open access ebooks

Lastly, if you’re feeling frustrated with your research and/or have a comment, critique, or suggestion about library services at your institution, please get in touch with your local librarian. I’ll end this post with a message from a very insightful interlibrary loan librarian, who speaks for many of us in the profession, I think, with the following Tweet:



Source: https://twitter.com/oodja/status/935887505626451969



Your friendly academic librarian