This post comes to us from Debbie Malone, VAL Committee member and library director at DeSales University in Pennsylvania. 

Altmetrics, going beyond citation counts to measure scholarly impact via blog posts, twitter and other forms of social media, is becoming a hot topic in library literature as well as more general scholarly communication. Academic libraries can demonstrate their value by examining faculty productivity, and altmetrics gives us another way to see productivity and impact. I recently listened to a wonderful seminar on the topic presented by Linda Galloway, Syracuse University, for the National Library of Medicine, Mid-Atlantic Region, in which she shared multiple ways she assists faculty members and other researchers to get started with altmetrics and to use these new measures to understand the immediate impact of their work.  In the post below, I asked Linda to share practical tips for beginning a similar innovative outreach service in your library.

Altmetrics and Library Outreach

Altmetrics, or alternative citation metrics, can help inform scholarship by providing near real-time analyses of scholarly output. In addition, altmetric values are popping up everywhere  – from PLOS ONE articles to Elsevier journals.  Librarians can help faculty and researchers by contextualizing altmetrics within the landscape of traditional citation metrics and recommending how to get started.

Traditional citation metrics quantify scholarly output by measuring a researcher’s number of publications, citations to those publications, and the relative influence of the publications.  Typically, a faculty member also considers their h-index as an important metric — an h-index of 7 means that an author has published at least 7 papers that have been cited 7 times.  While traditional citation metrics are the gold standard, there are limitations.  They do not capture a publication’s impact or influence in emerging forms of scholarly communication, are often behind pay walls, measure influence narrowly, and take a long time to accumulate. 

Altmetrics are not citation metrics, but can complement and enhance a researcher’s scholarly presence.  Beyond citation counts, altmetrics measure diverse impacts from articles, blog posts, slide shows, datasets and other forms of scholarly communication.  Altmetrics quantify a different type of reader engagement with scholarly literature — more personal and meaningful. If a reader takes the time to save an article to their personal library and then tweet or blog about it, it may indicate that the article is more compelling than the one that was simply downloaded to a reference manager.  And what about post-publication peer review — the comments that are now permitted in some online scholarly publications?  These types of personal, thoughtful interactions with scholarly literature are both timely and valuable.

Altmetrics can measure scholarly engagement by collecting data on:

Accurate attribution of research products is the most important step in both citation metrics and altmetrics. Content creators can help with this by registering for and using an ORCID or another unique scholarly identifier. ORCID can help with attribution by “automating linkages to research objects such as publications, grants, and patents.”  Authors should endeavor to keep one or two online platforms (institutional profile, Google Scholar profile, etc.) consistently up-to date with their latest articles and other discrete research outputs. Remembering to use unique identifiers in academic communications (such as DOI’s) will also help to gather accurate data.

 There are several platforms that help capture and visualize altmetrics:

Non-profit:

  • ImpactStory — designed for the individual researcher, tools to visualize impact of research products. Helps “researchers to tell data-driven stories about their impacts”.

Commercial:

  • Altmetric.com —owned by Macmillan Publishers (also owns the Nature Publishing Group). “Provides article level metrics for researchers and publishers”.
  • Mendeley.com — Reference manager, .pdf organizer & social networking tool for researchers/authors. Collects & displays altmetrics. Recently purchased by Elsevier.
  • Plum Analytics — startup co-founded by former Summon developers; recently acquired by EBSCO. Collects article-level data for use by different constituencies to compare individuals, departments, universities

At the recent 2014 STELLA unconference, most participants reported little faculty awareness of altmetrics.  Five years from now, the interest in altmetrics will certainly be much greater and understanding and collecting this data now will prove beneficial.  Librarians, who recognize the inherent value in recording scholarly communication, are well positioned to promote accurate and thorough attribution of research products by helping to quantify their impact.

Further reading:

Linda Galloway, Syracuse University Libraries

Biology, Chemistry & Forensics Librarian, STEM Bibliographer

 

Here on the Value blog we’re interested in highlighting research and publications that demonstrate the value of academic libraries. The way we define “value research” is assessment of library services and resources in the context of an institutional mission. If you have a project you’d like us to highlight, please comment on the blog (first you must create an account) or complete the VAL project survey to tell us about publications or work in progress.

There’s an article in the July 2013 issue of College & Research Libraries that we haven’t yet talked about on this blog, but that is an example of fairly traditional library value research. It’s “A Citation Analysis of Atmospheric Science Publications by Faculty at Texas A&M University” by Rusty Kimball, Jane Stephens, David Hubbard, and Carmelita Pickett. The stated objective of the article is to determine how well the Texas A&M University (TAMU) Libraries collection meets the needs of faculty researchers in the TAMU Atmospheric Sciences Department by asking what sources were cited by these authors, and does TAMU Libraries own them in electronic or print format. Many collection analyses have been published in library journals, but the authors assert that this is the first on publications by atmospheric scientists.

ImpactMap

http://meganoakleaf.info/libraryimpactmap.pdf

So, if we think about a citation analysis from the point of view of Megan Oakleaf’s impact map, above, what happens? One campus goal for any research university is faculty research productivity. The library has obvious contributions in the form of resources purchased, so this is a point of impact. Through a citation analysis of faculty publications, librarians can document impact and then send a message via library literature but more importantly through our own campus channels about how the library supports faculty research. Throughout the process we can reflect and improve our provision of resources and services.

This article from College & Research Libraries notes that the TAMU Libraries owns at least 90 percent of all material cited by the atmospheric science faculty and 100 percent of the most frequently cited titles. What a great message to share with the faculty there!

 

At many colleges and universities it’s tenure and promotion season, when major decisions are made about continuing employment and promotions for faculty members. Some of our librarian readers may be sweating their own tenure cases, as some academic librarians have faculty status, and some librarians may be supporting other faculty members as they prepare documentation to prove that they’ve been doing good work. If you have experience in either of these areas that you’d like to share, please leave your thoughts in the comments! (And note that you must first create an account to join the discussion.)

Academic libraries contribute to faculty teaching and research, two of the major categories on which faculty are generally evaluated for decisions about tenure and promotion. How can libraries and librarians support the review process and thus demonstrate library value?

The Value Report suggests that we examine how library characteristics can be connected to faculty:

  • Publication output
  • Grant proposals
  • Funded grants
  • Conference output
  • Textbook publication
  • National juried show exhibits
  • National or international awards
  • Citation impact
  • Patents
  • Consultancy/advisory work (p. 47-48).

Any and all of the above faculty activities and outputs may be represented in tenure and promotion portfolios. How can libraries help with the documentation or make use of the documentation to strengthen our case for library impact?

Does your library provide a citation database for faculty? Do faculty members use it or do librarians help them use it in order to demonstrate the impact of faculty publications? There’s a potential for library impact!

Does your library provide electronic resources that faculty integrate into proposals, articles, and reports? There’s another potential for library impact!

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