Featured image: Projected change in annual mean surface air temperature from the late 20th century (1971-2000 average) to the middle 21st century (2051-2060 average). 

Source: Wikimedia Commons (CC0) 

Used on Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming

Increasingly Universities and the bodies that fund their research expect primary research data to be shared, but how effective are policies and mandates in encouraging data sharing and to what extent are researchers actually sourcing and reusing others’ data? In this first post in a series of three reflecting on our data management engagement award*, we (temporarily) put policy aside to consider how researchers and their libraries can leverage the Wikimedia suite of tools to help their research have a global impact.

* Award sponsored by SPARC Europe, Jisc and the University of Cambridge https://sparceurope.org/first-ever-data-management-engagement-award-winner-named/

Catalysed by the Concordat on Open Research Data in 2016, the importance of preserving and sharing research data has become a hot topic in universities but preliminary data presented at the 5:AM Altmetric Conference in September 2018 suggests that, of the research data that is actually being shared from repositories, reuse is currently limited. Downloads aggregated by Jisc’s IRUSdata-UK service (beta) are generally low across the sector, as are Altmetric scores, indicating a lack of online activity around this type of scholarly material.

In an ideal world, researchers across every discipline would altruistically contribute to ‘open research’ with no consideration for their own career or kudos, publishing rich datasets and readily finding primary data to feed back into their own research lifecycle. The real world doesn’t quite work like that, however, as borne out by the complex scholarly publishing ecosystem with its myriad indicators of esteem – Journal Impact Factor, h-index and the Altmetric Top 100 to name but three. Moreover, in comparison with the journal article as the archetypal research output, the reward mechanisms associated with research data are under-developed, with limited data citation that is difficult to track.

Whether traditional or alternative, bibliometrics represent an attempt to find a reliable proxy for impact and while initiatives like DORA and the Leiden manifesto rightly emphasise using metrics responsibly, there’s no doubt that numbers still matter. But in the age of fake news, amplified across cyberspace, where experts are derided and POTUS broadcasts to tens of millions on Twitter, do a few (hundred) citations from your fellow academics really cut it?

Altmetrics go some way to demonstrating broader impact beyond the academy, including Wikipedia. Number 1 in the Altmetric Top 100 2018 for example, has a score of well over 10,000 comprising 510 news stories from 337 outlets, 7 and a half thousand tweets reaching over 31 million followers as well as being cited in policy documents and dozens of blogs. It has also been cited on 5 different Wikipedia pages.

N.B. At the time of writing it has been formally cited in the peer reviewed literature a relatively modest 26 times (datasource: Dimensions) but there is generally a longer lead time for citations and some evidence that altmetrics can predict later citation.

By contrast there was only a single Altmetric score over 100 across all datasets tracked by IRUS, a further 3 with a score over 50, with the top 10 rounded out by very modest scores between 14 – 27 (data available here)

Rae, Alasdair; Nelson, Garrett G.D. (2017): United States Commutes and Megaregions data for GIS. figshare. Fileset.10.15131/shef.data.4110156

Article has an altmetric score of 108

This dataset was also one of only 2 that has been cited on Wikipedia, on a page about the Greater Pittsburg Region, surely of relatively niche interest, that has been viewed over 30,000 times since 1st March 2018.

Communicating with the public via Wikipedia

If you are impressed by Big Numbers then in information terms Wikipedia is where it’s at. Especially in conjunction with its various sister sites under the Wikimedia umbrella, WikiData, WikiMedia Commons, WikiCite and the rest.

According to the Wikimedia Statistics Portal, in November 2018 there were over 16 billion total page views across all Wikimedia projects with English Wikipedia accounting for 7.5 billion, or about one for every person on our crowded planet. Speaking of which, consider man made climate change, where despite overriding scientific consensus, the layperson might believe there is still room for debate. There isn’t, but where is the interested citizen likely to go for their information? If not Trump then Google, and while the specific algorithm remains top-secret, Google’s index of the world’s 5th most popular website is certainly going to feature. In fact, the search engine explicitly uses Wikipedia in its knowledge graph to inform results and increasingly you will find relevant information sourced directly from Wikipedia in search results.

On Friday 23rd November 2018 the US administration released volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment warning of the devastating impact of climate change. On the following Monday, 26th November, President Trump declared he didn’t believe the conclusions of 13 of his own federal agencies with input from 300 leading scientists. The report and Trump’s denial were subsequently picked up by news media across the world coinciding with a clear spike of page views on Wikipedia for ‘Global warming’:

Page views of the Wikipedia entry for Global warming for November 2018

This page is well cited with nearly 300 citations including datasets as well as peer reviewed literature and policy document. So the next question might be whether visitors to Wikipedia are likely to follow up these references; according to data from Crossref, Wikipedia was the sixth referrer of DOI clicks in 2015/2016 and is also a significant driver of traffic to White Rose Research Online.

In the age of ‘fake news’ it’s never been more important that this free global information resource is properly cited to reliable sources. That means peer reviewed research and primary data from experts like you.

In our next post we’ll talk more about Wikimedia in Universities, how Wikipedia and its sister projects are increasingly used in universities for both research and teaching, offering benefits for information literacy and digital skills for your students as well as increasing the reach of your research.

A note on citing yourself on Wikipedia

“You may cite your own publications just as you would cite anyone else’s, but make sure your material is relevant and that you are regarded as a reliable source for the purposes of Wikipedia. Be cautious about excessive citation of your own work, which may be seen as promotional or a conflict of interest; when in doubt, check on the talk page.”