Skip to content

Catching Up – Thing 3

December 5, 2012

THING 3: Bibliometrics

I apologise for my tardy posts. I have been participating in the margins – reading the weekly skills, other participants’ blogs and trying out the tools, but I have not yet worked out how to integrate regular blogging into my life. (Apologising for irregular blogging was one of the blogging no-nos we encountered in Week 1, and irregularity was THE cardinal sin, but this is supposed to be a collaborative way to learn and evaluate the digital humanities and I’ve failed to collaborate so ‘sorry, fellow DH23 thingers’.)

Our first task this week was to create profiles on Google Scholar and ResearcherID. I found this an easy task and, once again, wondered why I hadn’t done it before – particularly the Google Scholar entry. It is a useful contact point for anyone searching for me. Recently a senior academic, who was interested in a conference paper I had given, had to track me down via the session organisers to ask about the manuscript I had discussed. He could have given up rather than bother with this circuitous route to my in-box and then I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to share my research with him. Who knows … perhaps I’ll get a footnote mention in his new edition? (Only another junior academic might understand just how much this slim possibility thrills me!) So, again, thank you DH23 Things for making me address these issues.

The next task was to play around with Bibliometrics. I found the Citation Maps interesting, but seriously limited in their practical applications for my discipline. None of the most helpful and influential books and articles in my field made an appearance so I switched to searching for the names of the leading lights in medieval book production – hardly anything – and, then in medieval literary criticism. Again, next to nothing. If these are the results for the giants in my field, then bibliometric tools are not very relevant tools …. yet. I’m sure that hiring, funding and tenure committees will increasingly seek to make use of this sort of data and more and more of it will become available as digital publishing, reading and referencing becomes ever more sophisticated. So it pays to be aware of the basic ideas and tools.

But could I ‘game’ bibliometrics or venture into ‘Altmetrics’ in order to get more recognition? I find the idea of gaming inherently distasteful and, knowing my own technological limitations, I’m sure I’d do it badly and get caught out. After all, when Professor Helen Cooper, queen of medieval literature, has only a handful of articles referenced in Web of Knowledge and not a single citation, it would be very suspicious if my own meagre output starts generating large numbers of citations. Although I do recognise that I ‘game’ in some sense already: I’ve only ever submitted articles to journals that have the highest rankings in my field. As bibliometrics becomes more important in the humanities, I imagine I’ll make similar calculated decisions about where and when to publish my research, although I hope never who and what I reference.

I’ll finish with my thoughts on ‘Altmetrics’ (alternative metrics – using something other than the impact factor to measure the relative worth of research and researchers). I tried to follow the ‘discussion’ on the Guardian’s livechat site, but it was difficult. Between the trolls, the shameless self-promoters, and the irrelevant posts, I struggled to follow the threads of the interesting discussions. Was this really the most appropriate forum? Maybe the mad, ungovernable polyphony of the live chat was a telling reflection of the chaotic current thinking and practice surrounding Altmetrics. Or I’m just not skilled in following online discussions. If so, I’m sorry if I’ve missed salient points. But are my impressions:

  • I wasn’t much more enlightened about what ‘altmetrics’ involved by the end of the chat: hits on websites, tweets, blog posts etc seemed to be covered, but so did open-access publishing and collaborative research. It was all rather vague.
  • The chat was dominated, as to be expected, by science interests so once again the current relevance to the humanities seemed theoretical rather than practical.
  • There were also a couple of posts from ‘think tanks’ with an interest in raising the citation and online profiles of their publications – ostensibly benign, but they did make me pause to wonder about the creep of political and business influence into research at greater levels than in the recent past.
  • Finally, a positive point. Some of the most sensible and interesting posts came from Dr William Gunn, head of academic outreach at Mendeley. To paraphrase, he described Altmetrics as a way of having more kinds of data available to support more kinds of decisions – rather than an alternative way of ranking research and researchers, he sees these new kinds of data and data management as tools for allowing various communities – researchers, funders, the general public – find the people and information they’re looking for.

I like Dr Gunn’s ideas and ideals. It’s why I’m participating, albeit so tardily, in DH23Things. And it is working. I am discovering and enjoying connections to new communities because of these tools, especially Twitter, but that is Thing 4 and my next post.


From → DH 23 Things

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: