Sunday, 10 May 2015

Scientists win when they are social with their work, study shows


Scientists win when they are social with their work, study shows

A study by, a network for scientists, shows that researchers who share their work publicly get over 80% more citations.

Scientific publishing is much like the regular media
world, except that instead of being measured by clicks or pageviews,
researchers are judged according to the number of citations they get in
papers written by other scientists. But in both cases, being social with
your work seems to help a great deal: according to a study by that was released this week, scientists who shared their papers on the service got 83% more citations than those who didn’t.

Interestingly enough, the influence of this social behavior seems to display a kind of “long tail” effect
over time—after one year of being shared on the network, papers have an
average of 37% more citations, and after three years that climbs to 58%
more citations, and hits 83% after five years. The study looked at more
than 44,000 papers on a wide range of scientific topics.

Since is a
venture-funded social network whose entire purpose is to get researchers
to publish their papers there, this result may not come as a big
surprise. But CEO Richard Price—who started the company after getting a
doctorate in philosophy at Oxford—says the study and its conclusions
were rigorously tested by the data scientists at Polynumeral. is also publishing all of the data behind the paper on the code-sharing and blogging site Github so anyone can challenge it. Said Price:

I think this may be the most scrutinized piece of
research ever done in this area. We are posting the study, along with
the data set of 44,000 papers, and we are posting the code on Github, in
keeping with our open-science principles. We’re also going to email the
study and data to all 21 million of our members.
The study also showed that posting a paper on was
better—from a citation point of view—than just publishing it on a
personal blog, or on any of the sites that also offer open-access
scientific publishing, such as ArXiv or PLoS (the Public Library of
Science). After five years, papers published on had an average of 75% more citations than those published elsewhere online.

The key, Price said, is the discovery tools that the site has
developed, which are similar to social features offered by social
platforms like Facebook or Twitter. Scientists can choose to follow
certain topics and get notified of new research, and they can also
follow specific authors. Articles that fit their criteria show up in a
Facebook-style “news feed.” Said Price:

Scientists used to go to the library and thumb through
the journals on the academic journal rack if they wanted to catch up on
the latest research in their field. But open-access networks like are the new journal rack—and they are better because they
are social, and you have discovery features, so you can reach a lot more
Much like the traditional media industry, academic publishing has
been undergoing a sea change over the past several years—but instead of a
broad market of newspapers and magazines fighting for advertising as
digital and mobile take over, academic publishing has seen the cozy oligopoly of publishers
like Elsevier disrupted by the rise of more digitally oriented, “open
access” networks such as, PLoS (the Public Library of
Science),, and ResearchGate.

For years, Elsevier and others had a great business publishing
scientific research in a variety of restricted-access journals and then
charging universities and academics relatively huge sums to get access
to those articles. This system was what activist and hacker Aaron Swartz
was fighting against when he broke into
the MIT computer network and downloaded millions of articles from the
JSTOR service (he was subsequently charged with a number of felonies and
later committed suicide).

Over time, however, more and more academics have been publishing
their research on open networks like ArXiv and, and some
government agencies and other charitable institutions that fund research
have mandated that any studies
they help to finance must be made available publicly. Over time, Price
said, the industry will likely shift to one in which funding bodies pay
directly to have their research published in open-access journals—a
system called APC, for “article processing charge.”

That’s great if you are an open-access network like or
PLoS or ArXiv. But if you are Elsevier and other traditional publishers,
all you can see is the $10 billion or so that is spent on journal
publishing going to open access instead of into your pocket. That’s part
of the reason why Elsevier acquired one of the early
open-access networks, known as Mendeley, in 2013. The company has also
used takedown orders in the past to try and cripple sites like

Price said in the near future, his service wants to become a
full-fledged academic publisher—and that includes implementing features
that will change the way that academic peer-review is done, he said.
“The current process is just much too slow and too cumbersome,” he said.
“My thesis took three years to get published, and there’s just no
reason why it has to take that long. We’d also like researchers to be
able to share the code and datasets behind their research.”

According to Price, is already the largest
social-publishing network for scientists, with about 35 million unique
visitors a month and about 21 million registered users. The CEO says
Quantcast numbers show that not only is the largest, but it
is larger than all of its competitors put together. The company has
raised $17.5 million in financing in several rounds since it was founded
in 2008, the last of which was led by Silicon Valley-based Khosla

Scientists win when they are social with their work, study shows

No comments:

Post a Comment