To Boldly Go Beyond Downloads

This was one of the most popular presentations I attended, as evidenced by the overflow audience.  (Yes, those are several rows of standees at the back!) Overflow crowd

Gabriel Hughes and Carol Tenopir

Gabriel Hughes and Carol Tenopir

Gabriel Hughes, Elsevier, and Carol Tenopir, Professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, described a new study of how journal articles are shared and used after they are downloaded.  (Hughes is in charge of usage analytics (a very important number for an organization) and analysts working at Mendeley, which was recently acquired by Elsevier.)  He began by asking what usage is and said that usage as measured by downloads is a proxy for value derived through reading. Internet data volumes are growing rapidly through growth in connection speeds, capacity, and technology solutions such as email, public networks, private networks, cloud storage, and peer to peer interactions. We infer that the proxy value of downloads is likely diverging because of the changing ways that we all consume, store, and share all types of content. Here are Gabriel’s thoughts on the nature and value of sharing.

Nature and Value of Sharing

Sharing is a complex problem, which Elsevier needed help to understand, so they hired Carol Tenopir as an independent consultant. The research is funded by Elsevier but is being conducted independently.  It aims to examine how researchers download and share materials as well as how and why they share content.  The project will be completed by April 2015.

Carol began with a question: How do we better measure value?  Although we can now get statistics better than we ever could before, COUNTER does not give us data on secondary usage and sharing of materials that were not downloaded. Formal sharing methods, systems designed to measure citations and article sharing, exist because they fit the work pattern of researchers. Informal methods are not specifically designed for measuring sharing, but are often used for that. Here are some systems used for formal sharing

Formal sharing systems

and some used for informal sharing.

Informal sharing systems The project will use interviews and focus groups in the US and UK and a survey for the rest of the world.  There are two main types of sharing: just citations or links, and full documents (mainly PDFs). Sharing citations or links appears to be more common. Most people who share upload their work into a repository. Academics share to further scientific and academic discovery, or promote their own or someone else’s work, and to fulfill an information need (i.e. help a colleague).

Kinds of sharing: “Bootleg” sharing through email, print, internal networks was the most frequently mentioned, Twitter was the most frequently mentioned social media tool for sharing (mostly links), and Dropbox was most frequently mentioned for sharing with collaborators.  Sharing is done with researchers, colleagues on the research team (most common), and students. Most people view sharing their own work positively. It is a stamp of how they are evaluated. Sharing work by others may be altruistic. Researchers feel comfortable doing it but don’t know if they should, even though it helps science progress. Some people reported reservations. There is a format distinction: most do not share books, especially if they are authors, because they want royalties, so they will not download books by others.

The survey has just been sent out so no results are available yet. Over 500 responses were received in 2 days!

Informal sharing systems

Here are the overall project aims.

Project aims

One big question: is a COUNTER-like measure or calculation possible?

Don HawkinsDon Hawkins
Charleston Conference Blogger and Against The Grain Columnist

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