Altmetrics…quality vs quantity

The last time I trawled the scholarly ‘sea’ for relevant, quality research was when I was studying for my Postgraduate Diploma/MEd around 5 years ago. Back then, citation and impact factor,  government papers and contemporary, trending  theorists and topics were the way to navigate, assess the waves and hopefully make a good catch.

donut2But nowadays there are ‘donuts.’ Woven, colourful donuts that visualise the online ‘attention’ that scholarly articles in journals attract. And before you start thinking that I’ve had a senior moment and mixed up my home baking blog with this one, I am in fact referring to the donut style visualisation from Altmetric.com, a company who have ‘created and maintained a cluster of servers that watch social media sites, newspapers, government policy documents and other sources for mentions of scholarly articles,’ bringing all the recognition together to formulate article level metrics or “alternative metrics.”

Altmetrics.com present a very user friendly ‘Explorer’ interface for search and analysis using the Altmetrics API (also available for scholars/developers), a bookmarklet that you can drag to your search engine task bar that will report on attention received by research you visit online and embeddable ‘donut’ or label badges to denote online impact on users’ article pages. The two previous highlighted links also provide simple overviews as does the embed below.

Besides Altmetrics.com, there are a variety of websites and projects that are calculating online impact, such as ImpactStory, Plum Analytics, Public Library of Science (PLoS) and Publish or Perish. In turn, publishers have begun providing such information to readers, including the Nature Publishing GroupElsevier and (again) the Public Library of Science,

The evolving field of altmetrics provides article-level data. This is in contrast to the traditional bibliometric, journal level, citation method which has received criticism for it’s quantitative bias that can be slow to reveal impact and open to manipulation.

As the altmetrics method uses a range of data sources, it is suggested that it can provide qualitative as well as quantitative information, and aspires to give a finer tuned picture of an article’s influence. It also has possible advantages of constructing that picture at a much greater speed than that of academic publishing.

altmetricHowever, as altmetrics are still in their infancy, there is not as yet a shared view on what choices, analysis or data combinations are a reliable indicator of influence. In addition, there is debate on the correct conduct within and across Twitter, blogs and other social media sources. Altmetrics.com comment themselves in their blog that , ‘Each altmetrics tool will have its own way of handling suspicious activity,’ and that they use ‘a combination of automatic systems and manual curation,‘ that does take much time and effort and so the company also requests that users aid monitoring and report anything unusual.

In terms of addressing scholarly consistency and widening access and impact to research, Ernesto Priego comments on the need for curating and maintaining an academic audience on Twitter, so that a tweeted article is propelled to an optimum reach. A ‘yin yang’ synergy of qualitative and quantitative methods is also argued for, with one informing and the other tempering, culminating in a fair and hopefully trustworthy measure.

Finally, just as assessment has always needed moderation in my familiar world of education and teaching, so does setting agreed standards in what constitutes quality assessment of research in order to bring excellence and consistency to practice. DORA (the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment – to which Altmetrics.com has signed) currently provides recommendations for academic institutions, funding agencies and organisations that supply metrics, reminding us in its 2012 report that it is ‘imperative that scientific output is measured accurately and evaluated wisely.’

Natasha Wescoat  'wescoatart' http://goo.gl/HqwulS

Lovely donuty tree picture source Natasha Wescoat ‘wescoatart’

API Stir Fry

There’s been a lot of talk about cooking this week, so as I regularly feel like I’m on the Masterchef mystery box challenge when I form my DITA blog, I couldn’t resist a little amusement by tackling another all new technology in a culinary kind of way.

Therefore, in keeping with the foodie theme, my main technological ingredient this week is a wonderful thing called an Application Programming Interface (API). To go with that I’m going to prepare a bed of Web 2.0 technology with a nice helping of Flickr flavoured API (as I think images are just delicious and go with everything) and then I’m going to finish it all off with a little British Library seasoning. I haven’t got a clue what I’ll rustle up for an embedded dessert, but I’m sure something will evolve along the way.

So for starters….

Just like a good cheese, the world wide web has been developing with age. Over the last 20 years it has moved from a static, mild character to a dynamic, powerful, connected experience. Coined Web 2.0, it has evolved to include an array of interactive websites such as Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Wikis, Google Maps and YouTube with a focus on accessibility, sharing content and creating, where everybody can taste and feedback.

…and so to main course…

Lets take our chosen platform today which is Flickr, a website that is full of metadata from its 5 billion images and which possesses the aforementioned clever communication service – an application programming interface. The Flickr API allows web developers to request, retrieve and return various types of data using its set callable methods within the restrictions of Flickr’s agreed terms and conditions. It operates using a representational state transfer (REST) framework, receiving communication in URLs and responding in XML – according to many sources, an overall easier format to make calls and afterward parse to HTML.

According to Library Mash-ups (Engard, 2009) the free Flickr API is ‘a developers dream’ because of its extensive documentation, test areas, developer discussion groups and blog. As public API’s are generally for noncommercial use, Engard also reinforces the importance of observing and revisiting licensing conditions and terms of service as platforms such as Flickr are entitled to change these at any time.

With its API, Web 2.0 features and the introduction of the Flickr Commons project aiming to increase access and knowledge to public photography archives, Flickr has become more than a social photo sharing site. Over 100 contributing cultural sector institutes recognise the importance of Flickr Commons in digital scholarship, crowd sourcing and it’s potential to re-purpose public domain content in multiple contexts, when compared to other independent library managed software.

Last week I mentioned the British Library’s Flickr Commons contribution of 1 million images, with the British Library Labs team appealing for ‘new, inventive ways to navigate, find and display these ‘unseen illustrations,’ and in particular, an invitation to create a crowd-sourcing application to aid image metadata.

After its first day on Friday 13th of December 2013, the photo-stream received an incredible 5 million hits and now, in less than a year, it’s reached 200 million views! Many artists and researchers have responded in various API mashups and reinventions as seen on the creative projects list here on the British Library’s Wiki set up by the BL Labs for curating public domain content. Highlights include an alternative scrapbook style viewer named Culture Collage and the algorithmic alchemy of Mario Klingemann (aka Quasimondo) – but more about him in blogs to come.

Further related content remixing opportunities have happened within the British Library Sound and Vision department as seen here.

…and dessert?

Well, time for a little colourful embedding – I found some lovely things this week based on searching for artistically reinvented maps (the embed is a teaser so follow the previous hyperlink)

Map Of Los Angeles Street Layout Colored By Orientation by Stephen Von Worley

Map Of Los Angeles Street Layout Colored By Orientation by Stephen Von Worley

and a little from the talented Mr Mario Klingemann (courtesy of Flickr)…

251 Random Flowers Arranged by Similarity

251 Random Flowers Arranged by Similarity

..and a very friendly API explanation that helped me a lot and appealed to my teacher soul. (courtesy of BBY Open)

until next week …don’t worry, be API