Cambridge University Press

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“We are committed to providing a wide range of impact metrics about our publications beyond citations and the Impact Factor. We believe Altmetric plays an important role in this.”

Andri johnston, digital product manager

Key points

As the oldest university press in the world and part of The University of Cambridge, Cambridge University Press is made up of three divisions: Education, English Language Teaching (ELT) and Academic.

  • In 2019, CUP launched Cambridge Elements, a digital-first publishing format that adopts a hybrid approach
  • Cambridge University Press uses Altmetric to showcase the attention around Elements to current authors, prospective authors, library subscribers and potential indexing partners
  • Being able to demonstrate the engagement and influence of such a new product helps to establish it within the scholarly space
  • Altmetric badges are also displayed on the press’s other books and journals content, complementing citation and usage statistics

In 2016 they launched their academic platform, Cambridge Core, which is their hub for all their academic journal and book publishing. Andri Johnston, Digital Product Manager at Cambridge University Press, spoke to us about their experience of working with Altmetric. Andri’s role is focused on the press’s innovative short form publishing program, Cambridge Elements. Andri works across all departments of the Academic business, from editorial and production to marketing and digital.

The importance of scholarly books

Cambridge Elements is unique in that it combines the best of books and journals into a new digital first publishing format. Shorter than a book but longer than a journal article, Cambridge Elements is a truly hybrid product using rigorous journal peer review processes, but book formats.

Cambridge Elements are grouped into series, which are all focussed on specific topics in a subject matter. Inside these series you find the individual Elements which delve deeper into both high level themes or thoughts, as well as expanding on others. The series can have an infinite number of Elements, which means that a series can really delve into every facet of a topic.

These kinds of short form books play such an important role in research, as they allow researchers to investigate topics deeper than they can in journal articles, but also do not take as long to produce as a full book. They also offer an opportunity for early career researchers to make their mark.

Bringing altmetrics into the picture

Cambridge Elements was a totally new concept. As it’s growing, they’re having to use all the tools available to them to establish it in the minds of librarians, researchers and lecturers.

Their commissioning editors use Altmetric to highlight Elements that are getting a lot of online attention to potential authors and series editors during initial commissioning conversations – to demonstrate the kind of visibility and reach they could expect their work to have.

The Altmetric data also helps to highlight and emphasise popular themes, or topics to do more commissioning in, in the future.

Being able to demonstrate this online engagement for a new product like Elements helps to boost the status in the minds of authors and researchers, especially when other more traditional indicators (like citations) are not yet as prevalent on Elements.

“Altmetric helps us to highlight and emphasise popular themes or topics to do more commissioning in.”

Andri johnston, digital product manager

Driving author engagement

More broadly across their publishing portfolio, they have displayed Altmetric badges for journal articles since 2012 and added Altmetric badges for books to Cambridge Core in 2017. In doing so, they aim to offer their readers and authors insight into the impact of our publications, complementing other metrics like citations and usage.

All of their authors have access to a record of their Element on Core, so they have constant access to their Altmetric Attention Scores and associated data. Their commissioning editors also highlight Elements that seem to be getting a lot of traction to authors – enabling them to see what interactions and conversations have been going on around their publications.

They’ve noticed that authors with a bigger social media presence usually achieve higher Altmetric Attention Scores as well.

Extending the use of Altmetric

Beyond commissioning and author engagement, Altmetric is used in a few other interesting ways across the group. For example, their library teams highlight series with a lot of online attention to libraries to encourage sales.

Andri is currently working with their editorial team to get Elements indexed by indexing partners. As part of this, they’ve been looking at series with Elements with high Altmetric Attention Scores, in conjunction with their production timelines, to choose which series to showcase to potential partners. Andri thinks this is a unique way in which Altmetric data on a book product can be used to inform indexing arrangements with partners who typically focus on journals.

Lastly, Andri also pulls internal Altmetric reports each month on the top ‘most mentioned’ Elements to keep in the loop on what the market is discussing.

Future plans

Cambridge Elements in its hybrid form lends itself to growing exponentially. By combining series structures based on journals and book formats CUP have been able to provide a research format that can expand to really allow researchers and authors to discover and discuss every angle of a topic. They hope that this kind of deep dive, ever growing collection of research being brought to books from the journals model will allow for wider communication and discussion that can also be linked together.

They are working with editorial colleagues to explore ways in which metrics about our publications and competitor publications can complement their subject expertise and market insights they gain through their constant interaction with academics in their disciplines. As part of this, CUP are considering ways to benchmark metrics for our publications.

CUP are also adding Altmetric badges to the Author Hub, a resource for their authors to get information about their publications and their publishing services. They are also thinking about ways in which Altmetric data can be used alongside other sources of data to inform marketing campaigns.

Last year CUP signed the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), reflecting their commitment to providing a wide range of impact metrics about our publications beyond citations and the Impact Factor. CUP believe Altmetric plays an important role in this regard and are exploring which other metrics are valuable to their authors and readers.

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