Altmetric Blog

Ambassador of the Month – September 2016 – Andy Tattersall

Josh Clark, 6th September 2016

tattersall2 copy 2Ambassador of the month for September is Andy Tattersall!

Andy is an Information Specialist at The School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) at the University of Sheffield. He writes and gives talks on altmetrics as well as digital academia, learning technology, scholarly communications, open research, web tools and social media. In particular, Andy’s expertise lies in these topics’ application for research, teaching, learning, knowledge management and collaboration. Andy is a member of The University of Sheffield’s Teaching Senate and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. He  is also Secretary for the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals – Multimedia and Information Technology Committee and has edited a new book on altmetrics aimed at researchers and librarians.

We caught up with Andy and asked him some questions on what he’s been working on and how he thinks altmetrics can help researchers and lecturers.

Tell me about your current work at The University of Sheffield. What does a typical day involve for you?

I am an Information Specialist at The School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) at The University of Sheffield. My job has increasingly changed over the last few years, if anything I have become a digital research specialist/technologist with a strong focus on scholarly communications. I don’t have a typical working day and probably have one of the most diverse jobs within academia which suits me fine. I spend a lot of time helping colleagues and students make better use of technology to be more productive, communicate their research and work smarter on a modern digital campus. This can be everything from helping them understand altmetrics, to social media, to mobile apps to using video. I very much practice what I preach and use all of the technologies myself as part of my teaching and research. I try to find out the pros and cons to help others further down the way – I’m not afraid to fail so others don’t.

Where did you first learn of altmetrics?

It was possibly late 2011, but certainly early 2012 when I emailed this link to myself: – thank goodness for a well-ordered email file structure. I had been a big user of Mendeley since 2009 and by following them I was becoming aware of various things that were happening in the altmetrics space. I also spoke at the same parallel session as Mark Hahnel from Figshare at the defunct Online Information conference in London. At the time, I was not fully aware of what he and others were doing but made it my mission to find out more.

You’ve recently published a book, ‘Altmetrics-A practical guide for librarians, researchers and academics’. Can you tell us about the book and what inspired you to write on this subject?

I was approached by my publisher, Facet Books, in mid-2013 to write a book of my choosing and it was a simple case of deciding between two topics, those I was and am still most passionate about: open research and information overload. Both can feel like different sides of the same coin at times, but in the end I knew that information overload had been covered before very well, altmetrics in my mind needed that extra special attention. I realised that there were two issues that needed covering, the theory behind why altmetrics had come about and the practical ways academics and librarians could get behind it. With that in mind I approached some of the best experts I knew, William Gunn from Mendeley and Euan Adie from Altmetric to explain about altmetrics in the purest sense. Ben Showers, who at the time had was working for Jisc and had published on bibliometrics, and Andrew Booth and Claire Beecroft, who between them had years of experience in the library and information world, completed the title. I wrote just over half of the book and tried to capture why we had got to where we are and how best to navigate this brave new world. Hopefully readers have found it a useful addition to the growing literature.

How do you think Altmetric data can help researchers?

Quite simply, it offers them a feedback loop and window onto the world of how their research is being received globally. I think there is this misconception that most academics are not that interested in how their work is perceived. I think most are, they are just worried about negative feedback, criticism and miscommunication – but the world is changing, especially where impact is now so important. The idea that you can publish a piece of research and it just sits in a journal on a shelf has long gone, we have the potential to discover so much more with alternative metrics. Of course the balance is maintaining that high quality output and not being drawn into a world of just gawping at numbers – but that is the misconception for me. Altmetrics is about finding out much more than numbers; it’s also about more than just your papers, but also your data, books, posters among other outputs. It feels like we should have done this all along when the Web began.

How do you think altmetrics can help lecturers/professors?

I think altmetrics offers another dimension to their hard work, one that with very little effort can be explored. As I’ve written before, the Altmetric score is at its most interesting when it is zero. At that point, we have some idea that a piece of research is not being communicated or discussed–it may not be the absolute case, but it is a good indicator. For any scholars wanting to open up that dialogue, seeing a zero score can get them thinking about the scholarly communication process and what they can do, or who can help them facilitate that. I think altmetrics are part of a bigger picture that includes traditional metrics, impact, digital technologies and social media. They are part of an emerging ecosystem, we just need to take care that those who want to engage with it are given the right amount of support – I’m doing my best at my end. 🙂

Thanks, Andy! For more information and to purchase a copy of Andy’s book, visit the Facet Publishing site.

For details on the Altmetric Ambassador program of which Andy and more than 200 other researchers, publishers, academics, librarians and information specialists are part of, visit our website or follow #altambs on Twitter.

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