Using the social web (altmetrics) to improve science citation rate


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Social signals are being increasingly used by science publishers to predict citation rate of papers using these alternative metrics (altmetrics).

This presentation explores the growing importance of an online presence to the professional scientist. It offers three key tips to enhance your visibility - and along with it an improved long term citation rate - and signposts to tools to monitor the online impact of your work output.

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  • So this talk is entitled ‘using the social web to improve citation rate’

    Today I want to highlight the influence and use of online social signals – i.e. online views, downloads, shares, likes and discussions –how they are used to predict long term citation rate for your scientific output and how visible it is.

    I also hope to arm you with 3 simple take away tips so you can enhance the ‘social signals’ relating to your own papers so that they and receive the attention/recognition they deserve – and ultimately attract an increased number of citations.

    I will also point to a few tools that can help you monitor how your work is viewed, cited, recommended online. The tools also create a live online CV of your academic outputs which may be useful when dealing looking to collaborate and attract funding.

    So you’ve written a paper, presented a paper or taken your poster to a conference - what next? Invariably you start the next paper, apply for the next pot of funding or submit the next abstract - such is the cycle of life that is academia.

    helping publishers and search engines to assess how much impact, relevance and impact a piece of ‘science output’ has – and the effect they play in ranking when scientists search online.
  • First what do I mean by the social web:

    It is a bit of a weird term because it is basically what we now call the web.

    Many of you will have heard the term Web 2.0 - where sites allow users to create content, interact and collaborate. These days you can read AND write – as well as view you can post video, create blog, upload figures, data, code like it share it and discuss it. THIS IS WHAT I MEAN BY THE SOCIAL WEB. We’re all so used to it now that it IS the web.

    Compare this to Web 1.0 back in the 90s where sites consumers were generally passively viewers of content. Remember the days when you thought you were a hip webmaster if you could write html tags to make text bigger bold or even .... Or even post an image! This wasn’t social

  • Citations in peer-reviewed articles are a generally accepted measure of scientific impact. Agree?

    Put your hand up if you did an interlibrary loan (a few to no hands)
    Now keep your hand up if you visited the library to read a paper or journal (a few more).
    Now put your hands up if you searched for academic content online (journal etc) in the past week (everyone)

    Hopefully this illustrates my point that scientific publishing has moved from paper to pixels –the internet is now the place where your work (papers, reports, data, code and any sort of academic output) is viewed, discussed and shared using ‘social web tools’ such as Google Scholar, Mendeley, Twitter, blogs or social bookmarking tools such as citeulike.

    Think about it, even the journals themselves provide the facility to share or download!

    Why should you care?
    Think about this for one moment by putting yourself in the position of a science publisher/journal. Your audience – active scientists – want to read the new, relevant, high impact material. But how do publishers’ search results display impactful research when it can take 2 years for a paper to attract citations?

    You’ve got it... they use social signals (likes, saves, download, shares etc.) as a proxy/predictor or impact, influence! These social signals, or these innovative article-level ‘altmetrics’ are used to gauge impact and influence of new literature in turn it is used to rank and feature papers on the home page or in search listings.

    By measuring activity on their own sites and across the net – views, social media likes, favourites, recommendations, downloads, saves, discussions, inbound links to papers from social media, online sites, blogs etc. they can predict how well cited a paper will be!

    Publishers will also use semantic analysis – taking keywords or phrases from the title / abstract – the importance of writing papers with this in mind to increase citations was the subject of a talk by CEH’s very own Andrew Johnson earlier in the spring.

  • So where do you want your work to feature – page 1 or page 10?

    Next I’ll show you altmetrics in action for a CEH paper. This went viral and appeared in science pages of newspapers and how is reflected in the views etc.
  • Publishers are ranking your work from day one using algorithms based on a range of metrics from the social web to rank your work. (Here’s an example with PloS One)

    Referred to collectively as altmetrics, these ‘article level’ metrics and range from page views, downloads, links from blogs, tweet or facebook like etc....

    ... and are being used as early indicators of article impact and usefulness (well before ‘citations’ in the conventional sense appear)

    So this paper was first published in Jan 2014 and attracted media attention and was prominent on social media.

    Note the views saves and shares in the top right – plosone is monitoring the on-site activitiy around your paper. Also note the off site social platforms where it is being tracked.

    This publisher is using an algorithm based on social signals to predict impact – this will influence how this paper ranks when scientists put in keywords such as ‘citizen science’, ‘horse chestnut’ etc.

  • The link to the bookmarklet is
  • So go back 12 years. It was only possible to predict a small amount of the variance in the number of future citations.

    Pre-publication indicators
    Content – (factors such as good experimental design) are generally a poor (not statistically significant indicator of future predictions) . This is probably one reason why peer-review remains a cornerstone of scientific publishing. Interestingly, whether a paper was industry funded, and particularly if it was favourable to industry, is a statistically significant indicator of future citation number presumably as a result of the paper being used in prmotional material to support a particular product or service.
    Venue (aka the journal) impact factor and the number of times a paper is abstracted is a significant factor
    Highly cited authors was also a predictor – but only for those that were very very highly cited previously.

    Later studies have been shown to predict >80% of the variance! This can be done, in no small way, through the use of social signals - altmetrics

    By the time an article is a few months old, one can predict if it will be highly cited in two years time with 83% sensitivity.

  • So here are some papers that demonstrate links between social media and citation rate.

    I focus on twitter from now one. Why? The literature and evidence showing the relationship is most strong for this platform, it is ‘ubiquitous’, doesn’t by the nature of the 140 character limit not involve ‘much effort to get started – and is used by many academics*

    So Preiem and Costello show academics were regularly citing peer-reviewed material – there own and others. Each time this is done it creates a signal. The triuck is to get others to retweet though (and isn’t really the focus of this presentation)

    * This is dependent on YOUR peer group. Some sunbjects and subject niches will be more social media savvy than others

  • Eysnbach looked at the relatioship between tweets – where he amusingly coined the neologism ‘tweetations’ and citations

    He showed the relationship was statistically significant

    Getting retweeted alot led to more citations

    A key note – this was sterongest when teh tweets coincided with publications. Scientists MAKE SURE YOU TWEET ON THE DAY OF PUBLICATION AND TEHREAFTER FOR THE NEXT FEW DAYS to give your paper the best chance of recieving the recognition to deserves
  • Thelwall – Altmetrics increase citations - at least in medical and biological sciences and for articles with at least one altmetric mention

    The data show the strongest relationship with twitter, but also other platforms.

    Note blogs and media – use your comms team. We can help get you in to the media (subject to having a good story and warning that the paper is due to be published so it is news). Blogs, for example the ceh blog allow you to expand on your paper or make it more accessible to a wider audience. Links in your post will provide signals to your papere and readers can share on social media platforms also to amplify the ‘online volume’ of your work

    Note the evidence doesnt apply for all platforms – think where your peers or where your audience resides
  • OK tip one – get onto twitter and start tweeting about your work, your past work, the anniversary of your thesis, when you are presenting at a conference etc
  • Twitter:
    Quick, easy to use, free & ubiquitous
    It is used as a factor in determining altmetric scoring
    Evidence that its use facilitates citation rate – add links to your scholarly output and images – figures etc.
    Good for dissemination of your work
    Can use up to 140 chars. Adding links to papers, reports, blog posts relating to your work, scientific figures & images.

    ... also useful during the lifecycle of a paper – idea generation, collaboration as well as dissemination
    Key aim is to produce tweets that followers share (or retweet)
    @cehsciencenews can retweet your work to a readymade audience
    19% of peer-reviewed material on twitter is retweeted.
    Increase exponential – more readers, more downloads/retweets = improve altmetrics  citations

    If you take one thing away from what I say, tweet when your paper is published (online), repeatedly for 3days.
    Highly retweeted articles (shared) are 11x more likely to be highly cited (Eysenbach 2012)

    Here are a few tips – more in an e-book we are producing and if demand, we’ll do some seminars on social media to improve citation rate.
    Beginners use this Guide– twitters getting started pages. Actually useful and quick – setting up an account A-Z of terms etc.
    Basic level – tweet your publications.
    Build your followers – increase number of people who see your tweet.
    Start with people you already know peers and scientists, policy makers in your field
    Check out their followers.
    Journalists and bloggers are worth following as they can amplify your work
    Engage people you don’t know – comment on interesting tweets – news, papers, questions etc.
    Reach a broader audience with hashtags – words/phrases that people follow #ecology, #flooding. Gets to a wider audience

  • The anatomy of a tweet explained
  • In blue peter style here’s one I did earlier today.
    1. Note the image – this gets me more screen space in people’s twitter timelines. This is actually a video of a skype call I recorded with stacy konkiel from – I’ll mention them later and covers altmetrics in detail. I suggest you follow the link and watch it as she makes some really pertinent points that researchers should take on board

    2. Note the use of the current conference hashtag – and no I wasn’t in the USA this morning but it gets me to an audience interested in altmetrics

    3. Note the snappily written text and the profile pic – what a good looking guy 
  • Tip 2 make the ‘stuff you’ve spent ages producing sweat for you. This is content that can be easily placed on the web and used to generate traffic to your paper – and keep the altmetric score ticking upwards. Here I’m thinking of conference posters and presentations – don’t let them rot on your C drive put them online for other s to benefit from.
  • You’ve spent a lot of time crafting posters, presentations.

    Upload them to places like figshare and slideshare

    They are discoverable

    Content can be tweeted once uploaded – easy win

    CEH staff – always placed data on the EIDC
  • As well as figshare upload to slideshare:
    Reuse powerpoint presentations (upload the night before and link to it)
    Very high page authority
    Oppo to link to your papers/output
    Note the share buttons
    Note 3000 views
    Once up passively collects links!!!!!

  • NORA
    NERC PIs are obliged to upload publications to NORA so you’ve got to do it

    Yes it does appear on Google and does have the facility to share and is harvested by other repositories and organisations, but you need to get your material up there as soon as published.
    Stephen Prince – our head librarian – encourages you to upload post print versions of papers (the last version before publication) and include PDFs of papers with links to the published paper.

  • So I mentioned Impactstory earlier

    It works like a live e-CV and shows what impact your work is having

    It merges data from a range of sources such as google scholar, Slideshare, Orchid and Github if you have forked code

    This site will show you how many times an article as been cited where, discussed, shared downloaded.

    Have a go at getting your work online and tweeting about it and you’ll be able to see monitor the social signals they attract. Hover over the blue buttons to see the detail
  • Goole scholar is a simple way for authors to keep track of citations to their articles.
    You can check to see who is citing your publications, graph citations over time, and compute several citation metrics.
    By making your profile public, your name becomes linkable.

    It is quick - you can bulk upload related articles, not just one article at a time and your citation metrics are computed and updated automatically

    It’s Google it helps to have a presence here as well as monitoring
  • Summary
  • Follow the CEH twitter account we will follow staff back if they are tweeting about their work.

    For help and advice contact me or Barnaby

  • Using the social web (altmetrics) to improve science citation rate

    2. 2. The social web ... Huh? 80,000, 000 sites Web 2.0 widely read-write 1 Bill+ users Web 1.0 mostly read-only 250,000 sites 46 Mill users
    3. 3. Altmetrics for a recent CEH paper
    4. 4. Altmetrics for a recent CEH paper Download and try the bookmarklet to see a paper’s altmetric score on-the-go This company is monitoring scientific output and giving it an score of 164
    5. 5. Predicting citation count • 2002 – 14% variance in citation number • Content, Venue, Author • 2012 – predict with >80% accuracy Preprint access counts General Social Media mentions Scientific Social Media mentions Sentiments in early mentions Early download counts from services like ScienceDirect Early citations of the article shown in services like ScopusLokker, C., McKibbon, K.A., McKinlay, R.J., Wilczynski, N.L. and Haynes, R.B. (2008) "Prediction of citation counts for clinical articles at two years using data available within three weeks of publication: retrospective cohort study", BMJ, Mar 22, 2008; Vol. 336, No. 7645, pp. 655–657. Available online:
    6. 6. Predicting citation counts How and why scholars cite on Twitter (Priem and Costello, 2010) • 1/3 of tweets sent by academics contain a hyperlink to a peer-reviewed resource • Lifespan is short but impact increases exponentially if retweeted (shared)
    7. 7. Predicting citation counts Can Tweets Predict Citations? Metrics of Social Impact Based (Eysenbach, 2011) • Highly retweeted journal articles x11 more likely to be highly cited • Impact greatest if tweet in first 3 days from publication
    8. 8. Predicting citation counts Do Altmetrics Work? Twitter and Ten Other Social Web Services (Thelwall, 2013) Statistically significant associations with altmetrics score and citations for •Twitter •Facebook posts •Research highlights •Blogs •Mainstream media and forums (Not for Google+, Linkedin Pintrest or Reddit)
    9. 9. Tip 1 Tweet
    10. 10. twitter Publish n tweet - URL of paper - Within 3 days - Get retweeted by @CEHsciencenews Add Journal handle Relevant #hashtag Interesting Image Good evidence of altmetric/citation Conferences - discuss using hashtag - (even if not attending) Ongoing - follow peers - follow journalists - follow relevant bloggers - retweet - get tweeting get started
    11. 11. Anatomy of a tweet #hashtag URL - shortened Institute handleJournal handle
    12. 12. Anatomy of a tweet Profile pic Shortened URL @ handle Current conference hashtag Content Video or email Snappy text
    13. 13. Tip 2 Reuse outputs
    14. 14. Figshare Repository for all research outputs • Discoverable • Citable – DOI • Posters • Presentations • Figures • Media – video /podcast • Include links to papers elsewhere Upload and tweet (Warning: NOT data – use the EIDC)
    15. 15. Presentation viewer Very high page authority Link to papers Shareable Passively generates traffic & social signals to your paper
    16. 16. NORA Repository for publications and impacts • NERC PI obligation • Discoverable • Posters • Presentations • Figures Needs to be as soon as work goes live Focus on other platforms for social signals???
    17. 17. Tip 3 Use the comms team
    18. 18. Comms team CEH blog • 4,000 users •Followed by academic societies and journalists • Plain English accessible • Link to papers
    19. 19. Comms team Media coverage • Speak to Barnaby Smith • Speak to him well before publication date!!! •Not always a press release • Contact journalist for 1-2-1 • SMC briefing •Advise on alternatives • Advise on social media • Blog • Podcast or video short !!
    20. 20. Tools for monitoring academic impact
    21. 21. Live CV of a variety of research outputs Links to : •Google Scholar •Slideshare •Orchid ID •Figshare •Github Show you how many times an article as been cited where, discussed, shared downloaded in once place
    22. 22. Google Scholar • Track citations • Public profile on Google • Makes your name linkable • Easy to bulk upload • It’s Google – it helps
    23. 23. Learning points 1. Science publishing from paper to pixels 2. Web native science immediately measureable 3. Publishers use ‘social signals’ (aka altmetrics) to determine article impact & influence 4. Higher altmetric scoring = Higher ranking = Greater visibility = More citations 5. Monitor altmetric scores via impactstory etc.
    24. 24. www.tweetyourscience The role of twitter in the life cycle of a scientific publication (Darling et al, 2013) PlosOne Altmetrics collection Resources
    25. 25. @CEHSciencenews Paul Fisher Barnaby Smith