Things for building research profiles

This post appeared first as Research profiles (Academia.edu / ResearchGate) where it fulfilled my commitment to the USQ 23 Things project.


My brief for the USQ 23 Things project is to write a short (200 to 400 words – but who is counting, I’ll easily exceed that) post about ResearchGate and Academia.edu with focus on their applications in Higher Education (particularly teaching and learning). I’m interpreting my brief as dealing with online things that might profile and promote my research outputs.

I’ll begin with some general thoughts on the topic, comment on those specific sites, and then refer to other sites with what I consider to be related purposes. Finally, I’ll look at some more ‘out there’ alternatives and suggest some things to try.

Research & visibility

It might be true that in research, as in politics, there is no such thing as bad publicity. At least it seems that recognition for researchers, individually or institutionally, is tied to reputation which is often linked to relative visibility of publications.

USQ Publications Prizes go to authors who publish in journals with the highest rankings which are determined using citation rates. Success with grant applications is similarly tied to track record which is linked to previous success including publications. Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) uses metrics such as citation counts that depend upon research being found by others and their acknowledging that.

The things in my brief

Anything that makes research outputs more visible seems likely to benefit the researcher and institution. Sites like ResearchGate and Academia.edu have been developed to play to that need to be seen but they are not the only players. However, they are my assigned subject so I’ll begin there.

ResearchGate

I forget when and how I heard about ResearchGate but I joined it a good while ago, probably not long after it launched in 2008. I won’t attempt to describe it or its history. You can check the Wikipedia article for that.

Although it is described as “Facebook for scientists and researchers” and might function that way once you sign up, it is not very useful for promoting research to non-members. Even if you manage to find the minuscule link to a list of profiles hidden at the foot of the page you cannot see them without signing up (which you can do using Facebook). Visibility on ResearchGate seems to be restricted to the in crowd.

Once signed up you are able to use a selection of automated searches to create a profile on ResearchGate that will list your publications. Thereafter ResearchGate will, from time to time, encourage you to upload full text copies regardless of whether you have the necessary rights. I’ve declined to do that because I don’t have the relevant rights for all publications and I don’t have time to do it. I’d be happy to include links to the copies in USQ ePrints but that is not an option at present. Some of my publications are there because co-authors may be less concerned about copyright and/or blessed with more time than I have to upload copies.

From time to time I do get messages from ResearchGate users requesting copies of papers. Typically I respond with a link to the paper in USQ ePrints. That’s easier for me, exposes more of my work in ePrints, and promotes USQ.

ResearchGate also has some arcane measures of reputation, the RG Score “based on how other researchers interact with your content” and impact points derived by some mechanism that remains mysterious. It’s not clear to me how they work and some comparisons seem out of kilter with my personal impressions.

My biggest beef with ResearchGate is its constant carping about uploading full text. Just let me link to USQ ePrints.

Academia.edu

Like ResearchGate, Academia.edu launched in 2008. You can read its history in the Wikipedia article. I probably signed up to Academia.edu at about the same time as I joined ResearchGate.

I tend not to bother with it much, though it regularly sends email messages to inform me that somebody searched for me on Google and found my page on Academia.edu. In that respect at least it is doing its job and helping to make my work visible. My record there has a long list of papers that I must have provided at some point but I forget when or how. I expect it had some method for automating ingestion.

As with ResearchGate, Academia.edu would like me to upload full text but I’m not prepared to risk copyright infringement or donate the necessary time. Anything I’ve published can be found via USQ ePrints. At least my profile on Academia.edu, unlike that on ResearchGate, is accessible without signing up to the service. That makes it potentially more useful for promoting my research if only I could be bothered to keep it up to date. Like ResearchGate, Academia.edu has made efforts to court institutional support by grouping researchers according to institutional affiliation and sections within that.

Value for (no) money?

Am I skeptical about ResearchGate and Academia.edu? Yes. Is it worth signing up? Probably.

To the extent that either site makes my work more visible that’s a potential benefit and requires little effort on my part beyond signing up (for free) and building an initial list of publications, possibly using a file exported from EndNote or some other easy process.

Other research profiles

Beyond those two sites, I have others where my research can be found by those who may be interested.

Sites based on Google Scholar

Probably the simplest to establish is a Google Scholar profile. Like the others that’s existed for a while and I’ve forgotten just how I created it but there was little or no effort required.

Another site that uses Google Scholar to source its data is Scholarometer, which provides an extension for the Firefox and Chrome browsers to search Google Scholar and return a list of publications by author with citation indices. Anybody can search Scholarometer for citations of any author. Those data can be checked and are stored so that any visitor can retrieve my citation statistics and/or explore rankings of, and links among, researchers in a field.

USQ opportunities

USQ offers no fewer than three opportunities to showcase my research.

The staff directory entry provides a space to list three most recent research outcomes. Unfortunately that requires me to manually enter the details and will not accept HTML so I cannot link to a more easily maintained list.

USQ ePrints would seem to be the obvious solution since my publications are already listed there and a recent update has unified the lists associated with name variations. If only I could link to there from the directory entry 🙁

The USQ eportfolio based on Mahara supports a direct feed (via RSS) from ePrints that can be displayed in a profile page but seems to behave strangely with regard to what it selects for display.

There’s more…

Mendeley was developed as a free alternative to reference managers like EndNote and can exchange records with such software. It works using a downloadable application and on the website where it is possible to build a personal profile and establish groups. In 2013 Mendeley joined Elsevier but the website is still functional and can be useful.

Researcher identities

One of the challenges with any of these systems, including USQ ePrints, has been disambiguating names. Common names present potential for confusion among researchers with the same or similar names. Publications vary in their policies about using names and/or one or more initials so that my name may appear variously as Peter Albion, Peter R Albion, P Albion or P R Albion. Some researchers change their names. The obvious solution is a unique identifier for a researcher but who should issue and/or manage such IDs?

Google (Scholar) has created a code for each researcher who has established (or claimed) their profile. Scholarometer recognises the Google Scholar ID and supports searches using it but also has its own internal identifier.

Thomson Reuters has established ResearcherID which supports creation of a researcher profile that is publicly visible and can be searched by name.

ORCID describes itself as an “open, non-profit, community-driven effort to create and maintain a registry of unique research identifiers and a transparent method of lining research activities and outputs to these identifiers.” ORCID also supports a public profile and recognises IDs from at least ResearcherID and Scopus if you chose to link those.

What’s a researcher to do?

With all these options for profiling research which should we be using? As I suggested at the top, there is probably no such thing as bad publicity for research so use as many of those that seem to work for you as you can bear to deal with. Some are easier than others. Some, like USQ ePrints, are institutional requirements and should go to top of the list.

Doing your own thing

Of course there are more alternatives. There is a growing meme that favours reclaiming and managing our own online identities.

Google, Facebook and other commercial entities that offer ‘free’ services do so in order to turn a profit from our data. It’s true that if you are not paying for some online service it’s because you are the product being sold.

University of Mary Washington has been promoting a project, A Domain of One’s Own, to encourage students and staff to create their own web presence and EDUCAUSE has recently published a piece about Reclaiming Innovation.

It’s in that spirit that, when USQ closed out access to web space for staff personal pages a couple of years ago, I registered a domain and established my own presence at peter.albion.id.au. That site is still under-developed but I hope to find time to refresh it soon. I’ve done some work to build my publications list by pulling data from ePrints but that needs more work to automate it fully.

Things for you to try

This has run far beyond 200 to 400 words and I’ve yet to suggest things you might do to explore this area. Here are some suggestions you might try, depending on your interests.

  • Try searching for researchers you know about in one or more of the services. Do they have profiles and, if so, how well do they match what you know?
  • If you search for the same researcher(s) using a simple Google search which of the profiles show up and in what order?
  • Create a personal profile on one or more of the sites discussed above. How easy is it?
  • Explore the Scholarometer Explore facility. What can you find out about relative rankings of researchers in fields of interest or about the networks to which they are linked?
  • Register your own domain and claim your own identity on the web.