Scholarly Communication: New Models, New Media, New Metrics

The Symposium on “Scholarly Communication: New Models, New Media, New Metrics” featured twelve speakers all presenting a perspective on different aspects of the evolving world of scholarly communication. This symposium was organized by David Martinsen, Colin Batchelor, and Bill Town.

Bob Belford from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock kicked off the symposium with a description of the online ConfChem conferences developed by the Division of Chemical Education's Committee on Computers in Chemical Education (CCCE). These conferences started pre-web, with papers posted on a gopher server, and discussions via a listserv. In more recent times, the conferences migrated to a Drupal environment, with discussions appended to the papers as comments. Two new and ongoing projects were presented, a social tagging infrastructure to enable folksonomy indexing of the archives, and an intercollegiate OnLine Chemistry Course (OLCC) in Cheminformatics that will be offered in 2014. This will be the 6th OLCC since 1996 and although an OLCC can be massive, they are a different paradigm for online education than the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) that are currently garnering so much attention. With the Cheminformatics OLCC the CCCE will be pioneering new ways to utilize social and semantic web technologies for intercollegiate teaching and learning.

Colin Batchelor of RSC (Royal Society of Chemistry) gave a nice picture of the tools and technologies the RSC is using to enhance the RSC archive with the same semantic and structure enrichment as is done with the current content. Using Hadoop methods, they are able to process the content and apply the technologies in a reasonable amount of time. These techniques will work nicely on the born-digital material, but the tools will need to be refined to be applied to the scanned pages.

Several talks could be grouped under the topic of quality assessment of research data and enabling reproducibility of experiments, both wet labs and in silico experiments. Rob Chirico from NIST/Boulder discussed the enhancements to the ThermoML data checking techniques, an environment that, through cooperation with several publishers and journals, discovers potential problems and ultimately improves the quality of published thermodynamic measurements. Greg Landrum of Novartis presented a survey of recent publications and stories around experimental methods that could not be reproduced, and urged journal publishers to take steps to improve the reproducibility of published results through more publication of data and use of cheminformatics techniques to evaluate the results, as appropriate. Gerhard Klimeck from Purdue University described NanoHUB, a platform that allows researchers to post data and algorithms in order to promote both reproducibility and reuse of data. Researchers can analyze posted data with their own algorithms, and can also use published algorithms to check their own data. The site is used in both teaching and research settings. Finally, David Martinsen from American Chemical Society described the work of the NISO/NFAIS Supplementary Journal Article Material Working Groups, who established recommended practices for publishing supplemental materials. High on the list of recommendations were metadata to enable association of the supplemental material files with the associated articles, to indicate whether or not the material had been peer reviewed, as well as to develop plans for preservation/archiving of the files.

Daphne Grecchi from Thomson Reuters described the new Data Citation Index (DCI). This Index is one of the new metrics emerging in scholarly communication. Receiving appropriate credit for their contributions is seen as one of the motivations for researchers to publish their primary research data. Archiving and sharing the data outputs of grant-funded research is beginning to be mandated by a number of funding agencies worldwide. If scientists saw a data metric, akin to the impact factor or H-index, they might be more willing to publish their primary data. Thomson Reuters is working with a number of established data repositories to register their existence in the DCI, and then to count citations to the data repositories, and specific data in the data repositories. Thomson Reuters will use the insights learned in handling the initial data to inform the incorporation of additional repositories in the future.

Judy Chen of American Chemical Society described some of the ways in which ACS surveyed active researchers, including graduate students, postdocs, faculty and scientists, through campus visits, through hosting of researchers at its headquarters in Washington, DC, and through online surveys, to help determine the features and functionality of the new workflow tool, ACS ChemWorx that was launched on March 27th. ACS ChemWorx provides a unified environment that facilitates the research process by providing tools to import, manage and search one’s existing reference library; store, markup, and highlight PDFs; manage research activities via groups, projects, tasks and calendars; share one’s reference citations and files with collaborators; cite references without leaving Microsoft Word or LateX; and track citations of articles. The tools provide some interesting functions not available previously through the ACS Publications website, such as usage metrics on an author’s published ACS journal articles and free full-text access to the ACS Style Guide.

Matt Straiges of the Royal Society of Chemistry discussed the RSC Gold-for-Gold program. This Open Access program is designed to allow subscribers to the Gold subscription package for RSC journals to credit the entire subscription fee against the author publication charges (APCs) to pay for open access for their RSC articles. In 2012, the UK pilot was a way for institutions to encourage researchers to begin to comply with the Finch Report recommendations for Gold Open Access in the UK. Recently, the program has been expanded to all other areas of the world.

Roger Schenck from CAS (Chemical Abstracts Service) presented a talk entitled “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” After first assuring the audience that CAS and SciFinder are indeed still available in Kansas, he described how CAS has adjusted as the model of scholarly communication has changed. As more articles are published in different versions (accepted, ahead of print and traditional journal issues), as more patents are being published worldwide, and as more substances are covered in each patent, CAS has leveraged new algorithms and new workflows to enable the scientists curating the databases to keep up with the flow of information.

Antony Williams of Royal Society of Chemistry described some of the new metrics that are emerging to assess the contributions of scientists to the scientific enterprise. Companies like Altmetrics, Plum Analytics, and ImpactStory seek to measure blog, twitter, and news media references to journal articles. Where available, article usage from the publisher website can be included as well. In this new world, Williams encouraged scientists to take advantage of social media to establish reputations via these alternate metrics. In order to encourage community contributions to ChemSpider they will begin to offer badges to top contributors. Tony also mentioned #RealTimeChem, a twitter hashtag to network with other chemists, as well as a weeklong contest, beginning on April 22, #RealTimeChemWeek.

In past CINF symposia about scientific communication, we have usually focused on publication-based communication and social media. We have largely ignored the art of oral presentations. Brian Malow, a science comedian, gave a special presentation at the end of the day. He described how he has used humor to communicate science to scientists and non-scientists alike, and offered tips to audience members as they think about communicating science in oral presentations. Knowing your science is paramount, but understanding your audience, translating your science to terms that can be understood by them, and practicing your presentation are all important aspects of communication. This was a welcome, entertaining ending to a long day of intensive presentations.

David Martinsen, Symposium Co-Organizer