In the last few years, I’ve organized dozens of researcher-oriented workshops on altmetrics.
Beyond that, I’ve talked to hundreds of researchers and librarians who have organized their own successful altmetrics outreach events.
The common theme from everyone’s experience?
Running a workshop is hard. Getting people to come to a workshop is harder. But both are totally doable.
In this post, I’m going to share some tricks and resources that can help you plan your own perfect workshop on altmetrics. By following these tips, you’ll get more attendees, save yourself time, and earn increased recognition as an altmetrics expert on your campus.
Tip 1: Learn the rules for creating engaging presentations
Until very recently, I had assumed two things: that some people were just inherently good at designing slides, and that some people were born with the ability to captivate a room during presentations. I was wrong on both points!
Short on time? A nice, quick hack I’ve learned is to find a “visual precedent.” (This is a polite way of saying, “biting someone’s style.”) My favorite visual precedents tend to come from librarian Brianna Marshall’s presentations. I flip through her slide decks and decide what I like about them, then sometimes use those design elements in my own presentations.
For example, I love Brianna’s use of bold images and very little text:
I’ve adapted those elements into one of my own presentations:
If you’ve ever seen a colleague’s presentation and thought, “Oooh, shiny!”, then you may wish to use their slides as your own visual precedent.
Creating a slick slide deck is only half the battle, however. You also need to work on your speaking skills, so the presentations you give will keep your audience hanging on your every word.
Sound hyperbolic? Well, I give presentations on research impact metrics for a living and–while I’m by no means the best speaker on Earth–I’ve been told that I make following a dry topic very enjoyable for the listener.
Public speaking is a set of skills that can be learned like any other, and there’s actually a science to creating a presentation that will hold your audience’s interest. Check out this surprisingly thorough infographic “cheat sheet” created by the LondonSpeakersBureau.com for loads of tips, including how to build a compelling story into your talk.
- Unsplash – high-resolution images to use in your next presentation
- Flickr Creative Commons search – more presentation-ready images
- The Charisma Myth – a great book on connecting with others, including audiences
- Public Speaking for Normal People – if you’ve only got 5 minutes to spend improving your speaking skill set, read these rules
Tip 2: Think “what’s in it for me?”
Want your audience to care about what you say? Put yourself in their shoes for a moment and think about what’s most important to them. Then–and only then–should you start crafting your workshop talk.
For example, I can guarantee that the average researcher probably obsesses over at least one of the following topics:
- How to get a job (especially if they’re a student or early career researcher)
- How to get tenure
- How to get grant funding (especially if they are a scientist)
- How to find collaboration opportunities with other researchers
- What other people are saying about their research
You’ll notice a theme: the first four points are all about career advancement, and the last point relates to the basic human instinct of vanity.
Find ways to build your presentation around just one of those points. It’s too much ground to cover otherwise!
When you’ve decided upon your central theme, start collecting altmetrics resources and examples that relate to that theme. You’ll want to craft a compelling story related to what each researcher’s most concerned about. Here are some to get you started:
- Job applications: Find job announcements in the discipline(s) that you are targeting for your workshop, then mockup what an altmetrics-boosted cover letter or CV would look like. You might also feature a quote from a department chair at your university about the importance of showcasing diverse impacts in a job application.
- Tenure: A bunch of examples of the use of altmetrics in promotion and tenure dossiers can be found on this LibGuide from Duke. Use these examples as starting points to create a story. (“This is Ahmed. Here’s how he used altmetrics in his tenure package to prove that he’s developed influential research software.”)
- Grant funding: Similarly, you can create stories based on examples like C. Titus Brown and other researchers who have used altmetrics to secure grant funding. Be sure to also speak to the specific requirements of funders like the Wellcome Trust, NIH and NSF, who all have “broader impact” mandates. Altmetrics are great for discovering broader impacts.
- Collaboration opportunities: Some researchers use altmetrics for “serendipity”–finding other researchers who discuss their work and its implications on social media, then reaching out to explore joint research projects, grantmaking, and more. Here are some examples of discussions that could result in collaboration opportunities from astronomy, virology, and climate change studies.
- What other people are saying: Ask attendees to name a popular research article or book that they’ve recently read, find it online, then look up altmetrics for it using the Altmetric bookmarklet or Impactstory. Then, allow attendees time to experiment using those altmetrics tools to look up conversations around their own articles and books.
One more bit of advice: don’t treat your researchers as if they’re all the same. Senior faculty will have different career concerns from early career researchers; humanities scholars will see things a bit different from their colleagues in the sciences. Try to tailor your workshops based upon those differences–it will make the information you share much more useful for your attendees.
Tip 3: Leverage other people’s awesomeness
A slide from “Altmetrics for Team Science” by Coates & Miller (2015)
Here are some presentations on altmetrics that are chock-full of useful information:
- “Altmetrics” by Micah Vandegrift (FSU): An informative look at how altmetrics and citation metrics are complementary and showcase different kinds of impact.
- “Altmetrics for Team Science” by Heather Coates & Willie Miller (IUPUI): A solid description of how large research teams can better approximate their impacts using a variety of metrics. Heather also describes her approach to creating this talk and other altmetrics-focused presentations elsewhere on our blog.
- “Social Media in Science and Altmetrics – New Ways of Measuring Research Impact” by Christoph Lutz: A science-focused examination of how changing modes of scholarly communication are changing the way we understand impact and measure attention.
Want some other ideas on how to frame your discussion? Check out the altmetrics talking points on our website.
Tip 4: Know your stuff
Researchers are a notoriously skeptical bunch. (After all, a big part of the peer review process lies in picking apart others’ arguments living!) If you don’t speak with confidence about altmetrics, your audience will tune you out and–by association–will start tuning out altmetrics discussions elsewhere, as well.
The first step to “knowing your stuff” is to become deeply acquainted with the culture at your institution and within its various departments. Talk to your colleagues within other departments and, if possible, to department chairs to understand: Are researchers encouraged to do outreach via social media? Is Open Access publishing a priority? How are researchers evaluated for tenure and promotion, or during their annual reviews?
Answers to all of these questions will help you understand how seriously researchers will take altmetrics, and that can help you tailor your workshop message.
I’d also recommend including research-backed insights from a variety of unbiased sources to back up your claims that Mendeley readers correlate with later citations or that humanities research is better covered by altmetrics than citation databases. Other studies to point to include Heather Piwowar et al’s theory of “flavors of impact” and this study that shows that Open Access research articles get more downloads, citations, and attention on social media. More altmetrics research can be found in this (slightly outdated) bibliography.
Finally, you should be prepared for some hard questions. Senior faculty and librarians can be especially skeptical of altmetrics, and they may grill you during the workshop Q&A session. Practice your answers to these questions to be one step ahead of the Doubting Thomases:
- Why do you want to replace citations with tweets? You don’t! Instead, you recognize how powerful these complementary metrics are.
- Won’t altmetrics just incentivize sensationalism in science? Not at all! The beauty of altmetrics is that they can capture important non-scholarly impacts like influence upon policy, technology commercialization, and education. Altmetrics are NOT just about “buzz”–that’s a big misconception that many people have!
- Does one have to be active on social media for altmetrics to work? Because I think Twitter/Facebook/XYZ is a waste of time: Luckily not! Whether or not you believe in the power of social media, other people do–and they’re using it to discuss, debate, recommend, and save references to research every day.
Tip 5: Know your audience
Here are some tips for reaching specific demographics for your workshop:
- Use (well-designed) posters: Given email overload, many librarians are resorting to the tactic of advertising their events using good old-fashioned print posters, hung in faculty and graduate student lounges. It’s easy to delete an email; it’s more difficult to ignore a well-designed poster hung over the faculty lounge microwave as you wait for your food to cook.
- Offer food: It’s a fact that graduate student-oriented events are 1500% more successful if food is provided. And who among us–student or not–could ever turn down a nice hot cuppa and snacks offered during a useful event that doubles as a respite from grading student work? Food is a nice way to get people in the door. Be sure to advertise your planned refreshments prominently.
- Schedule with your audience in mind: Trying to reach post-docs in the life sciences? Take care not to schedule your event when a department-wide meeting about budget cuts is happening. Trying to reach any tenured faculty from any discipline? Don’t schedule during the summer months, when they’re likely to be in Barbados on holiday doing field work. You get the idea.
- Don’t be sad if faculty don’t show up: It’s an unfortunate fact that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day for the average faculty member to attend all the events that interest them. Most have too much on their plate to make time for anything that’s non-essential. Offer to record your session and share it with registrants after the fact–that way, faculty can tune-in when convenient for them, and you’ll still be able to share your message with an interested party.
Tip 6: Make taking action an irresistible idea
I probably should have led with this prompt, because you’ll want to plan workshop with an actionable outcome in mind. What do you want your researchers to do after they leave your event?
If you want researchers to use metrics appropriately in their next annual review, give them handouts or send them a link to a pre-created LibGuide that helps them do just that. Your guide should be specific to the annual review process and systems at your institution: describe precisely where metrics should go and point your researchers to altmetrics tools like Impactstory profiles, the Altmetric bookmarklet, or Scopus item records–all are good places to begin hunting for relevant impact and attention metrics.
If documenting impact in a grant application using metrics is your aim, create a handout with examples, tips, and tools, or simply point your researchers in the direction of my “23 diverse metrics to use in your next grant application” post.
If all you want is for researchers to figure out what altmetrics might mean to them and contact you if they need help, I’d arm them with a handout or LibGuide described above, and also give them your business card with a simple call to action printed clearly upon it: “Get in touch for a metrics consultation”. They’ll likely hang onto your business card and, when they get around to exploring altmetrics, use it to contact you for help.
What are your tips for running killer altmetrics workshops? Leave them in the comments below, or tweet them to us!