New ways to value all research products

This article was originally published on the SISO Project blog on 25 February 2013. The original article can be found here.

Although social media is very popular right now, there are still quite a few researchers and academics who, for various reasons, refuse to take them seriously.

Despite their drawbacks, social media seem to constitute a real added value for modern researchers. They speed up communication, help to forge collaborations, control information overload, and improve productivity. However their impact depends only on researchers and the way they engage with them.

On this subject reflects Heather Piwowar in the article “Value all Research Products”, published in the journal Nature. The author explains the relationship between social media research and its importance in the evaluation of research products.

As the author asserts: “There are more diverse research products now than ever before. Scientists are develop­ing and releasing better tools to document their workflow, check each other’s work and share information, from data reposito­ries to post-publication discussion systems”. That’s why it is important to support measures such as the National Science Foundation of the U.S. on its policy of granting applications.

The NSF is one of the first organizations to decide that a scientist´s worth is not dependent solely on publications. As Piwowar stated in the article: “one must evaluate whether each product has made an impact on its field. So sciencientifics are developing and assessing alternative metrics, or “altmetrics”, new ways to measure engagement with research output”.

Clearly, social media offer many advantages over more traditional channels of communication. Among them, information search; social media make use of collective knowledge and experience to let you know of the things you might not have been aware of. Namely, while traditional search technologies bring you answers only to the questions you ask, social media can also provide you with intelligently-filtered information that helps to stimulate new questions, in the same way that a conversation with a colleague might. The social media do not vary much from any other web content, however, if you build a network of colleagues, engage in conversations on the topics that interest you and follow those with similar interests, you are likely to gain an additional source of information, as well as an opportunity to share your ideas and draw on others for advice.

As stated in the article, the new NSF policy states: “Acceptable products must be citable and accessible including but not limited to publications, data sets, software, patents, and copyrights”. This is a new way of value all research products.

The author has expressed for this blog, in relation to his article, that recognizing that social media can be used for effective research outreach and engagement will encourage a broad view of research dissemination. It takes time, but broad engagement has great rewards for both society and the researchers themselves

Reference: Piwowar, Heather: “Value all research products”, Nature, 10 January 2013, Vol.493, Pág 159

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