Digital Scholarship and Impact Factors: Methods to Connect Your Research
Digital Scholarship and Impact Factors:
Methods and Tools to Connect Your Research
Laura A. Pasquini
Laura.Pasquini@unt.edu + http://orcid.org/0000-0002-0145-9070
Jenny S. Wakefield
Jenny.Wakefield@unt.edu + http://orcid.org/0000-0002-4740-0314
AdalheidurReed@my.unt.edu + http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7010-1531
Jeff M. Allen
Jeff.Allen@unt.edu + http://orcid.org/0000-0003-0551-0539
Department of Learning Technologies
University of North Texas
Abstract: Today digital footprints are left all over the Internet for others to find. This
article reviews the means through which scholars can organize research and connect
digital scholarship for increased visibility and impact. A survey of the literature on
scholarship tools to provide connections for publishing records, academic citations,
and digital identity management was done. The authors reviewed Researcher ID,
ORCID, and Google Scholar Citations. The numbers of portals for synthesizing
research output and related identity management platforms are increasing; however,
understanding what this research impact might look like in the digital age can
provide questions for assessment for understanding these traces of scholarship
Keywords: researcher identification, impact factor, digital scholarship, citation
What does it mean to be ‘Googled well’? Will Richardson (2008) addressed this question in
Educational Leadership. His worry was from being a father, with specific concerns about his children not
leaving the necessary and appropriate digital footprints on the Internet. Why might he have had a concern with
them not having well-selected and creative evidence of existence on the web? Why might he further have
worried about them not showing up at all in a Google search? A growing number of research for peer-reviewed
articles and academic books are now digitized and accessible online. Weller (2011) identified three critical
impacts to the digital scholarship age, which includes the increase in the quantity of peer-reviewed online
information sources, the growth of social, peer academic networks, and the variety and range of content to draw
upon for research that has broadened to include drafts of publications, conference presentations, blog posts,
video and audio.
Digital footprints emerge as we communicate and interact online over social media, content sharing
platforms, and by using and subscribing to tools and services (Bodhani, 2012). The Internet offers academics
today a wealth of information, ideas, advice, support, even readymade learning materials that are shared for free
through online repositories. The list of Web 2.0 tools that allow for communicative actions to take place
between individuals can be made long; however, include such as list serves, social media, and blogs, just to
mention a few. Sites such as Flickr: Creative Commons1
licenses photos and videos, Merlot II2
, and many more online spaces provide free educational resources. At the same time, a growing
number of websites provide free training and creative content creation as well as distribution thereof at the
user’s fingertips. With such an abundance of opportunities to create, share, and communicate, no wonder there
is some parental concern about the digital footprints left by young, budding, content creators. Richardson (2008)
suggested the need for educators to act as role models for learners when it comes to digital footprints, but also
to ensure that they understand how to use the available networks productively and for finding support as well as
the voices helping push their thinking forward in positive ways.
This networking is very much applicable also to pre-service teachers in the K-12 arena. Hewson (2013)
expressed the need for early career educators to establish online activities, leave digital professional footprints,
and join support network groups to become competitive on the job market but also to survive their first year of
teaching. Online mentoring and support groups could make the difference in this sense, especially when the
school lacks appropriate resources to connect new teachers with onsite mentors (Hewson, 2013). Through such
networks, pre-service educators and new teachers may join communities and learn that they are not facing the
challenges of a new profession alone.
Bruno Latour and Michael Callon envisioned our modern world as a network consisting of acting
social living actors as well as non-human technological bodies (Winner, 1993). In their actor network theory,
“technical devices and natural forces” can function as ‘actants’ within networks and facilitate the stabilization
process of objects (Brey, 1997). In his book Science in Action, Bruno Latour (1986) shared how being
thoroughly networked greatly assists with distribution of ideas and beliefs. That is to say, the possibility that a
message is carried to a wider audience increases and better allows the idea to take growth within the research
community when networked. It is not only important for the younger generation of students to use the Internet
wisely and instructors to network well, but the importance extends to include doctoral students, researchers, and
tenure track professors. Thinking about these trends in K-12, post-secondary educators needs to consider their
presence and impact digital traces have for their learners as well.
What does it mean to be well networked? Latour (1986) explained what is shared through networks
may not always be the true story, but the one that gets most support. To exemplify what Latour meant, take a
look at Hacking’s (1999) example from the discovery of dolomite: This limestone rock was identified by French
geologist Déodat de Dolmieu in 1791 in the Swiss Alps. Dolmieu was a scientist working for Napoleon and
became well known in Paris. Another geologist, Nicolas-Theodor von Saussure, from one of the leading
families in Switzerland named the mountain region where the limestone had been found after Dolmieu a year
later. Two prominent and well networked people had now connected the names with the rock. There was,
however, as Hacking explained, another person involved with the discovery and classification of dolomite.
Italian mineralist and metallurgist Giovanni Arduino had identified the rock twelve years earlier as magnesia
limestone. As von Saussure analyzed the rock in 1792, he erroneously “concluded that it was high in aluminum
and had almost no magnesium at all” (Hacking, 1999, p. 187) and Dolmieu supported this analysis. Arduino
was not as well networked in geology as were von Saussure and Dolmieu, why Arduino’s correct analysis of the
mineral did not catch on and the research community was for many years following a red herring. The true
compound was not discovered until a decade later and Dolmieu still maintains the glory (Hacking, 1999).
Hacking’s (1999) example is just one from the research community that shows how actor networks work.
Latour (1985) shared several other examples that illustrate how the research community’s work may delay
scientific progress because of scientists not being properly networked and their work not visible enough.
How can the scholarly field measure a researcher’s impact from publications and presentations? How
well will Google represent the researcher? A number of ways to track individual researcher impact are
emerging. The scope of this paper will focus primarily on the review of available tools for establishing digital
research footprints and measurement impact online for individual scholarly work.
Vieira and Gomes (2011) are two researchers who have considered the difficulty with assessing
scientific performance at the individual level. They developed an indicator that considers both quantity and
impact that can be used to measure researcher performance broadly and also predict future researcher behavior.
An issue that Castelnuovo (2008) identified was the inclusion of ‘reviewer activities’ as part of a researcher
impact factor was not done; however, could provide a more truthful picture of a researcher’s activity and
potentially encourage researchers to assess other’s publications, publish themselves, and contribute ideas.
Castelnuovo, Limonta, Sarmiento, and Molinari (2010) developed the single researcher impact factor (SRIF)
index as an alternative to the impact factor (IF) algorithm that was prominently used in academia. This approach
would, “move the evaluation from the power of scientific journals to the quality of single researchers”
(Castelnuovo et al., 2010, p. 111) as previously suggested by Castelnuovo (2008). The tracking of individual
researcher activities online is a critical issue. There are ways networked researchers can optimize scholarship,
and this will be addressed in two sub-sections: Researcher Impact Tools and Social Academic Tools.
Researcher Identity Platforms
Researcher Impact Tools
As scholarship is readily accessible online and digitalized in new forums, it is critical to consider
research channels appropriate to showcase this information. Although there are a number of potential spaces to
curate citation and publication information, ORCID, ResearcherID, Scopus, and Google Scholar Citations, are
key platforms to host research and influence scholars’ impact factor.
Scholarly work can be shared over various publisher platforms, and with this fact also comes the
potential to have similar author names and authoring identity issues. ORCID, short for Open Researcher and
Contributor ID, assigns a unique identifier to individual research output and this ID may be added to
publications, grants, as well as patents for identification purposes. When setting up a free account on ORCID
users can customize author information, such as keeping this identifier private or public and also synchronizing
their ORCID with other platforms such as Researcher ID, Scopus, Web of Science, and Web of Science Core
Collection. Publishers such as Elsevier work together with ORCID allowing authors submitting proposals to
journals linking the submissions with the ID and profile.
Having a researcher distinction, a unique identifier, ensures that publications are accurately defined to
an author, avoiding ambiguity issues. ResearcherID is a free tool from Thomson Reuters that generates this ID
number. The account may be synched with ORCID and with Scopus ensuring the ID a researcher has on these
other platforms is connected and pointing to same individual’s scholarly work. Researcher ID is also connected
to Web of Knowledge. Publication lists can be imported between the accounts facilitating maintenance of an
author’s work, a listing of works cited by others may be generated, and h-index presented to visualize
Scopus claims to be “the world’s largest abstract and citation database.” It is specifically developed for
use within institutions and requires access through such as a university library. Once logged in, the system
allows for automatic searches and addition of publications to the profile, in-depth searches to find information
about who is citing your work, and statistics on how many times an author or article has been cited. The system
also let’s researchers review and determine where to publish to make the largest impact, etc. Scopus uses what
is called an h-index which assesses productivity as well as researcher impact of published work. The h-index is
a fluid number that changed as the data changes, that is, as more citations occur the number changes. The
h-index is a determinant of publications as well as citations for an individual researcher’s publications and work
starting 1996. It is a number score to show the individual’s impact. The Scopus Author identifier can be linked
to ORCID allowing for the researcher’s profile and publications to look the same over multiple platforms.
Google Scholar Citations8
A simplified way to search for research and publication status, specifically that has cited relevant work
is through Google Scholar Citations. This feature allows for Internet query searches through the Google Scholar
publication database for an individual researcher’s portfolio of scholarship. Google uses a statistical authorship
model in the process. There are a few options to individualize the Google Scholar profile, such as updating an
article, connecting to co-authors, and confirming citations not automatically imported. Google Scholar Citations
shares the number of citations to each article as a number but also with a graph including citations per year. It
further shares the Scopus h-index as well as the i10-index values for a researcher’s articles. These numbers are
conveniently displayed on the Google Scholar profile page.
Social Academic Tools
Along with the research impact platforms, scholars will want to consider potential tools to best develop
and manage their online digital identity. With the advent of the social web, there are a number of professional
and academic spaces to create profiles online. Academia.edu and Mendeley are two prominent academic social
networking platforms that offer a space to connect to both research publications and individual researchers
within a distributed learning network.
Academia offers a place where researchers can publish their work, as well as find others who are in
their field of interest. What perhaps is one of their main attractions is that they connect users in a similar manner
that social media does. This allows users to pick whom and what they prefer to follow. Users are notified when
a member of their circle updates or publishes new research on the platform. Academia also allows the user to
search their database for specific publications. Synching to citation accounts is limited and it does not denote IF.
Mendeley advertises their service as “a free reference manager and academic social network that can
help you organize your research, collaborate with others online, and discover the latest research.” Mendeley
provides a user-friendly tool that allows researchers the ability to search across seemingly endless amounts of
research, as well as deliver the option of searching open access articles only. The researcher is not only able to
gather information—Mendeley also gives the user the ability to maintain a bibliography database that can be
accessed from anywhere. A profile can be set up that allows the researcher to publish his or her work. At this
point Mendeley uses the social network to share researchers’ activities, connect common research interests, and
post publication updates to the researcher’s timeline. If used to its full potential this feature may serve to
increase researcher visibility.
As the evolution of education occurs, so does the publishing and citation aspect of research. Scholars
are entering into an arena that is becoming increasingly networked and connected. The definition of scholarship
has been broadened to include a variety of teaching, research, and service activities (Weller, 2011), which are
heavily influenced with technical advances. The changing landscape of technology, citation sharing, and
scholarly distribution is an increasing catalyst for traditional avenues of publication and research distribution.
Some of the benefits to increased access and digitization of scholarship include supporting both impact
factor and the researcher’s identity. Academic scholarship is becoming easier to track and follow, both by the
publication and the author who publishes it. Academics should utilize these emerging platforms to increase their
influence and reach beyond traditional publishing forums. These researcher identification and citation tools are
not “just for geeks,” but rather a growing expectation for scholarship development and publication notation. It is
a critical time to rethink how research is produced, distributed, and acknowledged. Researcher impact tools,
such as ORCID, Researcher ID, Scopus, and Google Scholar Citations, will help aggregate citation influence
and impact of knowledge to disciplines, with respect to publication access and citations. Social academic tools,
such as Academia.edu and Mendeley, provide scholars a place to share their professional profile, links to
research, and areas of research interest for potential collaborators and peers.
Beyond these specific scholarly platforms, there is a general increase in social media use for academic
networking. Specific social media platforms are being repurposed by academic communities, specifically blogs,
microblogs (e.g. Twitter), and online media sharing of images, videos, audio, and database. A number of
scholars are using blogs to reflect on their research process and findings (Chong, 2010). Twitter is often used to
tweet published findings and research, specifically to distribute information to a broader audience of scholars,
decision makers, media, and the public with the potential to amplify the impact for society and the research
community (Darling, Shiffman, Côté, & Drew, 2013). Unlike publications that remain dormant in an online
database, scholars are now encouraged to become curators and promoters of their research findings. Scholarship
circulation is growing on a number of virtual platforms, which creates social peer connections and connected
knowledge in academia across disciplines.
Both impact factor and research identification has increased the need for digital scholarship skill
development. As academics produce and distribute content online, this production skills set is needed to
effectively detail research ideas blog posts, share open document drafts of a manuscript, record video or audio
clips explaining research methods, openly distributing a data set, or publically posting research findings on an
open presentation website. A unique outcome of this sharing is the impact to interdisciplinary research and a
emergent transformation of research practice as scholars grow their scholarly network and collaborate on
research outside the scope of their domain (Weller, 2011). The scholarly practices in open, digital spaces impact
both the academic identity and research participation, when researchers operate in these social media spaces
(Veletsianos, 2013). As the networked spheres mature, scholars and scholar-practitioners need to consider how
to effectively operate in this attention economy to effectively participate in these shared, social research spaces.
As researchers become digital contributors to the academic canon, these need to consider how their
participation in online spaces for citations and impact provide significant impacts to the scholarly community.
Through research identity management and citation tracking, scholars are able to specifically identify influence
of their findings, publication access, and potential academic peers to collaborate. Academic scholarship shared
in these digital spaces not only track research progress or a “digital footprint,” it also allows the next generation
of scholars to identify key scholarly works and accomplishments within each discipline.
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