Altmetric Blog

Past discoveries funded by the Altmetric Research Grant – what have we learned so far?

Inez van Korlaar, 11th April 2019

Since 2016, Altmetric has awarded an annual research grant to fund research that facilitates new insights into altmetrics as part of the wider scholarly agenda.

The grant supports projects that would not otherwise receive the necessary funding, and has been open for three consecutive years to academics, researchers and librarians interested in doing research in the altmetrics space. In the three years since the inception of the award, some very talented awardees have used the funds for research into diverse aspects of altmetrics. 

In this blog post, we look back on our past grant winners and what they have achieved.

Papers, policy documents, and patterns of attention

Our first research grant, in 2016, was awarded to Dr. Lauren Cadwallader of Cambridge University. Lauren’s proposal, “Papers, policy documents and patterns of attention: is it possible to identify which papers make it into policy by tracking their altmetric attention?” was selected from among 29 high-quality applications submitted by researchers worldwide.

Lauren looked at the types and timings of attention that papers received before they were incorporated into a policy document, to see if there was a way to help research administrators make a guess at which papers would have a high impact for the next REF exercise in the UK. 

The results of her research were written up in an Altmetric blog post and included a few surprising findings. For instance, although Lauren expected that she would find that papers would take at least four years to be cited in policy, nearly all of the papers she looked at were included in a policy document within the first two years after publication. She also found that sustained news and blog attention could be a key indicator for identifying those papers likely to make it into policy.

Lauren concludes: “This work hasn’t come up with a formula to predict which papers will be incorporated into policy, but it has come up with some interesting insights, which I think merit further research”.

How do scholarly citations appear in Wikipedia?

In 2017, our second research grant was awarded to earth scientist Evan Goldstein of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for his project titled “How do scholarly citations in Wikipedia appear?”. Evan looked at ‘how’, ‘when’ and ‘why’ scholarly mentions appeared in Wikipedia using a ~33,000 article corpus from a high impact, high volume Earth and Space science journal.

In the blog post in which he introduces his project, Evan explains why he chose this particular research topic: “My enthusiasm for this research topic is [also] rooted in my belief that Wikipedia represents a mechanism for scientists to engage with a wide audience. Since Wikipedia is one of the largest websites in terms of global web traffic, it represents an opportunity for researchers to provide long lasting outreach and engagement with both academic and non-academic audiences.”

Two of the questions Evan set out to answer in his research were when mentions in Wikipedia occur relative to article publication and how many Wikipedia mentions can be attributed directly to journal article authors. He wrote up his progress for us in a blog post in March 2018 and encourages everyone to follow him on his personal blog for further updates.

Scholarly Communication on WeChat “Official Accounts”

In 2018 the Altmetric Research Grant was awarded to a research project to PhD candidate Shenmeng Xu from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for her project  “An Exploration of the Communication of Scholarly Articles on WeChat.”

The project looks at WeChat, China’s largest social network, which, unlike other social media platforms such as Twitter, has not been studied very much by scientometrics researchers to date.

In a recent guest post on our blog, Shenmeng describes how the design of WeChat may affect what we know about how science is communicated. Although WeChat is used mainly to chat and share content privately, WeChat Official Accounts (WOA) can be used to share and discuss research openly.

Shenmeng’s study is still ongoing, and she will continue to explore the barriers of tracking WeChat as an altmetric source, including technical barriers (based on the infrastructure and affordances), language barriers (mainly between English and Chinese), cultural barriers (about commenting and sharing behavior of users), and policy barriers (e.g., the content management of “external links”).

Apply now for the 2019 Research Grant

This year, we’re excited to offer up to $2,000 USD for yet another altmetrics research project that makes new discoveries about how research is shared and discussed online. For the 2019 grant, we are particularly interested to receive proposals that focus on engagement with and the reach of humanities research, in all its forms. Submissions are accepted through May 1, 2019. To apply, visit the grant webpage.


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