Archive for the ‘Engineering and Physical Sciences’ Category

The open access biomedical journal PeerJ first gained attention in late 2012 for offering academics extremely low publishing fees. Now, one year later, the Times Higher Education reports that the journal seems well positioned to offer a sustainable alternative to traditional academic publishing models.

PeerJ’s model represents a departure from traditional models in that academics pay a one-off fee to become lifetime members. They can choose from the basic model, which permits them to publish one article per year for life for a one-off fee of $99 (£59), to a more comprehensive model which permits unlimited posting for life at $299. These costs represent a significant reduction on normal gold open access publishing fees, which typically range from between $1,350 to $2,900 for publishing in PLoS, to $5,000 in some Elsevier titles.

The journal has also been helped on its path to sustainability by gaining support from some prominent Universities in the UK and US who have taken out subscriptions for its individually designed and costed ‘institutional plans’.
The journal has been attracting praise for the quality, speed and transparency of its peer-review and editorial process, its formatting and the advent of a preprint server which allows researchers to submit early versions of articles for comment and review.

There are still some concerns that the need for all co-authors of an article to be members of PeerJ in order to publish would mean that, according to Kent Anderson, editor-in-chief of the Scholarly Kitchen blog on academic publishing, publishing here might ultimately be “unlikely in practice to work out much cheaper for researchers and was likely to become more administratively complex”.

There are also concerns that the influence of prestige on author’s publication decisions means that, according to PeerJ’s co-founder, Dr. Binfield, journal publishing is “not a terribly price-sensitive market”.
Whilst these concerns remain, Dr Binfield seems persuaded that the lifetime membership model represents an opportunity for significant long-term cost reductions, and another important step in the move towards open access.
Read more about the Peer J project


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Here is Tolstoy’s opening sentence from his novel Anna Karenina:

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Loosely speaking Bornmann and Marx[1] recently used Tolstoy’s notion of happy families and the Anna Karenina Principle when considering what elements make for successful science. In the bibliometric sense, it’s useful as well to explain how groups of publications which function well and frequently get cited, have similar attributes in common which help them garner citation impact. Poor ‘bibliometric families’ do not always get the citation impact they deserve, perhaps because they lack those features. Recognising and harnessing the key features which can help get good citation impact is an important and useful part of bibliometrics.

On the other hand bibliometrics can be viewed as being a bit like the screenwriter William Goldman’s  view of success in Hollywood, here he said ‘Nobody knows anything’[2] in terms of what consistently makes a film successful, or in this case why something is well cited. So even if you do all the ‘right things’ you are not guaranteed success, but if you do, I would argue that you are improving your chances of doing so.

So in general it’s always important to maximise your chances of being cited by recognising what helps and what doesn’t. But because publishing strategies and subjects vary widely in the way they function, care must be taken in both how you attempt to maximise impact and how you might wisely interpret its result.

What are bibliometrics?

The authors of a recent study on the citation impact of India explained very concisely, without jargon, what bibliometrics are and their usefulness, and so quoting them:

Bibliometrics is the analysis of data derived from publications and their citations. Publication of research outcomes is an integral part of the research process and is a universal activity. Consequently, bibliometric data have a currency across subjects, time and location that is found in few other sources of research-relevant data. The use of bibliometric analysis, allied to informed review by experts, increases the objectivity of and confidence in evaluation[3].

In the study the authors show the changing scientific impact of India by analysing the research impact of the country through its publications and their citation impact both in comparison to other countries and India’s own relative progress.

So bibliometrics can be used to assess the impact of a country or with some caution even the impact of an individual. But rather than individuals it is better used to look at groups and assess their impact relative to other groups engaged in the same or similar research areas. In doing this you can explore their productivity in terms of scientific output in publications and their impact as measured by how frequently they have been cited. These two features and their attendant characteristics, by subject and publishing culture, form principally, the cornerstone of bibliometrics.

The University of Surrey’s strategic view

The University thinks citations are important and has in its University Strategy: 2012-17 amongst other things committed to:

Continue to grow the volume of our research outputs and build on the improvements we have made to their quality and reputation, as measured by citations in target academic journals[4]

The two key things here ‘…as measured by citations’ and ‘… in target academic journals’ are very important and as we shall see later they more or less go hand in hand. The University also says it wants to

Implement the targeted journal strategy including increasing knowledge and awareness of bibliometric considerations to increase % of academic staff with high quality publications in target journals[5]

So awareness of bibliometrics is something that can be done through these few postings and should help meet this strategic objective.

Why does citation impact matter to individuals and the university?

Having good citation impact enhances the reputation of the university and the individual. It’s broadly a measure of how influential the work of the university is when its work is cited by others. Of course it is individuals that do the research and publish their work and in turn get cited, so collectively, the success of the individual academic becomes the success of the university.

University league tables

University league tables are here to stay. If we think of the plethora of products and services available to us and how we try to make sense of what’s on offer to us, it’s not surprisingly that we attempt to rank and order things in ways that can guide our choices, universities are no different. Hence national league tables are important to the university, they influence the choices made by students and advice given by schools in the UK. It’s a simplistic measure of course, but the higher our ranking the greater is the perception of our relative standing and quality.

Good rankings in international league tables are hard to achieve and to sustain. A key measure used by an increasing number of them is citation impact and where you publish. The Times Higher Education World University Rankings[6] apportions 30% of its ranking score to citation impact. The Academic Ranking of World Universities[7] (Shanghai) apportions 60% to where academics publish their work.  The Leiden[8] ranking uses only measures of bibliometric impact; hence rankings are solely dependent on citation counts.  Where academics publish their work and how frequently they are cited is key to success in these rankings and of course these tables have international audiences attracting potentially the best students and academics.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF)

The REF allows, in some subject areas, the use of citation data to help inform panel members about the quality of the work they are assessing. Physics, chemistry and computer science are three subjects from amongst the eleven subjects which will use citation data. Peer review will remain the primary method for assessing quality, but nevertheless citation data will be available to panel members.

[1] Bornmann, L & Marx, 2012.

[2] Goldman W. 1996. Adventures in the screen trade. Abaccus.

[3] Bibliometric study of India’s Scientific Publication outputs during 2001-10. 2012. Available at: http://www.dst.gov.in/whats_new/whats_new12/report.pdf [Accessed 18 Feb 2012]. 

[4] The University Strategy: 2012-17. Available at: http://www.surrey.ac.uk/about/corporate/documents/university-strategy-2012-17.pdf [Accessed 19 Feb 2013].

[5] The University Strategy: the next four years. Available at: http://www.surrey.ac.uk/about/corporate/documents/university-strategy-2012-17.pdf [Accessed 19 Feb 2013].


[6] Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2013. Available at: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=417345&c=1 [Accessed 19 Feb 2013].

[7] Academic Ranking of World Universities 2013. Available at: http://www.shanghairanking.com/ARWU-Methodology-2012.html [Accessed 19 Feb 2013].

[8] Leiden Ranking 2013. Available at: http://www.leidenranking.com/methodology.aspx [Accessed 19 Feb 2013].

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The University of Surrey is interested in increasing its world impact, and is interested in gaining an understanding of how bibliometrics can help improve that impact. In this blog I want to introduce and explain, and over a series of future postings, what bibliometrics are and how staff can help improve their own impact and that of the university.

So first of all here is an outline of what I want to cover:

1. Bibliometrics, the Anna Karenina Principle and Hollywood

What are bibliometrics?

The University of Surrey’s strategic view

Why does citation impact matter to individuals and the university?

University league tables

The Research Excellence Framework

2. What is citation impact and how do we measure it?

What is citation impact?

How do you measure citation impact?

Those widely used measures of impact like the h-index

Alt metrics – emerging measures from social media

3. A look at the tools and how to use them

What are citation databases?

A look at Scopus the Web of Science and Google Scholar

How do I use them?

To count my citations

To measure my impact

Using them wisely – disciplinary differences and pitfalls

4. Strategies to help get good citation impact

The obvious strategies

The Mathew Effect

Collaborate or not to collaborate

Domestic or international collaboration

OA and publicising your work, networking and conferences

5. Assessing where you should publish to help your impact

Measures of impact

Journal impact and citations

Journal Impact Factor (JIF) – Web of Knowledge

Source Normalised Impact per Paper  (SNIP) – Scopus

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) – Scopus

6. Good academic practices and strategies which can help improve impact        

What do I need to do to help ensure I don’t miss out on any citations?


Names and addresses

Good housekeeping

Referencing practice




Guides to academic writing

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In the last year, SRI Open Access  http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk has almost doubled its size. There are currently 4391 papers posted on the site, most of which include the full text. The papers are highly visible on Google and receive a high number of downloads: 263100 full-text downloads in the last year. SRI Open Access papers also have a strong international presence, as  86% of the downloads come from numerous countries outside the UK.

On average, our usage statistics show that SRI Open Access receives about 22000 downloads per month, with a mean of 5 downloads per paper per month. Of course, some papers are more popular than others: for example, usage tends to be highest for items not previously available online, like book chapters, monographs and some conference papers. SRI Open Access does not only provide access to the full text, but also ensures the papers have a strong online presence and are easily found.

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In a briefing commissioned by Research Libraries UK (RLUK) and the Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL), Alma Swan highlights the benefits that open access has for researchers, their institutions, and society at large.

The briefing revisits the benefits that open access has for the visibility, usage, and citation impact of research publications; benefits that are the more immediate the earlier a paper is freely accessible.  These benefits, in turn, stretch beyond the individual researcher: by placing their publications in open access repositories like Surrey Research Insight Open Access, Universities develop a strong web presence, visible outside the academic world. This helps forge relationships between the University and business and industrial partners, thus contributing to the knowledge economy.

If open access is widely adopted by institutions, Alma Swan concludes, this will have large economic benefits, not only for institutions but also for whole countries. By freeing knowledge and widening our concept of the research community, the UK could enjoy savings of around 400 million a year.

Also see Houghton et al. (2009) on the economic implications  of open access.

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SRI Open Access is primarily a full text repository; however, it now includes abstracts only for special types of research outputs. Surrey staff advance on research not only by writing journal papers, but also by by writing book and book chapters and creating compositions, performances, artefacts, patents, images, videos, computing programs, etc.

SRI Open Access contains bibliographic data with abstracts for books and book chapters as well as for any other research output whose visibility might be much lower in comparison to journal articles or that it can not be made publicly available.  However, SRI Open Access contains neither bibliographic data  alone for any type of publication nor bibliographic data with abstract for journal articles.

SRI Open Access can hold a variety of files, such as video, audio and zip files, among others.

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In the last few months, you have been strongly encouraged to deposit the full text of your papers in SRI. If the publisher’s policy allows, the paper appears on SRI Open Access, easily discoverable and freely available for anyone to download. Most major funding bodies, including RCUK, now encourage or even mandate this practice; and so do Universities.  But if you are not  convinced there are great benefits in depositing your papers in SRI, read below…

1. SRI Open Access makes a paper highly visible. If your paper can be posted on SRI Open Access, it will rank highly on Google/Google Scholar. This means that more people than before will be able to find it and read it.

2. Papers in SRI Open Access are downloaded – a lot.  In the last year only (April 2011 – April 2012), full-text papers in SRI Open Access have been downloaded 230,238 times. Visit  http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/cgi/irstats.cgi to monitor how often your paper is being downloaded.

3. High download rates mean higher citations. The more often a paper is downloaded, the more likely it is to be read and cited. The link between open access and research impact is well documented. By not having your paper freely accessible, you lose potential readers – and citations.

4. SRI Open Access helps you attract new audiences. Your papers are freely available to everyone, without password or subscription barriers. This means that many more people will reach your paper if it is openly accessible: researchers from non-subscribing Universities, potential collaborators from industry and other organisations, and prospective students. SRI papers are widely read, with downloads from over 100 countries.

5. Open access has wider benefits for society. Scholarly journals are expensive. Open access benefits Universities that can only afford subscriptions to a limited number of journals. Even wealthy institutions cannot  subscribe to all possible journals. This means that researchers, as well as their employers and funders, may not  even have access to literature that they produced or funded themselves. Likewise, those not affiliated with a research institution – practitioners, patients, the wider public – face the same limitations to access.

Open access lifts those barriers, making research immediately and easily available to everyone.

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