Sunday, August 2, 2009

Posting Stuff to the 'Net and Getting Cited: An Experiment

Just over a month ago, Michael Smith over at Publishing Archaeology blogged an appeal to archaeologists to make our papers available on the internet. He followed up with a post citing a study indicating that Open Access papers (i.e., stuff available online) have a five-fold citation advantage over non-accessible papers.

For fun, I'd recently looked myself up in Google Scholar, a quick and dirty way to see who is citing you. And, despite several conference presentations and some publications (book and journal), I had one citation. For my MA thesis, no less. Dang it. I mean, the reason we present at conferences and publish stuff is because we think it is something valuable and useful, and we hope others will read it. Sheesh, even if folks think it's crap, at least it should still get cited... you know, SOMEWHERE.

The kicker is, there is so much literature out there, if folks can't find your stuff, they won't cite it. Conference papers are particularly problematic here; they're so ephemeral, they don't get indexed, and it is unusual for archaeology conferences to publish their proceedings. WAC-6 (Sixth World Archaeological Congress) held last year in Dublin is an exception. They have available texts from almost 200 of the presentations; these are pre-circulated papers, so they may vary slightly from the actual presentation, but what a wealth of information (anyone interested in feminist archaeology, there is some good stuff in there...). The link above goes to the WAC-6 website; this link goes directly to the list of papers available online.

So I did a little experiment. I fished out some conference papers I've given, a couple of journal articles, and a book. I posted them to four "put your stuff out there" locations online, all free:

  • Mostly a reference management tool that lets you access your .pdfs from anywhere - especially helpful when I have references that overlap between work and personal. They do also have a Personal Profile page, where you can make your own work available as downloads for anyone. The site can be slow to load.
  • CiteULike Again, mostly a reference management tool, similar to Mendeley. You can make your papers available for download by anyone. I find it kinda clunky vs. Mendely, but have found a few references I didn't otherwise know about.
  • Facebook for academics. With the ability to post papers for people to access, as well as posting research interests, joining groups of folks that share your interests, etc. Perk: you get email when someone searches on you or "follows" you, and you can see how many people have looked at your stuff. Note: it only -looks- like you need a university affiliation to be listed here. Scroll through, there is an "Independent Researcher" catagory.
  • SelectedWorks Strictly a portal to post your stuff and have it available. Folks can subscribe to get updates, but that's about it for the acasocial framework. One perk: realtime reports about how many copies of your stuff have been downloaded. They also convert your .docs into .pdfs and index them.
Time passed. The results? Mendeley and CiteuLike, from what I can tell, did squat for me in the "making stuff available" department (though I'm sticking with Mendeley for managing references). - had a few folks peek at the papers; apparently there is a trickle of visitors coming in via Google, no Google Scholar links. I give it a meh.

The real winner here is SelectedWorks. I can see people are accessing and downloading my stuff. It is totally easy to update my site. And, time to Google Scholar for everything (book, journal articles, conference papers) = 1 month. Even though I didn't provide full text for the book and one journal article, they're now indexed in Google Scholar.

If your university has an account with SelectedWorks, it's easy to get listed. But, you can be listed as an individual for free, it's just not readily apparent. From their homepage, scroll to the bottom and click "Start a Site". You will have to email them directly to get an access code (took < 1 day for me). That's it. I found tweaking my abstracts to include words others might search for was helpful (Search Engine Optimization for scholarly papers, woot!), and the realtime download stats let me track that.

This is win-win, for writers (who get their stuff out there) and for researchers (who can find more stuff). It's a little nerve-wracking to know that my stuff is being read, but I'm coping!


Ink said...

Wow! I had no idea about these sites...thanks so much for experimenting and reporting back. Very cool...

Michael E. Smith said...

Nice little report, it confirms my subjective impressions about the potential of Selected Works and

Digger said...

Thanks for your comments, guys.

I have a couple of additional comments about SelectedWorks.

- You can tell them to email you when new documents meeting your search criteria are listed.

- Every month, you get an email detailing the number of times the full text of one of your works has been downloaded in the last month, and since it was listed.

Both extra bonuses, in my book.

Victor said...

Dear Digger,

I'm one of the co-founders of Mendeley - thanks for the mini-review, and of course for using our software!

I thought I could give a bit of additional information in response to your thoughts:

The site can be slow to load.

Yes, that had been a problem for us in the past six weeks - we were still running everything off a single server which had a hard time dealing with our rapid growth. We switched to a multi-server cluster last weekend, so things should be much snappier now. Further optimizing the server, synchronization and desktop code for increased speed and stability is our main priority as we approach our 1.0 release.

Regarding CiteULike: Did you know that we are collaborating with them? It's possible to sync your CiteULike account into Mendeley - it will then appear as a collection inside your Mendeley library.

but have found a few references I didn't otherwise know about.

That indeed is the strength of social reference managers. We're working on a recommendation engine that will give you literature recommendations based on your existing library - we hope to have this ready in a few months time.

Mendeley and CiteuLike, from what I can tell, did squat for me in the "making stuff available" department (though I'm sticking with Mendeley for managing references).

Feature-wise, one of our main priorities on Mendeley Web is to add more detailed statistics about the readership of your publications. You'll be able to see number of downloads and number of readers (i.e. Mendeley users who have your publication in their library), reading time (i.e. the time Mendeley users spent reading your papers in the Mendeley Desktop PDF viewer), and segmentation of your audience by geographic region, academic discipline, academic status (e.g. undergrads vs. faculty), and changes over time. We expect to have all of this data available sometime this year.

I hope that was helpful!

All the best,

Digger said...


Thanks for stopping by. It sounds like you have some good stuff in the works, and I will say you have one of the best feedback/suggestions systems I've seen (-and- you're responsive).

Just don't nail me too badly when you go fee-based! Though I do give you big credit for admitting up front that's where you're headed.

Victor said...

You're welcome! And we're very excited ourselves about the things ahead.

As for the fees: No need to worry! We've always said that what was free once will remain free - so whatever you're using now (and most of the stuff I described earlier) will be available without fees.

Also, while we don't know the exact pricing for the (additional) premium features yet, they'll be very reasonable. We'll also be offering institutional licenses, so the premium features may be available with no cost to the individual researcher.

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