Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Impact of Social Sciences – Book Review: Altmetrics: A Practical Guide for Librarians, Researchers and Academics edited by Andy Tattersall

 Source: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2016/11/06/book-review-altmetrics-a-practical-guide-for-librarians-researchers-and-academics-edited-by-andy-tattersall/

Book Review: Altmetrics: A Practical Guide for Librarians, Researchers and Academics edited by Andy Tattersall

Altmetrics: A Practical Guide for Librarians, Researchers and Academics, edited by Andy Tattersall, provides an overview of altmetrics and
new methods of scholarly communication and how they can be applied
successfully to provide evidence of scholarly contribution and improve
how research is disseminated. The book, which draws on the expertise of
leading figures in the field, strongly encourages library and
information science (LIS) professionals to get involved with altmetrics
 to meet the evolving needs of the research community, finds Nathalie Cornée.
This review originally appeared on LSE Review of Books and is published under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 UK licence.
Altmetrics: A Practical Guide for Librarians, Researchers and Academics. Andy Tattersall (ed.). Facet Publishing. 2016.
Find this book: amazon-logo
altmetrics-coverBack in 2010, a new field of scholarly communication research was burgeoning: altmetrics. Altmetrics (initially standing for alternative metrics)
are part of the broader range of scholarly metrics, such as the impact
factor, citation counts or the h-index. They primarily intend to provide
an indication of online and social media attention to any research
outputs (as opposed to established metrics focusing mainly on peer
reviewed publications only) by capturing their social influence. By
doing this, they aim to improve our understanding about how information
about research propagates, how it is used and how scholars are engaging
with these new forms of scholarly communication.
Today, altmetrics are no longer regarded
as alternative, but rather as complementary to traditional metrics. Many
advocate their use as ‘early indicators’ of article usefulness. Indeed,
research that used to take months or years to reach readers can now
find them almost instantly via blogs, Wikipedia, social media networks,
etc. Activities that used to be hidden, such as reading or downloading a
paper, are now visible and therefore traceable (see Ben Showers,
Chapter Four). Many stakeholders within academia are looking for new
ways to measure how outputs are consumed online before they even start
accruing citation counts (which take years for most disciplines).
In Altmetrics, the authors begin
by explaining where altmetrics sit within the research landscape, the
importance of research evaluation for scholarship and employment
decisions, benchmarking purposes, funding opportunities, etc, as well as
the notion of prestige or influence which is deeply rooted within
Chapter Three, ‘Metrics of the Trade –
Where Have We Come From?’ by Andrew Booth, provides a comprehensive
review of the established metrics, and is a must-read for anyone less
familiar with the broader world of scholarly metrics. By explaining
their goal as well as their actual use in assessing individuals, groups
or journal performance, Booth opens up the context in which altmetrics
started to flourish and the gap that they have been trying to fill.
Throughout the book, Andy
Tattersall insists on the cultural shift that academia has witnessed
over the last decades: namely, since the development of the Internet and
its related technologies (including MOOCs, Big Data, Open Access). Even
though scholars were initially relatively quick to adopt some of the
new means of communication that the digital world had to offer, such as
emails, Tattersall reminds us that a vast majority of scholars tend to
be rather apprehensive in utilising some of the new means of scholarly
communication, firstly because of the downpour of technologies and
platforms now available to them, and secondly because they rightly
question their validity.
Image Credit: (dirkcuys CC BY SA 2.0)
While the first half of Altmetrics
focuses mainly on setting the scene for new scholarly communications,
the second half tends to emphasise the vital role that library and
information professionals can play in helping staff discover and
communicate research and ultimately reinforce their outreach activities
within their own institutions.
LIS professionals are clearly the first
target audience of this book, even though academics, publishers, funders
or stakeholders of the research evaluation process could apply the
recommendations to some extent. That said, throughout the book the
authors stress how well-suited librarians are to supporting researchers.
Indeed, librarians have developed a key presence within the research
cycle by being experts in managing academic content either through
collections, subscriptions or institutional repositories. They are also
highly regarded within the academic community for their advice on
copyright issues, support with information discovery and literacy, and
have more recently become very proficient in facilitating open access
Chapter Ten, ‘The Connected Academic’,
particularly struck a chord with me as Tattersall relays some of the
major and very legitimate questions scholars tend to have
about altmetrics, including ‘is this system good quality?’, ‘is this
system stable?’ and ‘why use this technology, could it just be a fad?’
(141). If LIS professionals succeed in answering some of these questions
that academics (or research administrators) may have by not providing
them with just technical answers but rather by tailoring their response
to each individual case, this will indeed help them strengthen their
relationships and role within their organisation. I would have liked
this chapter to go even further and provide successful stories of LIS
professionals doing just that as every scholar will have different
reasons for developing their online presence.
As the subtitle of Altmetrics stresses,
it aims to be ‘practical’. Chapter Eight, ‘Resources and Tools,’
written by Tattersall, provides a short introduction to 41 resources
including the major altmetrics tools as well as many social media
platforms, some of which have an academic focus while others tend
towards the mainstream. This list was useful in itself as some were new
to me, but the real difficulty we face as LIS professionals is
convincing our academics how valuable these tools can be to them and
which ones to select and invest time in. Here again, concrete examples
of scholars having developed strategies and workflows in which they
have effectively combined these various outreach activities of sharing,
connecting and measuring would have been beneficial. Tattersall
does include, however, some helpful tips and tricks, such as identifying
a ‘twin’ to demonstrate the value of disseminating research and
engaging online (150). The author defines this as someone who would be
a scholar’s highly respected peer, but based in another organisation and
who has been successfully active on social media platforms.
The field of altmetrics has grown exponentially to the point that they are now considered as part of the basket of metrics recommended by the Leiden Manifesto or the Metric Tide Report,
which both advocate the use of responsible metrics. The field has also
attracted lots of groundbreaking research about the opportunities and
challenges they bring in terms of their meaning or validity. Altmetrics: A Practical Guide for Librarians, Researchers and Academics is
very welcome as it is one of very few textbooks revisiting the theory
behind the growth of altmetrics, providing a comprehensive snapshot of
what they look like today and demonstrating their value if applied in a
meaningful manner. All in all, this is a worthwhile read, especially for
any LIS professional interested in improving their understanding of

Nathalie Cornée
is LSE Library’s Research Information Analyst. In her role, Nathalie
focuses on providing support and training in all aspects of
bibliometrics and citation analysis to researchers, administrative and
research support staff to help them in getting some understanding of how
the metrics are calculated and how they can be used to maximise the
visibility and exposure of their research findings.
Note: This review gives the views of
the author, and not the position of the LSE Impact Blog, or of the
London School of Economics.

Impact of Social Sciences – Book Review: Altmetrics: A Practical Guide for Librarians, Researchers and Academics edited by Andy Tattersall

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