Altmetric Blog

NISO grant & standards for altmetrics

Euan Adie, 27th June 2013

If you follow the #altmetrics hashtag on Twitter you may have noticed a bit of buzz around NISO getting a $200k grant from the Sloan Foundation to look into standards for Altmetrics.

Mike Taylor has written a good post about it, expressing some skepticism. David Smith has a Google+ post up asking what people think. In both cases there’s some interesting discussion happening in the comments.

It’s great to see Sloan keep pushing altmetrics forward and I’m confident that NISO are the right people to shepherd the community through this kind of process. Todd Carpenter was involved in the Altmetrics workshop at ACM Web Science last year where the topic was raised.

It’s debatable whether or not this initiative is coming at too early a stage (FWIW I think that it is but that it could still be a useful activity). I do think it says something that nobody in the community really knows what we’d like to get out of the process yet: I’d have hoped for at least a few concrete examples of possible outcomes.  I realize that this is what Phase 1 of the process NISO is suggesting is for, but I’d still feel more confident if altmetrics groups had a bunch of ideas going in.

Are we imagining technical standards and processes, along the lines of the COUNTER standard used for download counts?

Or more ‘how do you measure impact’ type standards?

I’m fine with the former. We’re interested in common definitions, standard ways of dealing with gaming and lots of things in this area. I’m much less keen on tackling the ‘define impact’ type questions mainly because I see this as something scholarly communities need to decide for themselves: it shouldn’t be up to altmetrics data providers to decide what types of impact are useful to, say, research offices, or NGOs, or ecologists, or high energy physics researchers. While there’s no reason that people with domain expertise couldn’t be invited to contribute I think it’ll be tough to get the right people motivated for the right reasons involved at this stage (this is the ‘too early’ part).

Anyway, I’m cautiously optimistic. Looking forward to getting involved.

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