Impact Round Up 9 November: #solo13, Science on the Web, Big Data, and the history of the decline of Wikipedia.


Managing Editor Sierra Williams presents a round up of popular stories from around the web on higher education, academic impact, and trends in scholarly communication.

SpotOn London 2013, the two-day conference hosted by Nature Publishing Group takes place this weekend covering a range of sessions and workshops on science communication and outreach, online tools and digital publishing, and science policy. Ahead of the session on altmetrics, Martin Fenner and Jennifer Lin offer a historical background of bibliometrics and the evaluation of research in Evaluating Impact: What’s your number? on the PLOS Tech blog. The authors write:

We are positive that we will make good progress developing these new metrics in the coming years, but they will not solve the problem we started out with: The quality of research is something that can’t be measured in numbers.

You can follow all the SpotOn London 2013 Twitter discussion at #solo13.

Co-authorship network map of physicians publishing on hepatitis C

Image credit: Andy Lamb (CC-BY)

In other conference news, the Mozilla Festival took place in late October and included its first dedicated track on science led by Kaitlin Thaney. She provides a useful overview of the #MozScience sessions all exploring different tools and facets of “Science on the Web”.

Software startup Science Rockstars featured an interview with Sune Lehmann of the University of Denmark on Reinventing Social Sciences in the Age of Big Data. He speaks on the future of computational social science methods to illuminate telecommunication networks and human behaviour. Whilst companies like Google and Facebook have been researching this for years, academic research can certainly play a vital role:

In my opinion that’s one of the key problems of the current state of affairs, the imbalance of information. We hand over our personal data to powerful corporations, but have nearly zero insight into a) what they know about us and b) what they’re doing with all the stuff they know about us. By doing research that is open, collaborative, explicit about privacy, and public, I hope we can act as a counter-point and work to diminish the information-gap.

Sune Lehmann in Reinventing Social Sciences in the Age of Big Data.

Retraction Watch reports on a new study on the citation behaviors of scientists following retractions in Doing the right thing: Scientists reward authors who report their own errors. The study (full text in Nature here) finds that while citation penalties can spread across an author’s publication history, in cases where authors self-report their mistakes, this ” is associated with no citation penalty and possibly positive citation benefits among prior work.”


Image credit: Giulia Forsythe (CC-BY)

This week’s recommended long read is from the MIT Technology Review on The Decline of Wikipedia. The author writes of the internal social dynamics of the popular web encyclopedia and the pressing challenges facing the largely leaderless bureaucracy. The article also features the research of Aaron Halfaker, a grad student at the University of Minnesota, whose quantitative research on Wikipedia’s public activity logs can be found here: The Rise and Decline of an Open Collaboration Community: How Wikipedia’s reaction to sudden popularity is causing its decline quantitatively analyzed Wikipedia’s public activity logs, looking heavily at the decline.