Research metrics and citations count
Although the next two sessions were really interesting (well they were actually split around Yvonne Nobis’ session on Finding the known unknowns [...] due to timetable rearrangements but it seems logically to keep to the original order), they were heavy going. Bibliometrics aren’t necessarily complicated but it’s difficult to really get a grasp of what’s being explained without live demonstrations. There were screenshots of course but I think it may have been better to see how results are achieved live. The ‘we have no Internet’ excuse was pretty frustrating seen as I was happily tapping away on Twitter via Eduroam. Nevertheless Anne Costigan and Kate Bradbury carried on regardless and really inspired me to push for more support in this at my institution.
Anne started out explaining what metrics are – statistical methods to measure references for authors, articles and journals. Citations and impact factors (IF) then are really what we’re talking about here. Their purpose is to determine the quality of information or the importance of a journal by measuring citations over a two year period. Services like Thomson Reuters’ Journal Citation Reports lists impact factors by subject category so that you can compare journals in a form of league table. It is important to look at the subject ranks as well as impact factors to judge the authority of information. Five year impact factors are also available but not used as often and it’s a good way of mapping whether impact factors are going up or down.
What I’ve never quite been able to find out is: What is a good factor? Anne told us that the highest IF in 2009 was 88 and that this was from an open access journal – a great argument in favour of open access. The median however was 1.2 and factors can vary between disciplines. Some of the criticisms you get with IFs is the use of self-citations and publisher clauses that state an article must cite something else from their journal. This skews results. But Thomson Reuters have thought of that too and have introduced the Eigenfactor. As well as eliminating self-cites it also attempts to overcome the barrier with h-indexes favouring older authors. A h-index never decreases and so the older you are and the more papers you’ve written the better h-index you have.
Slightly later than scheduled Kate Bradbury from Cardiff University came to tell us about the sessions she runs for researchers – why she does them, what’s covered and what’s the format. Some of the early proposals of REF to judge research on metric indicators led to various discussions about their usefulness and more use of metrics was being promoted to help researchers decide where they wanted to publish material. It meant that more researchers began asking their librarians for help in finding impact factors and needed support in interpreting their results.
In response to this Kate developed a workshop to cover REF, bibliometrics, publicity, finding collaborative partners, researcher funding requirements and open access. During the session she introduces research metrics and allocates time for researchers to practice with a work book exercise covering how to find bibliometrics, set up alerts and register with ResearcherID. It was particularly encouraging to hear that subject librarians are also requesting these sessions as part of their staff development needs.
Finding the know unknowns and the unknown knows
Yvonne Nobis from the University of Cambridge is probably the fastest talker I’ve ever seen talk! I thought by the end she’d be completely breathless… but a las not. She did a great job. Talking about researcher@cambridge she explained that researchers can’t usually find what they’re looking for for two reasons – a lack of knowing what they’re looking for or where to start i.e. poor research skills. Within the University of Cambridge there are over a hundred libraries including fifty-six departmental libraries! Comparing that with our five I’m guessing that print material may well be a nightmare to find if it’s taken back to the wrong library.
For contemporary working scientists there is an increasing amount of material available online and this is beginning to be what researchers come to expect. However Yvonne pointed out that there is still 95% of monographic material at the Central Science Library only available in print format. To overcome this access barrier she told us that any material requested is digitised and made accessible electronically. Great! And better yet, it’s free! I wanted to ask whether she thought the service a sustainable approach for such a massive university but I was too chicken. I’d be interested in hearing what researchers think of this and how many requests on average they get each month. Is it something they advertise widely? She also told us that Aquabrowser (the library’s search interface) is not particularly good at finding things either (lucky my organisation chose not to get this one eh). So science@cambridge was designed to meet the needs of researchers through serendipitous information retrieval – it’s a portal to federated search. Yet with budget cuts and reductions in journal provision Yvonne pointed out that it’s been difficult to keep the user community happy and it may well be worth looking towards document supply models as cheaper alternatives.
A word from our sponsor
By the time we got to Alexa Dungan from Wiley we were already way over time and it was really disappointing to miss the last session from the University of Leeds’ Katy Sidwell and Sara Thornes (due to reserved train tickets). Alexa’s task of the day was to talk about WIREs – Wiley’s interdisciplinary reviews. These hybrid colloborations, conceived to provide authors with professional credibility, I guess are like new encyclopedias. They do sound pretty interesting but I’m not sure how well used something like this would be in my library. Maybe that’s one to look into.
All in all it was a great day and definitely worthwhile making the trip. The next meeting is going to be held at the University of Sheffield and is to focus on information literacy. If anyone attending has any dietary requirements be safe in the knowledge that it’ll be me arranging it… I’ve already decided. I can’t bear another food mix up, although saying that there is one special Oxford librarian (whose name I stupidly never got) who I wish to know that I am forever in your debt!
And finally… Here are a few more snaps I took of the day: