Excuse me, can you pimp my profile and measure my research impact, please?

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Altmetrics by AJ Cann (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Universities are at the centre of a changing research landscape due to a variety of national and international drivers.  New roles for librarians are being identified to support researchers. Richardson, Nolan-Browne, Loria & Bradbury (2012) mention the emergence of two new, important trends in research support since 2012:

  • social media optimisation
  • alternative impact metrics, or altmetrics

I had some questions: what is social media optimisation? What are altmetrics? Is impact related to quality? Are these measures misleading? What is the librarian’s role? Read on for answers…

What is social media optimisation?

Richardson, Nolan-Browne, Loria & Bradbury (2012)  define it as the provision of advice, links and demonstrations to social media web services such as Academia.edu and ResearchGate, in order to develop a researcher’s online profile.  This trend may have been just emerging in 2012, but it seems that many academic libraries (e.g. University of Southern Queenlsand Library, Curtin University Library, and QUT Library) now provide information and guides on how to maximise researcher impact using social media.

According to Thompson and French (2016) from QUT Library, “the modern researcher must embrace social media”, disseminate research via social media, and create an online persona.  The “Pimp my Profile” initiative was created by Creative Industries (CI) liaison librarians  to assist researchers in the CI faculty to develop their online personas.  The initiative consists of a three step guide, a workshop, and the Researcher  Profile Health Check service.  Although not yet formally evaluated, the initiative has had positive feedback and continued endorsement from the CI faculty, as well as uptake in the wider university community.

What is the research librarian’s role?

Thompson and French (2016) discussed how CI liaison librarians partnered with faculty to collaboratively develop their “Pimp my Profile” initiative to meet the specific need of developing researchers’ online personas.  Clearly, research librarians have a role in providing information resources to assist researchers to create their online profiles, however, it is also clear that these products can be very effective when they are developed collaboratively with users to meet users’ needs.

What are altmetrics?

According to the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL),  altmetrics is an emerging category of impact measurement based on data from the social web.  Altmetrics are proposed as an alternative to traditional impact metrics (bibliometrics),  such as citation impact  and journal impact factor.  Konkiel, Sugimoto and Williams (2016), cite flaws with traditional impact metrics  and consider altmetrics to be a potential solution, because they allow assessment of broader research impacts including societal impact, educational impact and public engagement and outreach.

This is not to say that there are no concerns regarding the use of altmetrics.  Some of these are:

Duke University’s Medical Centre Library and Archives website  states that more research is needed to make altmetrics’ measures more useful, and reminds us that altmetrics are measures of attention, not quality.  

What is the research librarian’s role?

Roemer & Borchardt (2015)  refer to the growing role of academic librarians in supporting and training researchers in the use of altmetrics and bibliometrics, as well as educating them about their limitations. Bibliometrics and altmetrics are quantitative measures and don’t tell the whole story.  A research article still needs to be read and evaluated to determine its quality.

Social media optimisation and altmetrics are the new kids on the block, emerging and developing in response to the disruption in the traditional dissemination of scholarly communication, and bringing researchers and librarians along for the ride.

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Service review: QUT Library Reference Service – “Ask a Librarian”

This week’s Information Programs, Products and Services topic, “Reference”,  and our Twitter chat, #ifn614refchat prompted me to think about the reference services available from the QUT library website.  After 3 semesters of studying at QUT as an external student, I had never before taken advantage of this service, preferring to do my own research for assignments and find my own information.

So, fighting against all my natural instincts, I decided to access the Ask a Librarian reference service on the QUT library website for help with finding references for a potential project I am thinking about for next semester.  It turned out to be surprisingly easy to Ask a Librarian, was quite helpful; and I may well do it again sometime.

Let me take you through the process, in case, like me, you have never used the service before:  

There are 2 access points to the Ask a Librarian service on the QUT library homepage; one in the header and the other in the footer.  Both links are identified by the text, Need help? Ask a Librarian (See screen capture below).

QUT library home page https://www.library.qut.edu.au/ screen capture, 10/08/16.

QUT library home page https://www.library.qut.edu.au/ screen capture, 10/08/16.

Click either link, and you will be taken to the dedicated Ask a Librarian page of the QUT library website.  As you can see by the screen capture below, the page provides information about the kinds of things you can ask about (e.g. resources and services, researching, search strategies, etc), FAQs and links for students and researchers to find more help.  Displayed prominently on the page, with symbol icons to make them easy to see and understand, are 4 methods you can use to get help from a librarian; including: visiting a helpdesk, chatting online, email / online form and phone.

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Ask a Librarian web page https://www.library.qut.edu.au/help/ screen capture, 10/08/16.

This variety of contact methods caters to a variety of user needs, preferences, and user convenience. Popp (2012)  discusses the value of convenience to users, in terms of access to resources, and time: that is, users want what is needed as quickly and easily as possible.  The Ask a Librarian service certainly fulfils these convenience factors. My preference was to send an email.  (See below).

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Reference question email screen capture 10/08/16

I received an automated response within 15 minutes of sending my email (not bad, I thought, considering I sent it at 9:30pm), to say that someone would resolve my enquiry within 3 days.

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Automated response email screen capture 10/08/2016

The response came the next morning at 11:19am (see below), containing a link to only 1 article, but also including relevant, helpful information about:

  • where to search (Library Quickfind, educational databases such as ERIC, Google Scholar)
  • how to search, including search strategies and possible search terms
  • how to refine search results
  • how to find relevant journals and databases
  • how to find relevant search terms from article abstracts
  • contacting my liaison librarian, along with her contact details.
  • Contacting the library again if I required more help.
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Ask a Librarian email response screen capture 10/08/16

My project query is not yet well-defined; still in the initial stages of development, without a full suite of key words, and no literature searches have been carried out at this stage; so this was an exploratory search.  I thought that the response I received was completely satisfactory, providing me with a relevant article, useful strategies for further searches, directing me to useful tools, and referring me on to my liaison librarian to discuss the project in more depth. I thought that the response time in particular was very good.

QUT library’s Ask a Librarian reference service met my expectations.  It was convenient, informative, relevant and quick.  I would recommend this service to other students or researchers requiring support with finding appropriate, relevant sources for projects and assignments.