It is estimated that there are 1.8M scientific articles published every year, but about half aren’t read by anyone except the reviewers and editor. Either 50% of research is worthless (and thus 50% of funding misspent), or we have a serious discovery problem.
Many public and private institutions are increasingly seeing the importance of the web for distributing knowledge. So how does an institution get greater exposure for their research while remaining in control of their research agenda? How can we make our articles findable and, more importantly, how can we track reuse of our articles? Here are some recommendations to improve your repositories and make your research impactful.
Define your audience and welcome the new member: machine learning algorithms
Publication, peer review, and journal correspondence will always be part of scholarly communication and a scholar will always be known by his work. What’s changing is the medium through which that communication takes place. Where before the reach of a scholar’s ideas was limited by the circulation of the journal in which they appeared, now that reach extends to the entire world.
Reach is no longer a limiting factor, but the attention paid to each piece has diminished because the total amount of research articles has grown. The share of attention from the consumers of scholarly content now determines the influence of a scholar’s works. Therefore, it is important that our knowledge reaches a precise audience that now not only includesother scholars, but clinicians, patients, policy makers, general public, and even machine learning algorithms.
Connect your repository with your social networks and choose the correct license
Research has shown that articles openly available on the web, have a broader reach than those behind a subscription barrier. When they are shared on social networks and fed into recommendation algorithms, it’ll help command a larger share of attention, as well.
Unfortunately, copyright law is mostly still designed for the reach-limited print era, and the complex machinery connecting people together on the Internet gets choked up trying to figure out who is supposed to be able to access, share, or read what version of which content. The so called Creative Commons Attribution License are of vital importance in this case as it helps to clarify the type of license for each work.
Define your operational model
Subscription mechanisms have the advantage of providing consistent revenue, which is essential for the preservation of the scholarly record. SciELO, Arxiv, and institutional repositories all face sustainability challenges and generally aren’t able to bring the same level of resources to bear that a commercial enterprise can. However, well-run non-profits are able to provide services that no commercial company would be able to, and so both will remain important parts of the scholarly communication infrastructure.
In the future, I see Open Knowledge projects following a similar path to open source, in that value-added services will develop on top of a free content layer, providing information on aggregated data that can describe global trends.
Use metrics to understand your impact
Thanks to the data stored in the open web, applications allow you to understand the impact of your research. ImpactStory offers a personal dashboard of your attention share; Lens provides a flexible and efficient way to display papers on a range of devices; ScienceScape, a recommendation engine for the sciences, provides an overview of a field and eases entry by newcomers; and Mendeley, my company, provides recommendations, collaboration tools, and metrics to researchers in any discipline.
What changes do you see from your perspective?
- Dr. William Gunn is the Head of Academic Outreach for Mendeley, a research management tool for collaboration and discovery. Dr. Gunn attended Tulane University as a Louisiana Board of Regents Fellow, receiving his Ph.D in Biomedical Science from the Center for Gene Therapy at Tulane University in 2008. His research involved dissecting the molecular mechanism of bone metastasis in multiple myeloma and resulted in a novel treatment approach employing mesenchymal stem cells, the body’s own reparative forces. Frustrated with the inefficiencies of the modern research process, he left academia and established the biology program at Genalyte, a novel diagnostics startup. At Mendeley, he works to make research more impactful and reproducible and is an expert on altmetrics, reproducibility, and open access.
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