ALM, the Research of Research – Recent Developments

Article-Level Metrics (ALM) capture a broad spectrum of activity on research articles, offering a window into how researchers engage with scientific findings. We are beginning to understand what these data mean as ALM matures, the momentum continues to build, and the broader scholarly community joins the conversation. One important aspect is scholarly research. The June 23 altmetrics14 conference, part of the ACM Web Science Conference, is an important venue to present and discuss this work. PLOS has participated in three projects to be presented (abstracts).

Brainstorming community needs for standards & best practices related to altmetrics

Todd Carpenter and Nettie Lagace  from the National Information Standards Organization (NISO), together with one of the authors of this post (MF), will present work on Brainstorming community needs for standards & best practices related to altmetrics. This work was done as part of the first phase of the Sloan-funded NISO Alternative Assessment Metrics Project, and is summarized in a white paper that went up for public comment this Monday. The white paper lays out 25 potential action items for further work by NISO and the community. These action items were grouped in broad areas such as terminology, use cases, data quality, aggregation, and context. The white paper was written by Martin Fenner (who chairs the NISO Alternative Assessment Metrics Project Steering Group), Todd Carpenter and Nettie Lagace, but captures the views expressed by the community via three in-person meetings, 30 personal interviews and many discussions in the NISO Alternative Assessment Metrics Steering Group. The document is currently released for public comment through July 18, 2014, and we encourage all to contribute your thoughts.

How consistent are altmetrics providers?

Zohreh Zahedi and Rodrigo Costa from the Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS) Leiden, together with one of the authors of this post (MF), investigated the consistency of ALM data across different aggregators in Analysis of ALM data across multiple aggregators: How consistent are altmetrics providers? Study of 1000 PLOS ONE publications using the PLOS ALM, Mendeley and APIs. Building off of a similar study by Scott Chamberlain (2013), they found rampant discrepancies between the counts harvested by, Mendeley, and PLOS across a number of sources, but focussing on Mendeley, Facebook and Twitter. The results pose a serious challenge to data validity that needs to be addressed as soon as possible, and the conference is a good venue to start this discussion.  In this light, the authors call for greater transparency of data collection and provenance as well as convergence in the methods of collection.

Wikipedia references across PLOS publications

The third project, from the authors of this post, explores Wikipedia references across PLOS publications. As the importance of Wikipedia within the scholarly community is growing – Wikipedia is among the top 10 referrers to scholarly articles – little is known about the referencing behaviors (i.e., how, what types, etc.). The preliminary view of the data shows that coverage is moderate (with coverage on par with science blogs) and international (with only half the mentions of PLOS articles in the English Wikipedia). The pattern of references is distinct from popular social networks and other ALM (including usage and citations). Correlation was found instead between the number of Wikipedia references and the number of active editors for each Wikipedia.


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