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PLoS Impact Explorer
November 18, 2011 12:02 PM   Subscribe

The PLoS Impact Explorer visualises which papers in the Open Access PLoS family of journals are making an impact online.
posted by alby (20 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Did anyone else read "Neglected Tropical Diseases" and for some reason fell sorry for them?
posted by griphus at 12:24 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's so focused on future impact it won't actually let you go back.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 12:25 PM on November 18, 2011


I have to dispute their notion that an article being "tweeted" has anything to do with "impact."
posted by zomg at 12:27 PM on November 18, 2011


This site is great, despite doing a Google Images-like thing of breaking how one browses the web. Thanks for posting.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:29 PM on November 18, 2011


Wow, quite a few of these papers coming up at the top are FPP-worthy in their own right. Granted, some are probably trending because they have funny, news-of-the-weird-esque titles (e.g. bat fellatio, previously), but my guess is that people nerdy enough to tweet about PLoS papers tend to actually be personally invested in science, enriching the list for interesting, widely-applicable research. Great tool, thanks.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:32 PM on November 18, 2011


(note, not using "nerdy" pejoratively; some of my best friends tweet about PLoS papers)
posted by en forme de poire at 12:33 PM on November 18, 2011


Yeah, there's a lot of work in this area - alternative metrics of scholarly impact. This is one of the finalists in the Mendeley/PLoS API Binary Battle.

zomg, I'd beg to differ - it might not be "impact" in the traditional sense, but as a scholar on Twitter I follow lots of other people who do similar work. When I see something that another person in my narrow subfield tweets, I'm more likely to read it than I would be otherwise.

Twitter helps to keep me current in an age of massive information overload. It's is like having a jury of your peers preselect research that will probably interest you, as a participant in a study that a colleague and I did on how and why scholars cite on Twitter [PDF] said. We're currently finishing a follow-up article that investigates how many scholars are actually on Twitter, and while the number is small it is definitely growing.

Disclaimer: I have done a fair amount research in this area, some of it linked above, and my research partner on those projects is also a part of Total Impact, another finalist in the Binary Battle. If this means this comment should be deleted, I understand.
posted by k8lin at 12:50 PM on November 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Fair enough. That's very interesting!
*rubs chin* Maybe I should pay more attention to twitter. Whom should I follow, k8lin?
posted by zomg at 12:55 PM on November 18, 2011


Finding who to follow really depends on your field. I found that the more I tweeted about scholarly topics, the more followers I got -- and then I chose to follow people that followed me that posted content in my areas of interest.

You can also find good people to follow by looking at conference hashtags in your field - use of those is growing, and lots of conferences will even tell you the hashtag to use (for example, at the recent American Medical Informatics Association conference, they actually streamed tweets with the hashtag #amia2011 in the lobby with a sign that said something like Use the Hashtag #AMIA2011! on Twitter).

I also follow pretty much every doc student and faculty member in my department who tweets. That lets me stay on top of what's going on in my school and on campus, and clues me in to the research interests of the faculty and doc students who are tweeting.

Finally, when I was just getting started I searched on Twitter for people whose biographies matched my interest areas. I've also searched for particular people by name when they're someone whose work I really like and use.

Interestingly, no one rank (faculty vs. doc students/postdocs) or discipline is overrepresented on Twitter (as you can see in the Read Write Web link above) so you should be able to find scholars in your subfield or fields tweeting. It's not just something that computer scientists are doing.
posted by k8lin at 1:03 PM on November 18, 2011


It should also be noted that many measurements of "Impact Factors" can be gamed, so they should probably be taken with a grain of salt.
posted by Toekneesan at 1:15 PM on November 18, 2011


It looks like this may be a good step towards convincing the academic community that open-source journals are worthwhile.

It is my understanding that we are currently in a catch-22, where no one likes to put their research behind a paywall, but publishing in an open source journal doesn't count for as much when your work is being reviewed by the university.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 1:18 PM on November 18, 2011


publishing in an open source journal doesn't count for as much

Depends. If the journal is recognized as doing proper peer review, no problem. There are a number of these, now. However, they are new and small so their "impact coefficients" are small as articles in there aren't cited as much as those in established, possibly-behind-paywall, journals. Yet. That should change if the journals become recognized as quality journals. Bet that will be slow.

So if they really take impact ratings (which themselves are often commercial products btw) seriously, then the above statement may be true. My experience is not universal, but my community takes all that with a grain of salt.
posted by zomg at 2:07 PM on November 18, 2011


K8lin: I've met your research partner. Small world.

PS: I'm also one of the finalists in the binary battle.
posted by babby╩╝); Drop table users; -- at 3:14 PM on November 18, 2011


I have to say the second highest rated article: Why Do Woodpeckers Resist Head Impact Injury: A Biomechanical Investigation seemed pretty interesting.
posted by delmoi at 3:41 PM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Toekneesan, what you said is true, but that link doesn't have much to do with this post. This tool actually doesn't use IF, or even citations at all, to calculate "impact," and it only looks at a specific subset of journals all run by the same people -- so for a journal to game the system would be kind of pointless.

These instant article-level metrics are obviously not going to be unbiased either, of course. My feeling is that the intersection of scientists and Twitter is not yet very large, and of course what you post about is naturally informed by who you know and what kind of stuff you happen to like. (And of course, universities are increasingly aware of social media and will probably be including it more in their PR, etc.) However, it does help that you can actually look at the tweets and posts here and see if they're mostly self-links or what, something you can't easily do when looking up an Impact Factor.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:12 PM on November 18, 2011


That should change if the journals become recognized as quality journals. Bet that will be slow.

That's already happened, really. Of course, impact factor (average cites/paper) isn't the only measure of quality or prestige, but PLoS Biology has an impact factor of 12.4 and PLoS Genetics is around 9.5. For comparison, PNAS, one of the most "name-brand" scientific journals in existence, is 9.8.1 And I've known at least one person who got their faculty position on the strength of a PLoS Biology paper.

1. Another interesting detail is that PNAS is starting to experiment with a partly open-access model, where articles become open-access after six months (or immediately, if the author pays for it).
posted by en forme de poire at 5:04 PM on November 18, 2011


While I'll concur that an impact factor that measures tweets isn't the same as one that measures citations, I don't think that link is irrelevant. In fact, I think the point that the link makes, "impact factor" is a specious term, applies even more in the case of ranking articles by tweets. Yes, you can check the tweets to see if they're suspicious, but the same is done routinely with citations. I would argue that citations are actually used more than folks would review a list of reference tweets. I also think that tweets are actually more suspect than citations. Popularity has little to do with either accuracy or quality and tweets aren't exactly a formal endorsement. The purpose of a citation is rarely snark.

PLoS is clearly using the term "impact" as a marketing tool here. Take a look at their "About this site" statement:
"Why wait for citations? See which articles in your field are getting the most buzz online and read what your peers & the general public are saying about them."
Is that not an attempt to posit their "Explorer Impact" as more important or at least more interesting than citation impact measurements? Linking that blog post was really my way of hopefully getting folks to question the point of "impact" measurements. The impact of scholarship is a very difficult thing to measure because scholarship is by it's very nature extremely self-referential. And when measuring "impact", the bigger question is the kind of impact. The book The Bell Curve had a huge impact on sociology. It did not really benefit or advance sociology.
posted by Toekneesan at 7:00 PM on November 18, 2011


PLoS is clearly using the term "impact" as a marketing tool here.... "Why wait for citations? See which articles in your field are getting the most buzz online and read what your peers & the general public are saying about them."

I think this is supposed to be a little tongue in cheek -- also, this tool isn't actually made, or promoted by, PLoS (check the disclaimer). It just uses a search API that PLoS recently released.

And I do think the purpose of this "impact" tool is way different from IF. I don't think anyone's going to be using this tool to make decisions about tenure or hiring anytime soon. It's mostly interesting as a way to see interesting or contentious papers you might have missed, at which I think it's succeeding so far.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:27 PM on November 18, 2011


Missed that disclaimer. Surprised they're using the logo though. But I still think it promotes PLoS and its impact, even if it's doing that for a third party. Again, I think folks should question the function of impact in their discipline. Especially since it's beginning to affect decisions about faculty.
posted by Toekneesan at 7:39 PM on November 18, 2011


publishing in an open source journal doesn't count for as much when your work is being reviewed by the university.

On the contrary. Many funding agencies (Notably the Wellcome Trust) are now requiring that the research they fund be freely accessible, either by publishing in open access journals or by paying additional page charges to journals to make it so.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 12:39 AM on November 19, 2011


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