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Interesting Key Findings found in the “Social Media and Research Workflow” Report

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Social Media and Researcg Workflow

The latest Charleston Observatory report on Social Media and Research Workflow published by the University College London (UCL) and Emerald contains interesting results such as the following key findings:

Key Findings

Researchers sent a clear message to librarians. At the top of their wish list, and by a big margin, is a desire to be able to search across the full text of all locally-held licensed e-content using a simple interface like Google. This is seen as a much greater potential benefit than libraries moving into the social media space by offering users, for example, an opportunity to socially tag the library catalogue.

Researchers are using social media tools to support every phase of the research lifecycle: from identifying research opportunities to disseminating findings at the end. They may not be the same tools, and they are certainly not the same researchers, but social media are most definitely making an impact on scholarly workflow.

Social media have found serious application at all points of the research lifecycle. The three most popular social media tools in a research setting are those for collaborative authoring, conferencing, and scheduling meetings.

The most popular tools used in a professional research context tend to be mainstream anchor technologies or ‘household brands’, like Skype, Google Docs, Twitter and YouTube. Researchers seem to be largely appropriating generic tools rather than using specialist or custom-built solutions and both publishers and librarians need to adapt to this reality. Is this a sign, perhaps, that there may be a gap in the market for simple bespoke tools?

The key driver for the take up of social media is pressure exerted by peers outside of the researcher’s own institution. Social media are helping to fulfill the demand for cheap, instant communication between researchers fuelled by the growth of collaborative and interdisciplinary research.

Users express almost identical preferences when they look for scholarly information. By far their most favoured route is to search the open web, followed by searching licensed e-content through their libraries, followed by asking a colleague. The only difference we could detect in this survey between users and non-users is that the former are more likely to put out a general call for information on a list serv or social network.

Regarding research dissemination, the traditional channels (especially journals, conference proceedings and edited books) are greatly and equally favoured … over informal channels such as blogs. Researchers continue to back dissemination routes that they know and trust. It is clear that social media users see informal tools as a complement to the existing system of scholarly publishing, not as a replacement. As a result, personal dissemination is on a steep upward curve, with implications for publishers especially.

Researchers, especially senior researchers, want above all for publishers to make content readable on all platforms. This, together with more progress in linking articles to their underlying data. They want the basics to work well, not more `bells and whistles’.

“This report is an exploratory data analysis of the preferences, perceptions and self-reported behaviour of nearly two thousand (1,923) researchers who are currently using social media tools to support their research activities. In the analysis the report uses a contrast group of 491 researchers who have yet to use social media in this way to get a little closer to understanding the factors that shape demand and take up.”

This is a large sample by any standards. The survey was distributed online through six very different channels and reached all disciplines across a very wide geographic range (with responses from 215 countries).

The report was sponsored by Emerald, ebrary and Baker & Taylor and prepared by CIBER. The questionnaire was developed by the UCL in close association with Emerald Group Publishing Ltd and was piloted using Survey Monkey Professional. Emerald, Cambridge University Press, the Charleston Library Conference, Taylor & Francis, University College London and Wolters Kluwer provided generous access to their mailing lists.

Source, quotations and all IPR and copyright attributions and credits belongs to the report owners. The report is freely available at

Written by Santiago Chumbe

March 2nd, 2011 at 7:44 pm

Working towards sustainability: SSI review JournalTOCs

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On the 12th of May I travelled to London to attend the software sustainability workshop offered by the newly funded Software Sustainability Institute (SSI). Neil Chue Hong, Director of the SSI, presented the services and the goals of the institute. After lunch, the participants had the opportunity to discuss their projects with analysts from the SSI and I think that was an important part of the workshop. We discussed JournalTOCs (and BayesianFF) with two experts from the SSI.

The workshop was a productive event for JournalTOCs. The main outcome for our project was a follow-up with Dr. Michael (Mike) Jackson from the SSI to undertake an in-depth review of JournalTOCs website from four perspectives:

  • Users who use the site to run searches across the registered journals
  • Developers who wish to call the API from their own applications.
  • Developers who wish to understand how the services work and how they could extend or change them if they had access to the source code e.g. developers joining the JournalTOCs project.
  • Publishers who wish to contribute to JournalTOCs

We received the full review from Mike last Wednesday 26th May. The document covered the above perspectives, uncovered issues with the website and provided recommendations. The review also compares JournalTOCs site to those of its competitors and offers suggestions as to how we could promote JournalTOCs site more effectively. Quickly it became apparent to us that the SSI review was going to be an important tool for the Project. The study done by the SSI has deciphered before our eyes the issues that are affecting the current JournalTOCs website. Some of the issues will be possible to be solved in a relatively short time and be done as part of the JournalTOCs Project. However, a few of those issues would require careful thought and it seems that we will not be able to implement them in the final stages of the project, for example the recommendation that it would be useful if the site could allow users to specify a search just over the journals in their MyTOC.

In conclusion, the SSI review has helped us to identify important issues affecting JournalTOCs such as the difficulties posed to our users by the present website, the API quality service offered to developers, the copyright and licensing implications for publishers, etc. In some way, we had an idea of the existence of those issues, but the SSI study put names to those issues and provided us with a clearer and complete picture of them, plus recommendations to tackle those issues. For example, we knew that there was something wrong with the usability and friendliness of the site but we were unable to find the details by ourselves. SSI’ expertise helped us to realise which parts of the web design was negatively affecting the user experience and consequently the sustainability perspectives of JournalTOCs, including the sustainability of its software itself. Being JournalTOCs concerned mainly with the creation of APIs for web applications, the web site was seen as something secondary by the project. However, the work carried out by the SSI opened our eyes to the importance of the website for our users. It provided us with the external unbiased opinion of a new user that came to our site for the first time trying to search the TOCs or to use the API.

The full SSI study of JournalTOCs will be published as part of the Project deliverables.

JournalTOCs Workshop: Presentation 5 – The Other Side of The Interface

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The fifth presentation of the day at the JournalTOCs workshop was given by Phil Barker, a Research Associate the Institute For Computer Based Learning at Heriot-Watt University. Phil also co-ordinates the Metadata and Digital Repository domain for JISC Cetis.

The presentation was entitled The Other Side of the Interface or The Sound of One Hand Clapping and is now available as a slide cast.

How do you want to be alerted?

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A question which often crops up in our discussions is whether the API should also alert IR managers each time new articles written by academics of their institutions (e.g. Universities) have been identified by the API.; and if so, how?

There are many possible alerting options, from traditional email alerting, to using XMPP to push the new articles to the IR clients so that the IR managers could “see” an instant message about the new content on their own admin interfaces.

It seems that managers work in different ways. On one extreme, one IR manager told me that the last thing she would like is that the API tries to “automatically” update her IR, and she would prefer to have the freedom of querying the API when she wanted. At the other extreme, one IR manager told me that he would like to see the possibility of a higher level of integration between the API and his IR admin interface by being able to “see on his screen” that new articles have been found by the API for him.

This question is also related to the delivery format of our alerts. Some IR managers have indicated their interest in receiving data from the API in a CRIS-able format or in richer RSS formats that include RDF modules such as prism and dc. The MODS schema was also mentioned by some of our IR managers. As we do not have expertise on the IR side, we would like to hear from IR managers about what they think about this question: What is the best way to alert you each time the API finds new content for your IR? Perhaps the answer is that the API should provide a range of alerting options, but which one is “top priority”?

We would like to offer various options but we do not want to overfeed our users! 😉


Written by Santiago Chumbe

September 25th, 2009 at 1:14 pm