We’re overdue on altmetrics for the digital humanities

We’re overdue on altmetrics for the digital humanities

Humanities researchers I’ve talked to usually fall into one of two camps when it comes to altmetrics:

  • “Altmetrics are amazing! I’ve been looking for a better way to understand the use and impacts of my work.” or
  • “This is just another tool that favors the sciences and tries to reduce the complexities of my research into a single formula. It will never work for me.”

As an altmetrics advocate and humanist by training, I unsurprisingly tend to fall into the first camp.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and thinking lately on how research is evaluated in the humanities, and it seems to sadly be as an opaque of a process as in the sciences. By and large, you’re judged by:

  • the university press you’ve published your book(s) with,
  • reviews that other scholars write about your books, and
  • occasionally, by the citations your journal articles and books receive

Unsurprisingly, this framework tends to favors books and, to a lesser extent, journal articles. The value of digital scholarship projects (websites, interactive exhibitions, etc), software, and research data aren’t taken into account under this model. Thank goodness that’s starting to change.

In the past few years, scholarly societies and some universities have created guidelines to help traditionalists understand the impacts of digital scholarship projects. Faculty are encouraged to think beyond the monograph when considering what types of work might have a lasting influence on the profession.

But these guidelines tend not to address newer types of quantitative and qualitative data, sourced from the web, that can help reviewers understand the full scope of the impacts your work may have. This data can include newer impact metrics like numbers of website visitors, what other scholars are saying about your work on their research blogs and social media, how many members of the public have reviewed your books on GoodReads and Amazon, and so on.

That’s where my current work comes in.

I’m now in the process of talking with humanities researchers, from department chairs to graduate students, to better understand what types of data might be useful in supplementing their understanding of impacts for digital humanities research.

And I’ve done two talks in the past week–one at the ASIS&T Virtual Symposium on Information Technology in the Arts & Humanities, and one at the Advancing Research Communication & Scholarship meeting.

Both talks were intended to get conversations started about altmetrics and the humanities–what might work, what would never work, what data sources could potentially be tracked that aren’t yet included in services like Altmetric and PlumX.

I’ll be doing more researching, writing, thinking and speaking on the topic in the coming months–stay tuned for more information.

In the meantime, I’d love to get your feedback in the comments below.

Happy to announce I’m Altmetric’s new Research Metrics Consultant!

Happy to announce I’m Altmetric’s new Research Metrics Consultant!

For the next six months, I’ll be working with the smart folks at Altmetric to build the company’s profile in the US. I couldn’t be more excited–they’ve built a fantastic product and are doing important work to support the larger field of altmetrics (including open altmetrics). Monday is my first day with the company, and I’m looking forward to hitting the ground running with an Altmetric ‘boot camp’ at their London offices throughout next week.

I also want to mention: I’ve been humbled by the outpouring of support I’ve received from the larger open science and altmetrics community upon the announcement of my departure from Impactstory. Thank you to everyone who reached out, offering kind words and job leads. I couldn’t be more grateful.

Moving on from Impactstory

Moving on from Impactstory

Today, Jason & Heather announced that they’ve had to downsize my role at Impactstory as they work to improve Impactstory’s product-market fit. To say that I’m sad about their decision doesn’t even begin to describe how I’m feeling–in some ways, I feel like I’m going through a breakup–but I’m optimistic about the future. And I have nothing but love and admiration for Heather and Jason, who are working very hard to make Impactstory a success.

So, what’s next for me, professionally-speaking?

To be honest, I’m of two minds. One part of me wants to continue working in the scholarly communication/publishing startup world, where change happens quickly, bureaucracy is limited, and success is hard-won but possible. The other part of me wants to return to academic librarianship, where I could have a stable, long-term career, I’d be able to build lasting local connections with faculty and students, and opportunities to do research abound.

In either case, my time at Impactstory has confirmed for me that I’m great at connecting with researchers at all stages of their careers, across many disciplines. Also, I really enjoy (and am pretty darn good at) building communities and doing outreach online.

Until further notice, I’m seeking job opportunities. You can learn more about my work at skonkiel.pairserver.com or at impactstory.org/skonkiel. If you’ve got a lead, email me at stacy.konkiel@gmail.com.

Lib school students: follow these job search tips

Lib school students: follow these job search tips

I like to think I’m pretty good at getting library jobs and also at giving advice. I’ve also been on the receiving end of a lot of badly-executed job applications.

Want a better chance at getting a job? Here’s my 2c for you to consider as you go on the hunt.

Get to know the places you’re applying to

A half-hour of research into a library’s strengths can go a long way towards showing the hiring committee that you take this position seriously, and that you want to work for them.

Of course, if you’re applying to 75 jobs at once (or however many recent MLS grads have to apply to in order to get some callbacks in this awful economy), that’s a major time suck. At least try to put in that amount of time for the positions you’re the most excited about.

Write a good cover letter

This is one of the most-repeated bits of job search advice, I know. But I’m including it here because it doesn’t seem like many people heed that advice.

What does it mean to write a good cover letter? Well, there are heaps of guides out there, so I won’t go into detail, but a quick list includes:

  • Check your spelling
  • Check your grammar
  • Address it to a human (not to “Search Committee” or “To Whom it May Concern,” if possible)
  • Indicate the _soft skills_ you’ll bring to the position (you’re good with people! You are a quick learner!) rather than the skills you’ve already summarized on your CV
  • Talk about why you’re a good fit for that particular position, not why you’re just awesome in general (tailor the heck out of your cover letter, and do the same for your CV)

Want an example of a decent cover letter? I’ve put my cover letter from my most recent library-land position online, for you to reference. I’m by no means the best at writing these things, but hey, it worked out OK for me.

Be yourself

I’m gay. (Surprise!) I also have dabbled in pornography studies and volunteered at a rather risqué art gallery when I lived in SF.

I put all of that (well, except the gay part) into my CV (also available online) because a) community involvement is community involvement and b) sometimes the things we study don’t always relate to the positions to which we are applying, yet show that we have scholarly interests (even if kind of blue). (And any university who doesn’t believe that porn studies is a (fun, younger, but) totally legit sister of communication/mass media studies isn’t one I want to work at.)

Similarly–even more so, in fact–I’m always very open about my gayness in job interviews. (I mention my wife, etc.) Because if someone I’m interviewing with is weird about that, they’re not someone I want as a colleague.*

From another angle, being open in job interviews can also make you more relatable  to the hiring committee. A guy who interviewed with our department at IU was very up front about how he wanted to find library work in Bloomington, where his wife was in grad school, because family was very important to him. I was touched by that, and appreciated his honesty about the importance of a work-life balance wrt priorities. He later got the job.

That said, had he mentioned his wife in his cover letter, I likely wouldn’t have picked him for an in-person interview. It’s a weird trade-off, one that gets easier to negotiate as you have more jobs and learn more about professionalism. (Probably doesn’t help you freshly-minted, wet-behind-the-ears MLSers, but oh well.)

Use your good judgement when deciding what to share with prospective employers. If you are a volunteer coordinator for the local Binge Drinker Championship, you might want to leave that out. You also shouldn’t be too blunt about the fact that you’re keen on a job because you’re having trouble getting hired elsewhere.

Hack the application process

This Silicon Valley job search description includes a lot of actionable hacks for any job candidate, not just those in IT:

  • Keep good track of all the applications you have out
  • Do your own write-ups of how the interview went, including whether you want to work for the organization after meeting your prospective co-workers
  • How to negotiate (which you should ALWAYS do)

Follow the link for more juicy bits.

Got more tips to share? Add them in the comments below, or hit me up on Twitter at @skonkiel.

UPDATE: A great Vitae article on negotiating salaries went online recently. Go read it now!

* I recognize that I’m able to be as open as I am because I have a good amount of privilege–I’m white, able-bodied, and was applying to my most recent library position while still employed (a safety net makes it a heck of a lot easier to say things like “if they don’t find porn studies to be legit, screw ’em”). So, take what I’m saying with a grain of salt, and disclose only what feels comfortable to you in your cover letter, CV, and interview.

Inaugural post to the E-Science Community Blog: “Before the executable paper, a verifiable paper: moving publishing forward with the Resource Identification Initiative”

Inaugural post to the E-Science Community Blog: “Before the executable paper, a verifiable paper: moving publishing forward with the Resource Identification Initiative”

Most current call-to-arms in scientific publishing invoke the idea of an “executable paper”—an article format that can truly take advantage of web-native publishing, leveraging embedded code and research data to allow readers to confirm research findings on the spot. Though a few promising prototypes have been shared in recent years, we are still fairly far from this ideal.

In fact, we are still grappling with how we can ensure the offline verification of results. In the literature, vague descriptions of antibodies, software packages, and other resources used in the course of a study mean that without intervention from a paper’s authors, it’s often impossible to accurately replicate research or build upon reported findings.

Enter the Resource Identification Initiative (#RII). The Force11-backed group is working with publishers and journals such as Nature to ensure that all resources (currently defined as “Antibodies, Model Organisms, and Tools (software and databases)”) mentioned in a paper get identifiers, which are linked back to detailed descriptions about the resources themselves.

Read the full post here >>>