One of the hundreds of posts in my feed-reader this morning was about the British Library electronic theses service (via SCIT blog). As my own thesis should be included I decided to indulge in a bit of vanity searching. Result: EThOS has a long way to go.
I would expect my thesis to turn up for the term ‘webometrics’, in fact it is about the only term for which someone might actually want to read it. Unfortunately the only webometric thesis belongs to Xuemei Li:
My thesis does however turn up for the wholly inappropriate ‘bibliometrics’:
Seemingly the reason for my appearance under ‘bibliometrics’ and not ‘webometrics’ is that ‘bibliometrics’ appears in my abstract whereas ‘webometrics’ does not. Whilst this may seem reasonable at first, theorectically the University of Wolverhampton are taking part in the project and their record includes a number of keywords carefully selected me, including ‘webometrics’. The British Library also fails to provide a link to my thesis, despite it being scattered over the web like confetti: “Not yet available for download”.
Young academics brought up on Google Scholar, with full text searching and links to the numerous copies on the web, are unlikely to see the value in EThOS and its traditional OPAC style. Whilst I’d like to see an electronic thesis online service that seperates the wheat from the chaff, with full text searching and links to the documents, and believe that librarians could aid in retrieval with classification of such documents, this is not what EThOS is currently offering. It’s still in Beta, and likely to improve, but it has a frighteningly long way to go and you do wonder whether they should have buddied up with one of the big search engines to produce a more user friendly version.
Whilst searching on Google Blog Search for ‘webometrics’ I noticed that the usual webometric blogs are listed as ‘Related Blogs’:
As I had just been blogging on the subject of bibliometrics, I decided to see which the related blogs on that topic. Surprisingly there aren’t any:
[Although two blogs are 'related' to Scientometrics].
If blogs are a useful way for sharing the latest news and information in a particular discipline, as well as the promotion of a discipline, then surely bibliometrics would benefit from the odd bibliometrician blogging occasionally [...for the sake of inter-disciplinary relations I will eschew the joke about bibliometricians being odd]. Admittedly the webometric blogs are not the best example of academic blogging, but it is a burgeoning online community of sorts.
It is not very often that I come across a mainstream news article that starts bandying around terms such as ‘H-Index’ and referring to the ‘Web of Science’, however today’s Guardian has an article on the effect of web journals on academic publishing, the gist of the argument is summed up in the subtitle: “Online publishing reduces academic research to little more than a ‘popularity contest’, critics warn.”
The critic in this case is Alex Bentley an anthropologist at Durham University, arguing that:
We’re just producing so much wordage that nobody has time to read anything. It makes academic publishing, and even science itself, a bit like trying to get hits on blogs or try to make yourself the Britney of science.
Is the situation today really so different from an earlier age? Was there ever a time when we could read everything within our field, when academia wasn’t a popularity contest? The web makes the popularity contest a discussion point for the lay person, but the popularity contest has been going on since the we could check our citations (or lack of them in my case).
As a result of this lack of time, people are just hyper-focused on Science, Nature and PNAS
Is it me or is the above statement just a load of old rubbish? Publishing in Science or Nature shares your work with a far broader group of researchers, but it is by no means a substitution for publishing in the top journals in your own field. No academic could have a career that was based solely on publishing in these journals.
Citations have always been important. But they have never been as ridiculously important as they are now.
Personally I welcome the move towards a more open metrics-based RAE system, whilst also recognizing that there will be those who try to play the system (Goodhart’s Law). However, I believe that the best way to succeed in the metrics system is not to try to beat the system but to produce quality research, in the same way that the best way to get a high search engine ranking is to produce quality content rather than joining link farms. Information scientists already recognise that not all citations are equal, and in the same way Google adjusts its algorithm to stop spam dominating the front pages of our searches, we will adjust the calculating of metrics.
Dr Bentley will be pleased to hear that I will be flying off to Thailand next week to carry out some isotopic work on prehistoric skeletons.