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Note: This is a reblog from the OKFN Science Blog. As part of my duties as a Panton Fellow, I will be regularly blogging there about my activities concerning open data and open science.

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by AG Cann

Altmetrics are a hot topic in scientific community right now. Classic citation-based indicators such as the impact factor are amended by alternative metrics generated from online platforms. Usage statistics (downloads, readership) are often employed, but links, likes and shares on the web and in social media are considered as well. The altmetrics promise, as laid out in the excellent manifesto, is that they assess impact quicker and on a broader scale.

The main focus of altmetrics at the moment is evaluation of scientific output. Examples are the article-level metrics in PLOS journals, and the Altmetric donut. ImpactStory has a slightly different focus, as it aims to evaluate the oeuvre of an author rather than an individual paper.

This is all good and well, but in my opinion, altmetrics have a huge potential for discovery that goes beyond rankings of top papers and researchers. A potential that is largely untapped so far.

How so? To answer this question, it is helpful to shed a little light on the history of citation indices.

Pathways through science

In 1955, Eugene Garfield created the Science Citation Index (SCI) which later went on to become the Web of Knowledge. His initial idea – next to measuring impact – was to record citations in a large index to create pathways through science. Thus one can link papers that are not linked by shared keywords. It makes a lot of sense: you can talk about the same thing using totally different terminology, especially when you are not in the same field. Furthermore, terminology has proven to be very fluent even in the same domain (Leydesdorff 1997). In 1973, Small and Marshakova realized – independently from each other – that co-citation is a measure of subject similarity and therefore can be used to map a scientific field.

Due to the fact that citations are considerably delayed, however, co-citation maps are often a look into the past and not a timely overview of a scientific field.

Altmetrics for discovery

In come altmetrics. Similarly to citations, they can create pathways through science. After all, a citation is nothing else but a link to another paper. With altmetrics, it is not so much which papers are often referenced together, but rather which papers are often accessed, read, or linked together. The main advantage of altmetrics, as with impact, is that they are much earlier available.

clickstream_map

Bollen et al. (2009): Clickstream Data Yields High-Resolution Maps of Science. PLOS One. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004803.

One of the efforts in this direction is the work of Bollen et al. (2009) on click-streams. Using the sequences of clicks to different journals, they create a map of science (see above).

In my PhD, I looked at the potential of readership statistics for knowledge domain visualizations. It turns out that co-readership is a good indicator for subject similarity. This allowed me to visualize the field of educational technology based on Mendeley readership data (see below). You can find the web visualization called Head Start here and the code here (username: anonymous, leave password blank).

Why we need open and transparent altmetrics

The evaluation of Head Start showed that the overview is indeed more timely than maps based on citations. It, however, also provided further evidence that altmetrics are prone to sample biases. In the visualization of educational technology, the computer science driven areas such as adaptive hypermedia are largely missing. Bollen and Van de Sompel (2008) reported the same problem when they compared rankings based on usage data to rankings based on the impact factor.

It is therefore important that altmetrics are transparent and reproducible, and that the underlying data is openly available. This is the only way to ensure that all possible biases can be understood.

As part of my Panton Fellowship, I will try to find datasets that satisfy these criteria. There are several examples of open bibliometric data, such as the Mendeley API, and figshare API that have adopted CC BY, but most of the usage data is not available publicly or cannot be redistributed. In my fellowship, I want to evaluate the goodness of fit of different open altmetrics data. Furthermore, I plan to create more knowledge domain visualizations such as the one above.

So if you know any good datasets please leave a comment below. Of course any other comments on the idea are much appreciated as well.

Note: This is a reblog from the OKFN Science Blog. To my excitment and delight, I was recently awarded a Panton Fellowship. As part of my duties, I will be regularly blogging there about my activities concerning open data and open science.

Peter Kraker at Barcamp Graz 2012. Photo by Rene Kaiser

Photo by Rene Kaiser

Hi, my name is Peter Kraker and I am one of the new Panton Fellows. After an exciting week at OKCon, I was asked to introduce myself and what I want to achieve during my fellowship, which I am very happy to do. I am a research assistant at Know-Center of Graz University of Technology and a late-stage PhD student at University of Graz. Like many others, I believe that an open approach is essential for science and research to making progress. Open science to me is about reproducibility and comparability of scientific output. Research data should therefore be put into the public domain, as called for in the Panton Principles.

In my PhD, I am concerning myself with research practices on the web and how academic literature search can be improved with overview visualizations. I have developed and open-sourced a knowledge domain visualization called Head Start. Head Start is based on altmetrics data rather than citation data. Altmetrics are indicators of scholarly activity and impact on the web. Have a look at the altmetrics manifesto for a thorough introduction.

In my evaluation of Head Start, I noticed that altmetrics are prone to sample biases. It is therefore important that analyses based on altmetrics are transparent and reproducible, and that the underlying data is openly available. Contributing to open and transparent altmetrics will be my first objective as a Panton Fellow. I will establish an altmetrics data repository for the upcoming open access journal European Information Science. This will allow the information science community to analyse the field based on this data, and add an additional data source for the growing altmetrics community. My vision is that in the long run, altmetrics will not only help us to evaluate science, but also to connect researchers around the world.

My second objective as a Panton Fellow is to promote open science based on an inclusive approach. The case of the Bermuda Rules, which state that DNA sequences should be rapidly released into the public domain, has shown that open practices can be established, if the community stands together. In my opinion, it is therefore necessary to get as many researchers aboard as possible. From a community perspective, it is the commitment to openness that matters, and the willingness to promote this openness. The inclusive approach puts the researcher in his or her many roles at the center of attention. This approach is not intended to replace existing initiatives but to make researchers aware of these initiatives and helping them with choosing their approach to open science. You can find more on that in on my blog.

Locally, I will be working with the Austrian Chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation to promote open science based on this inclusive approach. Together with the Austrian Student’s Union, we will be having workshops with students, faculty, and librarians. I will also make the case for open science in the research communities that I am involved in. For the International Journal on Technology Enhanced Learning for example, I will develop an open data policy.

I am very honored to be selected as a Panton Fellow, and I am excited to get started. If you want to work with me on one or the other objective, please do not hesitate to contact me. You can also follow my work on Twitter and on my blog. Looking forward to furthering the cause of open data and open science with you!

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