Archive for category: Evaluation

Alt-metrics: A manifesto

October 28th, 2010 by
J. Priem, D. Taraborelli, P. Groth, C. Neylon (2010), Alt-metrics: A manifesto, (v.1.0), 26 October 2010.

No one can read everything. We rely on filters to make sense of the scholarly literature, but the narrow, traditional filters are being swamped. However, the growth of new, online scholarly tools allows us to make new filters; these alt-metrics reflect the broad, rapid impact of scholarship in this burgeoning ecosystem. We call for more tools and research based on alt-metrics.

As the volume of academic literature explodes, scholars rely on filters to select the most relevant and significant sources from the rest.

Unfortunately, scholarship’s three main filters for importance are failing:


Portrait of the scientist as a bureaucrat

September 15th, 2009 by

tapsCambridge zoologist Peter A. Lawrence has published a thoughtful piece on the frustration of scientists (whether young or not so young) facing the ruthlessness of the research granting system (Real Lives and White Lies in the Funding of Scientific Research). He suggests how a “drastic simplification of this grant-writing process would help scientists return to the business of doing science” and quotes a passage from a recent NYT column by Stephen Quake, who asks what sounds to me like a challenging question:

Could we stimulate more discovery and creativity if more scientists had…security of…research support? Would this encourage risk-taking and lead to an overall improvement in the quality of science?

I take this as a genuine question in search of a convincing empirical answer.

  • The full article is available in PLoS Biology.
  • CC-licensed photo courtesy of .

Benjamin Franklin: the grandfather of personal productivity?

August 28th, 2009 by

A few years ago I visited the Huntington Library in Los Angeles. We spent most of our time poking around the beautiful gardens, enjoying the Californian sun. But the Library collection is pretty remarkable too and it holds copies of the Gutenberg bible, Audubon’s bird drawings, early Shakespeare editions and – a definite highlight – Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography.

I’m not sure why I suddenly remembered this now, almost four years later, but when he wasn’t experimenting with electricity and founding countries, Franklin was also a bit of a productivity guru. Check out this extract from Chapter 8 of his autobiography (click for bigger):

Benjamin Franklin's daily schedule

He was pretty keen on everything having its own allocated time, supporting what he called the virtue of Order. He never seemed to be quite satisfied with the progress he made (bit hard on himself really) but the interesting thing, I think, is that you can see him actively reflecting on his progress and acknowledging its benefit. Check out these extracts:

I enter’d upon the Execution of this Plan for Self Examination, and continu’d it with occasional Intermissions for some time. I was surpris’d to find myself so much fuller of Faults than I had imagined, but I had the Satisfaction of seeing them diminish.

And later:

In truth, I found myself incorrigible with respect to Order; and now I am grown old, and my memory bad, I feel very sensibly the want of it. But, on the whole, tho’ I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by the endeavour, a better and a happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it

So there you go: Benjamin Franklin, the grandfather of personal productivity c. 1791. As if he hadn’t done enough already!

Nascent: Igor – a Google Wave robot to manage your references

August 20th, 2009 by

Looks like the Connotea team is on the right track. Instead of trying to bolt something to insert references into word, they are trying to go straight to wave.

We have blogged before about what a good integration between references and writing tools should look like, and quite honestly, Igor looks like it’s really getting it in terms of agility. You can specify a few terms and it disambiguates that into the reference you need. Looks smarter than the approach that endnote/bibTeX/zotero/Mendeley use. It only works for the online reference managers citeUlike and Connotea, though.

I’m not sure the references are portable, i.e., if I copy/paste a chunk of text with references, they come along to wherever I paste it to (it must be another wave, in this case). Endnote/bibTeX get this right, although they depend on a local file that you would have to send along.

As things stand, I think wave has a very good chance of becoming _the_ platform for collaborative scientific writing. You may have to convince your collaborators to try it (and some must have been put off by Google Docs, which is clearly not ready for science), but it could be very motivating to see their writing grow next to yours in real time.

Since wave is a lot more open than Google Docs it would not surprise me to see robots coming up to mend the deficiencies that make Docs unfit for papers: no tables, crossrefs, footnotes, equations, etc. Wave gives you versioning for free, which was another pain point of scientific collaboration.

from on .

Study Hacks on Rethinking What Impresses Employers and being a hyperspecialist

August 18th, 2009 by

Cal Newport says people think that the more hard things they do, the more impressive they’ll be to potential employers. He calls this the diligence hypothesis. This is a leitmotiv in his blogging.

However, this trend of getting (and looking!) as busy as possible is not exclusive to undergrads (his audience). I don’t know any academic that doesn’t look stressed. We mostly hoard more tasks that they can realistically accomplish. But academics love their jobs (or so legend has it), whereas most people don’t. People who have day jobs say their long-term strategy for dealing with no life is to amass enough wealth to have more freedom of time to be able to do  things they love. We try to do the opposite: a job we love that invades every corner of our lives.