Academic networks contest: ResearchGate vs. Academia vs. Mendeley

As university professor, with great pressure to publish in academic journals, I find academic generalist networks essential, such as ResearchGate, Academia.edu or Mendeley, which help me to:

  • Disseminate on the web my published articles to try to obtain citations and name among the scientific community in my field of expertiseAcademic networks contest: ResearchGate vs. Academia vs. Mendeley
  • Find research papers quickly and easily
  • Search for collaboration and international research projects
  • Share ideas and find solutions

I wonder if you can do the same on Facebook or Linkedin. Facebook don’t clearly do it because it’s very focused on leisure and personal life but, what about Linkedin? With millions of professors and professionals connected interested in science/research?

But no, it seems that we need a specific one to ourselves that differentiate researchers, with specific functionalities on usability and sociability (mainly source credibility), two main factors for evaluating online communities (Chinthakalaya, 2013).

I don’t intend to make a thorough analysis of the technical and functional characteristics of these platforms, but rather from the point of view of the user or scientist, offer an outline of their main features, to make the most of our time and know what you can expect from each. And although this is a blog and not a scientific research project, I have also taken into account the views of other users in the academic networks, such as those expressed in ResearchGate in this forum.

Obviously, I have created profiles on all platforms, so one important point is that you are forced to be on all of them, but if not constantly updated (profile and papers), the effort will be useless.

ResearchGate

  • I’d highlight its:
    • Interactivity: Collaboration and discovery through its discussions/questions and publication repository,
    • Intelligence:  The statistics and the scoring about your work are a great invitation / encouragement to participate and interact, though its administrators are very aware of all that is posted in the network, manipulating content, as if we were small children.
    • And source credibility: only researchers are accepted, and they use it a lot because of the scoring mentioned above.
  • But ResearchGate still has to improve its repository: I find it difficult to upload all my publications, not just papers, and it sometimes doesn’t find the links to get data when uploading them.

Academia.edu

  •  Its strength point is the repository of publications: Allows you to post the link on your paper, so other researchers can download your papers directly from the original source (SSRN, RepEc, arXiv.org, CiteCeerX or SSOAR), which increase your score on these repositories, if that is important for anyone.
  • But I find it less democratic so at the end less interactive: It’s very restrictive when disclosing your ideas to exchange views with other researchers. For example Academia.edu has deleted almost all of my new discussions, and they even closed my first profile there and I had to open another, which gives me the creepy feeling of censorship and guarded by a big brother with the excuse of spam.

Mendeley

  • It works more as a reference management system (organize and search bibliographies, add papers from the web to your library, etc.) with both online and desktop versions, sometimes difficult to understand. So it isn’t an academic network, but it has “a social network integrated”, which can give you an idea of its limited social and sharing capabilities.
  • It also has strong corporate and lucrative connotations: Mendeley was acquired in 2013 by Elsevier, the publishing house; yes, the one that is requesting scientific social-networking sites and authors to remove the papers posted online without their permission.

In conclusion, ResearchGate and Academia.edu are very similar social networks for scientists, each with their particular strengths/software, but I foresee a better future for ResearchGate because of its commitment to sociability, though not as much as Linkedin, my favorite generalist academic network.

Too bad they aren’t specialized in socializing the process of publishing in scholarly journals, both to editors and authors.

 

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The Craft of Research. Book Review

The Craft of Research. Book ReviewI wanted to read further about research methodology, data collection, and on hypotheses and interpreting the data, and I found this book (‘The Craft of Research’): the title was suggestive, the description of the book looked ok, as its price as e-book, it also seems that it was selling well and the reviews were not bad, so I decided to try.

The truth is that I was hoping to find information about the process of conducting academic research, more than tips on writing the research draft or paper, so in part I was a little disappointed, but ok, it happens sometimes.

  1. Although the objectives of the book were ‘doing and reporting research’, I’m afraid is more focused on reporting and writing the draft.
  2. But even for this, writing the draft, I found it somehow weak, or at least like any the other books on the subject, such as ‘The Literature Review: Six Steps to Success’ or ‘How to get research published in journals’.
  3. I’ve also seen it too focused on unexperienced researchers, who would appreciate anything more or less elaborated and well-written to reflect on the subject and start developing their writing skills.

But instead, there are parts of the book that indeed are interesting and noteworthy, which are what I look for sometimes: some specific ideas about writing a paper, abstract, literature review, or even to disseminate it.

  • For example, it’s well exposed for the search of the bibliography, in case anyone needs some methodological basis to help selecting the literature, which I have not seen in any other book so far. I have to admit that I appreciate it because my approach is more intuitive, based on Google Scholar, the library of my Faculty, and then pulling out of references and books on the topic I’m researching.

I also have a bitter aftertaste after reading it because, for a simple European professor I found some parts of the book too Anglo and certainly convoluted: those that relate reasons with evidences, arguments, claim evaluation and warrants, one with some of the others and then all together, I’m sorry.

The lost war on journal’s papers and open access

the lost war on journal's papers and open accessElsevier, the publishing house, is requesting scientific social-networking sites, and directly to authors, to remove the papers posted online without their permission (The Economist, 2014).

  • When an article is published, some in principle logical copyright is transferred to the academic journals, as they have some editorial costs, and also often provide a powerful and quality platform (the electronic journal webpage), well positioned for SEO in search engines like Google. In other words, they usually provide an interesting service for the international scientific community, but of course at a cost.

The need for access to scientific literature or knowledge in an open and easy way is behind this problem, of course, as the good feeling to challenge the growing power of the powerful publishing corporations; but I feel that the unstoppable force that moves desperately researchers and authors to disclose their papers is the growing obsession with citations and the metrics associated:

  1. On the one hand, universities and accrediting agencies require professors to publish in journals indexed in specific databases, as ISI Web of Knowledge / Web of Science (Thomson Reuters), Scopus (Elsevier) or EBSCO.
  2. But there is an increasing pressure on citations from our articles as a measuring metric of the impact and quality of our research. This leads us to disclose our papers to be found in the Internet, either through working papers in repositories, or hanging the articles or abstracts directly in social and academic networks.

However, this ‘lost’ war (for publishing houses) on journal’s papers and open access shows a certain lack of knowledge by scientists of how SEO and search engines work, since a paper or article is much more easily found for example in Google if it is published in a platform / journal of these corporations than if it’s posted in a repository or in the social networks.

Then, of course, there are other related or derived connotations, such as academic networking: if a researcher or peer asks us a copy of our last article, do we refuse it when is probably a potential and valuable citation?

Finally, the solution to publish an earlier version of the article in open access, not the article itself, sounds a little sloppy. Anyway, I can’t think of disclosing an article that has been published and has publisher’s copyright, because I value my relationship with the editors of journals, it would be like betraying them, don’t you think?

Research papers, English language and fair play

Research papers, English language and fair playA few days ago I was criticized ironically on the social networks (by a non-academic consultant) by the grammar of one of my blog posts, although I take much care of the English writing, of course, and I usually dedicate to it around 25% of the time. It made me feel pretty bad, but it helped me to reflect on the theme of research papers, English language and fair play.

Something similar can happen to non-native English speakers with our academic articles, with which I’ve never had trouble publishing in premier journals in English, the last one in a fist quartile Journal Citation Reports (ISI Web of Knowledge / Web of Science) indexed journal. It’s true that there was a peer-reviewer (I don’t know whether He/She was native or non-native English speaker) in one of them who told me something about the writing, but as I explained that I had sent it to edit the English (I had the bill), they didn’t say anything back again.

Papers should be written in English for two main reasons:

Those of us who are non-native English have a handicap here, but it need not be a barrier to disseminate knowledge. The world would lost much of the innovation and development if journals were not open to international scientists, and journals understand it this way, there could be no complains about it. Another thing is that the English required for the manuscripts is of first class, which is fair and reasonable but slows and lengthens the process of publishing in journals for non-native speakers.

In case you find it helpful, the process I use to write an article in English is as follows, because I understand that not writing well could in itself spoil the work and effort invested in a research:

  1. Once I have a revised and contrasted research draft in Spanglish (parts in English and parts in Spanish), I translate it fully into English, paragraph by paragraph, carefully reviewing the meaning of each sentence and making sure it is understood.
  2. Then I send it to edit the writing to a specialized academic editor on my field of knowledge.
  3. And, finally, with the reviewer’s comments, I correct and improve it.

Thereby I expect that my articles, and blog posts, are understood, are well written and transmit my research and ideas, not that they win a prize for literature or are compared with the works of Hemingway! On the other hand, I think that non-native English academics should also be given a fair chance in this publishing world, providing we observe the writing rules and don’t hide behind our limitations.

Academic SEO for your research papers

Academic SEO for your research papersThe truth is that I hadn’t thought much of linking SEO and papers before, but it’s reasonable: to use the techniques of marketing from bloggers and websites to raise the visibility of our research. There is a document on the subject, from Wiley, Search Engine Optimization: For Authors, which is quite original, though in truth it doesn’t add much to what authors do naturally with their papers, but it gives you a very interesting twist on how to write (or varnish) your scientific articles.

Selling ​​your articles to obtain citations is not well seen in academia, but instead working on SEO it isn’t, that comes to be the same thing, so don’t worry, without realizing it you do SEO for your publications.

  • Academic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of transforming your research paper into one which is easily indexed and categorized by the search engines, and thereby more advantageously positioned to increase visibility and citations.

That an author alone could position his/her articles on Google is practically impossible, though you can do many things, as Wiley say in the above mentioned article, such as:

  1. Take care of the title, abstract and keywords thinking of SEO
  2. Write consistently and use headings
  3. Cite your own articles and those of the co-authors
  4. Promote your papers in the social and academic networks

I mean, those are the logical tips, and even the classical ones to round and disseminate a paper in the web 3.0 environment, but you can now comment about them without complexes: everything seemed so far as self-promotion, now with SEO language everything is politically correct, and even look foolish if you don’t do it.

But don’t forget that the main tool of SEO is the very journal where you publish, or the publishing platform, that is well positioned as Wiley’s in this case; this by itself can generate more than 90% of a paper positioning on the searches. What doesn’t change anything to what is being done so far, that the platform for disseminating research is the important thing; so that simultaneously leaves a glimmer of hope for other innovative platforms such as repositories; there is the successful SSRN.

So take it easy, because everything in academic research always leads to the same thing: the base is good research, plan well the impact, and publish in the right journal for your paper. Almost nothing! And in the meanwhile don’t forget the SEO thing, for having done all you should do to increase your prestige and personal brand.

Book review: ‘The Literature Review: Six Steps to Success’

For some time I wanted to read a book to improve my skills to write good literature reviews, although I haven’t had many problems with peer-reviewers on this issue in particular, especially when I do a good job documenting my thesis research.

There are some specialized books in the field of literature review, but I found this in particular, ‘The Literature Review: Six Steps to Success (Machi & McEvoy, 2012) that looked nice and was not an expensive e-Book , which makes things easier since I’m trying to getting rid of the paper lately.

Book review: ‘The Literature Review: Six Steps to Success’As always, I’ll use this manual to perform the literature review of my next co-authored article, on international business models in the insurance industry, that is already well advanced, and we intend to submit to a Q1/Q2 JCR (Thomson Reuters) journal.

By having my academic paper already underway, the topic chosen and the research literature documented, I could jump three quarters of the content, the one on research design, choosing the topic of interest and its justification, and searching the existing literature. But of course I will use the methodology in the future for the research that I have in the pipeline, you can always improve your skills on this.

As for the review itself, I find very useful the structure provided for the review writing, indeed basic, simple and reasonable, which helps you have a schema that could help you to complete your ideas, thesis, analyzed documentation and its evaluation; that is, you are no longer faced with a blank paper when starting the literature review, but with a guide that facilitates this important part of your manuscript.

Since my goal is not to be a champion of the literature review, I’ll use this guide as a reference, because the main thing is to have our scientific paper understood, accepted, and published in journals, for which:

  • You have to take care of all the ingredients expected for a scientific journal, as a good review of the literature.
  • It should match the quality of the rest of the article.

In conclusion, the book is okay, a bit theoretical, but what do you expect? At least have a practical approach in 6 steps, but the first 3 and the last 2 are a kind of filler text, but I think undoubtedly that it contributes to help you not to forget these basic steps of the literature review and the composition of the thesis research and its documentation.

If you don’t have a peer beside to help you to improve your skills as a reviewer of the literature, the best idea is to read a manual like this, don’t you think? You can find it in our Bookstore as a Basic Book.

The future of scientific research dissemination: Liberalism back again

The future of scientific research dissemination: Liberalism back againLast week was the presentation of my book ‘Publish in Journals 3.0’ and attended as speakers one of the foremost authorities in Spain on accreditation, the President of ACAP; the Director of the Corporate Finance Department at Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and the Library director of the Faculty of Business and Economics; who brought their different views on the future of scientific research dissemination.

In the later discussion, there were addressed two issues of particular relevance, which I found interesting to comment here for its reflection.

1. We were wondering if it makes sense for a centralized agency to evaluate professors, and somehow tell the universities which of them could recruit.

  • It would be something similar to university admissions, there is now a centralized evaluation to be replaced in the near future by the specific of each college, American style.
  • Accreditation agencies would focus then to certify program studies and not to professors, seen as a private subject, of its quality and vision of teaching.
  • Many professors present at the event, as me, were slightly perplexed since we are working very hard on our accreditations, and because this new scenario would put it much harder for their foreseeable lack of transparency and equality of criteria.
  • But this change in evaluations doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take care of our academic curriculum, on the contrary, the requirements will not be lower.

2. The other interesting point is that probably the future of quality of research dissemination is not in the Platform (journals, repositories or even peer-reviewed books and conferences), but in the number of citations.

  • Although the results of the last poll I conducted on this topic reflected the opposite, which was the opinion of researchers about their current situation; in the future more emphasis will be given to citations obtained than to the relevance of the journals in which research is published, both closely interrelated.
  • Moreover, publish papers in journals is not the only thing that measures the impact or quality of research, but there are other important activities, such as patents and transfer of knowledge to society through the creation of start-ups.

That is, the conclusion I draw is that the important thing is to do research, publishing is its result, not the goal, or the system become perverted. Either way, we professors expect troubled times (you know: life is change, change is life), but not necessarily for the better academically and for the future of society. It is the vision of radical liberalism that now prevails, I guess.

Poll results on quality of research: Journals 3-2 H-Index

What a surprise! There have been fewer responses than in other polls, I thought that there were more interest on this topic, but the results are clear on quality of research: Journals 3-2 H-Index.

Is Google Scholar a good indicator of your quality of research activity and influence?

Poll results on quality of research: Journals 3-2 H-Index

* The poll was posted in October 2013 in many academic discussion groups. Around 470 answers were collected.

Although Google Scholar is open and reliable because it treats scholars equally, it’s not considered to be a good indicator of quality of research activity and influence. It’s incredible and difficult to digest because I had a hope in this. So I guess what you can think of Altmetric, which is based on an ample idea of impact, not just on academic production…

The reasons for these results are implicit in the survey because, if on the one hand these metrics provide useful public information, on the other hand I understand that, in general, H-Index metrics have the following barriers:

  1. It adds pressure on researchers.
  2. No organization seems to be looking seriously at them.
  3. Not many people are using them, because their citations are poor comparing with those of some champions in the sciences, and because is another annoying tool to take care of.
  4. And mainly because it is still considered that journals are a better indicator of quality of research.

Well okay, I get it, we’ll look at the individual metrics but focusing on publishing in indexed journals. I don’t think that in the medium term this will change much, peer-review will remain the king of research quality assessment, and makes perfect sense.

But instead, for journals these results are a triumph and a shot of adrenaline. The road for them is to be indexed in well-known databases and be open to open access to allow authors to be cited and have an impact, isn’t it?

Towards a Corporate Governance system for journals

Towards a Corporate Governance system for journalsIn the previous post, I suggested the idea of ​​using the corporate governance model but for academic journals and research, a kind of Journal Governance system, aligning journal practices with each other and with the scientific environment in which they operate, which would lead the academic publishing industry towards a Corporate Governance system for journals.

In corporate governance there are two leading models: that of the Shareholders (in our case the journal would seek wealth maximization), monitored by the market, that is, their readers, paper rejections ratios, subscriptions, indexation in high ranked indexes, publication prestige, etc.; and that of the Stakeholders, having into account a dense network of journal collaborations; but the trend is to use a mixed model, in which the publishing world could have the following key Journal Governance Variables.

The internal forces, those directly responsible for determining both the strategic direction and the execution of the journal’s future:

  1. The journal owner (publishing company, faculty/university, scientists): Maximization of the journal value.
  2. The editorial board: Transparency and international approach.
  3. The editors (Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor):  Independence and loyalty.
  4. The peer-reviewers: Knowledge and ethics.

The external forces, those interested in the journals behavior and success:

  1. Readers, looking for quality, innovation and rigor of published research.
  2. Authors, seeking the prestige of the journal.
  3. Funding institutions, in need of project validation.
  4. Universities and faculties.
  5. Databases and indexes.
  6. Accreditation agencies of professors.
  7. The regulation of each country on education and teaching.

Many of these forces are currently existing, but in a weak way and not incorporated or regulated by a comprehensive model, for example forcing journals to publish a sort of Journal  Governance Annual Report, among other practices, which would be compelling as other quality practices, such as peer-review or independence of the academic board.

Anyway I’m not naive, I know that this hypothetical system of Journal Governance wouldn’t be infallible either, but would be the best we could come to have in the medium term, don’t you think so?

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