Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Impact of Social Sciences – What will the scholarly profile page of the future look like? Provision of metadata is enabling experimentation.

 Source: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2015/07/16/scholarly-profile-of-the-future/

What will the scholarly profile page of the future look like? Provision of metadata is enabling experimentation.

From multi-stakeholder platforms like ORCID, to commercial
services like Google Scholar, academic profiles exist in a complex
landscape of information flows.
Lambert Heller
provides an overview of the available scholarly profile pages and
offers insight into their future development, which is set to be shaped
by business models, technology, and available data streams. 

We’re used to easily finding researchers’ profile pages on the web,
often finding more than one for the same researcher. Especially for the
new generation of researchers, accustomed to having every piece of their
research online, these individual profiles make all kinds of sense:
They make it easy to show one’s own efforts, maintain and present a
network of related researchers, and reach out to collaborators and
potential employers.

These pages are relatives of “professional networks” such as LinkedIn
– but they offer many information elements and information flows that
are specific to those working in the academy and scientific research.
However, these profile pages go far beyond the digital version of a
traditional CV (“curriculum vitae”). A workshop within the Digital Humanities Experiments event on 11/12 June 2015 at the German Historical Institute Paris (DHIP), led by mathematician David Chavalarias and me, explored tomorrow’s networked researchers’ profile pages. (Learn more about the workshop and its outcomes in my blog series around the event.)

We are not anywhere near a situation where one provider of scholarly
profile pages makes all the others unnecessary. This is due to the fact
that we have a complex landscape of information flows with a number of
totally different information hubs.

It’s about the data, stupid! – Why metadata availability largely defines the three major business models of scholarly profiles

On the one hand, we have contributor registries like ORCID, which is
operated by a far-reaching multi-stakeholder coalition. They don`t even
try to deliver one “full service package”, but they want to provide a
sustainable, agreed-upon source of author data available to all kinds of
services. Then we have commercial services. Bundling all kinds of
services on their own platform, these services are most often islands in
regard to their preferred information flow. You fill out your profile,
maybe even upload your papers, but in most cases you will have a hard
time to let any other service reuse the data once you left it there.
Third, we have institutional players, and some non-commercial players
that are essentially financed by academic funding organizations. They
often draw from publicly available information streams, like the
before-mentioned ORCID – but if and how the resulting profile pages are
fit for consumption on the public web depends heavily on the goals and
means of the institution running the services.

Let’s have a closer look at some of the major players in each of
these categories. Or have a look at the table, if you’re in hurry…

scholarlyidentity table[1] Often supplemented by institution

[2] Often supplemented by institution

[3] Via ORCID
What do networked researchers’ profile pages include? Or, one ORCID iD to rule them all.

When we talk of modern approaches to the issue of networked profiles, we have to mention ORCID.
ORCID is a relatively new initiative driven by some of the largest
non-profit and commercial academic publishers, national libraries,
professional societies and major Open Access repositories. Their goal is
to build a centralised registry of all “researchers and contributors”
to academic products, allowing for unique identifiers that remove
ambiguity regarding the identification of their contributions. As an
example, take a look at the web representation of ORCID iD 0000-0001-5109-3700.

What does ORCID hope to achieve? First, all publishing and archiving
outlets will sooner or later be able to identify all authors and
contributors by their ID; second, institutions and individuals can
populate their own profiles with the ORCID data collected about them,
synchronising and updating between their ORCID profiles and any other
profiles they may have elsewhere. But is there any need for other
profiles if you can have everything in one place ‒ ie your ORCID
profile? Let’s explore this in greater detail …

Information elements:

  • Scholarly products (articles for journal and other publications)
  • Self-assigned keywords
  • Researchers’ alternative names (to ensure disambiguation)
  • Identities in other systems, profiles on other services
  • Attribution of multiple institutions (education, former employers, etc.)
  • Attribution of grants/third party funding
Reuse factor (structured availability and reuse rights):

  • High
Kings of convenience: the rise of commercial siloed academic networks

While ORCID may be new to some readers, nearly everybody within or in
the vicinity of the academic environment is now familiar with “Facebook
for scientists” services such as ResearchGate. This type of service
started gaining ground around 2008 – the leaders in the field being
ResearchGate, academia.edu and Mendeley, with user counts allegedly in
the millions. (For further analysis, cf.Nentwich and König 2014. Example of profile pages: ResearchGateacademia.eduMendeley.)
One reason for their success must be the convenience they offer,
enabling anyone to present their academic efforts in one place – a
convenience that sometimes develops into rather aggressive urging of
users to update their profile for better discoverability. A prime
example of the strange outgrowth of this kind of service is the
“ResearchGate score”, a self-acclaimed new measure for scholarly impact,
an indicator based solely on activities occurring on this service’s
website, possibly one of the purest offerings to scholarly vanity

What all these Facebook-mimicking services have in common is that all
of the information entered in the database of these services, from
simple facts about a researcher’s work to whole papers that can be
self-archived directly into these services, is owned solely by the
commercial enterprises behind them. In this way, these services
exemplify the “web 2.0” principle of being free (as in free beer), with
the caveat that you cede control over your aggregated profile data. This
is not only a matter of data-freedom principles. If you try to harvest
large chunks of content from these databases for reuse elsewhere (as
undertaken regularly by Google and other search engines), you soon learn
that this is not permitted. Only Mendeley earns a special mention for
being a kind of exception in this regard –it offers much of its data
under reuse conditions.

Most common information elements:

  • Scholarly products (articles for journal and other publications)
  • Self-assigned keywords
  • Attribution of multiple institutions (education, former employers, etc.)
  • Personal profile photo
  • Social graph (type of follower relation, in some services co-authorship)
  • Attention metadata from the platform itself (views, downloads, bookmarks, etc.)
Reuse factor (structured availability and reuse rights):

  • Low to non-existent (most academic networks)
  • High (Mendeley)
Authentic researcher profiles that are (almost) never meant
for the public web: siloed institutional “current research information
systems” (CRIS)

Although information systems such as ResearchGate tend to be very
popular at present, and can by all means shed light on what scholars
truly want ™, they have at least one enduring problem: they are never
complete. However, if you define scholarship as being attached to a
certain university or other research institution, you may find “current
research information systems” (CRIS)
to be a possible new contender for acting as a valuable source of
information about researchers and their activities. And a complete one
at that, at least with regard to the institution running the respective

What are CRIS all about? Mainly acquired by large academic publishers
in recent years, contenders such as Thomson Reuters Converis, Elsevier
Pure and Symplectic Elements offer CRIS database products. Research
institutions run CRIS to pool data about their staff and research
facilities. From a research controlling perspective, this is useful for
understanding and reinforcing an institution’s assets. Although most of
these systems are, technically, online databases, only a few
institutions view this as an opportunity to raise public awareness of
their research activities. In many cases, databases are completely
hidden from public view. In contrast to “Facebook for scientists”
services of the ResearchGate kind, with CRIS we have no problems with
completeness and re-usage rights, but with the public availability of
the data in the first place. That said, there are a number of positive
exceptions: as mentioned in an earlier blog postVIVO aims
to be a research information system based on the original means of the
web (like semantic ontologies), while delivering information from some
universities to the whole open web, usually including comprehensive
re-usage rights.

Most common information elements:

  • Scholarly products (articles for journal and other publications)
  • Detailed attribution of institutional roles and positions
  • Self-assigned keywords
  • Concepts from controlled vocabularies and/or automatically generated profiles
  • Personal profile photo
  • Social graph (co-authorship)
  • Attribution of grants/third party funding
Reuse factor (structured availability and reuse rights):

  • Low to non-existent (most CRIS implementations)
  • High (VIVO, a number of other CRIS implementations)
Impact and other ways to tell a scholar’s story: other approaches to researcher profile pages

Another very well-known type of researcher profile pages is delivered
by Google’s academic search engine “Scholar”. (According to preliminary results
of a very interesting survey from Utrecht University library, GS
profiles are even more popular than those on ResearchGate, let alone
ORCID, academia.edu or institutional CRIS.)  Google Scholar is
more or less comparable with huge traditional science citation indexes
such as Web of Science (or WoS for short, now owned by Thomson Reuters)
and its rival, Elsevier Scopus. Google radicalised competition between
these huge cross-disciplinary corpora of scientific article and citation
metadata: while WoS and Scopus covered a limited set of peer-reviewed
academic journals, placing them all in an online database licensed by
university libraries, Google Scholar takes a full-text search engine
approach, undeniably covering more documents and delivering search
results, including citation counts, to end users for free.

In 2011, Google Scholar launched profiles, something that cannot be
found in WoS or Scopus. The idea is not only to give searchers a
comprehensive view of individual researchers, their articles and
citation counts, but also to enable them to add to their profiles
themselves. Unlike ResearchGate, the service does not aim to be a “full
service package”. Instead of inviting researchers to self-archive their
papers on the actual website, it covers self-archived versions from
services such as ResearchGate as well as from traditional institutional
Open Access repositories. The only data that Google Scholars may
automatically give to third party services is the citation count of each

ImpactStory offers a service that is comparable in
many ways to that of Google Scholar profiles. However, it follows a very
different business model. (Example of
an ImpactStory profile page.) While Google Scholar is a commercial
service that searchers and profile owners can use free of charge,
ImpactStory is a largely third party-funded non-profit organisation
seeking to become sustainable through services paid for by profile
owners. While Google Scholar draws its data from its own article and
citation index, ImpactStory remains sleek by drawing from many different
sources of citation data and impact metadata – from Facebook ‘likes’ to
the number of forks on Github – or so-called “altmetrics”. The idea is
to operate as a service for collecting and consolidating this data, and
to present it on behalf of profile owners.

ImpactStory is by no means the only service that aspires to be the
clearing point for this kind of data – compare, for example, Plum or
Altmetric.com. In the growing landscape of citation and attention
metadata, many publishers, repositories and institutional research
information services have already decided not to collect impact metadata
themselves, but to draw from one of these services. It is interesting
to note that ImpactStory was one of the first services of its kind to
offer the automated import of ORCID data. To conclude: although they
appear to be similar at first glance, Google Scholar profiles are a
strongly shielded island, whereas ImpactStory strives to be a useful
intersection for different services and data streams.

Common information elements:

  • Scholarly products (articles for journal and other publications)
  • Self-assigned keywords
  • Personal profile photo
  • Social graph of co-authorship (Google Scholar)
  • Social graph (type of follower relation, in some services co-authorship)
  • Citation generated on the platform itself (Google Scholar)
  • Citation and other impact data from different platforms (ImpactStory)
Reuse factor (structured availability and reuse rights):

  • Low to non-existent (Google Scholar)
  • High (ImpactStory)
Some conclusions

With the growing expectations of cultivating one’s own scholarship profile online completely and conveniently,
things have become more interesting, and sometimes confusing. The whole
area still seems to be in its infancy. A strong indicator of the
ongoing development of this ecosystem is the consolidation of freely
available metadata streams – besides ORCID, we now have CrossRef’s DOI event tracker pilot as
a free source of impact metadata across many scholarly articles. In the
area of institutional research information systems, open approaches
such as VIVO ontologies and software are constantly gaining greater
traction, enabling custom developments and experimentation. So,
interesting times ahead!

Disclaimer: On behalf of my employer, TIB Hannover, I work with the DOI event tracker working group and the TIB Open Science Lab runs experiments and development with VIVO ontologies and software.

This topic was covered at a workshop within the Digital Humanities Experiments event on 11/12 June 2015 at the German Historical Institute Paris (DHIP), led by mathematician David Chavalarias and me. This is an edited extract of a piece which originally appeared here and is the second part (read part 1) of a contribution to DHIP’s blog carnival accompanying the whole event.

Note: This article gives the views of the authors, and not the
position of the Impact of Social Science blog, nor of the London School
of Economics. Please review our Comments Policy if you have any concerns on posting a comment below.

About the Author

Lambert Heller serves
currently as the head of Open Science Lab at TIB Hannover (German
national library of science and technology). As an academic librarian
with a background in humanities and social sciences, he tries to find
useful new things in the area of scholarly communication, and he writes
and teaches sometimes about that. He tweets as @Lambo.

Impact of Social Sciences – What will the scholarly profile page of the future look like? Provision of metadata is enabling experimentation.

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