Linked Research on the Decentralised Web

Abstract:  This thesis is about research communication in the context of the Web. I analyse literature which reveals how researchers are making use of Web technologies for knowledge dissemination, as well as how individuals are disempowered by the centralisation of certain systems, such as academic publishing platforms and social media. I share my findings on the feasibility of a decentralised and interoperable information space where researchers can control their identifiers whilst fulfilling the core functions of scientific communication: registration, awareness, certification, and archiving.

The contemporary research communication paradigm operates under a diverse set of sociotechnical constraints, which influence how units of research information and personal data are created and exchanged. Economic forces and non-interoperable system designs mean that researcher identifiers and research contributions are largely shaped and controlled by third-party entities; participation requires the use of proprietary systems.

From a technical standpoint, this thesis takes a deep look at semantic structure of research artifacts, and how they can be stored, linked and shared in a way that is controlled by individual researchers, or delegated to trusted parties. Further, I find that the ecosystem was lacking a technical Web standard able to fulfill the awareness function of research communication. Thus, I contribute a new communication protocol, Linked Data Notifications (published as a W3C Recommendation) which enables decentralised notifications on the Web, and provide implementations pertinent to the academic publishing use case. So far we have seen decentralised notifications applied in research dissemination or collaboration scenarios, as well as for archival activities and scientific experiments.

Another core contribution of this work is a Web standards-based implementation of a clientside tool, dokieli, for decentralised article publishing, annotations and social interactions. dokieli can be used to fulfill the scholarly functions of registration, awareness, certification, and archiving, all in a decentralised manner, returning control of research contributions and discourse to individual researchers.

The overarching conclusion of the thesis is that Web technologies can be used to create a fully functioning ecosystem for research communication. Using the framework of Web architecture, and loosely coupling the four functions, an accessible and inclusive ecosystem can be realised whereby users are able to use and switch between interoperable applications without interfering with existing data.

Technical solutions alone do not suffice of course, so this thesis also takes into account the need for a change in the traditional mode of thinking amongst scholars, and presents the Linked Research initiative as an ongoing effort toward researcher autonomy in a social system, and universal access to human- and machine-readable information?. Outcomes of this outreach work so far include an increase in the number of individuals self-hosting their research artifacts, workshops publishing accessible proceedings on the Web, in-the-wild experiments with open and public peer-review, and semantic graphs of contributions to conference proceedings and journals (the Linked Open Research Cloud).

Some of the future challenges include: addressing the social implications of decentralised Web publishing, as well as the design of ethically grounded interoperable mechanisms; cultivating privacy aware information spaces; personal or community-controlled on-demand archiving services; and further design of decentralised applications that are aware of the core functions of scientific communication.

Researchers concerned as tech giants choke off access to data | Times Higher Education (THE)

“Social scientists should be skipping through a data paradise, delving deeper than ever before into the workings of our parallel, online world using billions upon billions of likes, shares, comments and emojis.

But researchers are sounding the alarm that the opposite is happening. They fear that their freedom to access and study this global data explosion is being steadily narrowed by the social media companies and platforms that hold the information.

 

The restrictions means that academics – and by extension regulators, the public and politicians – have little idea what is really going on online, be it fake news, extremist propaganda or Russian disinformation….”

Researchers concerned as tech giants choke off access to data | Times Higher Education (THE)

“Social scientists should be skipping through a data paradise, delving deeper than ever before into the workings of our parallel, online world using billions upon billions of likes, shares, comments and emojis.

But researchers are sounding the alarm that the opposite is happening. They fear that their freedom to access and study this global data explosion is being steadily narrowed by the social media companies and platforms that hold the information.

 

The restrictions means that academics – and by extension regulators, the public and politicians – have little idea what is really going on online, be it fake news, extremist propaganda or Russian disinformation….”

Accelerating scholarly communication: The transformative role of preprints

“The overall objective of this study was to explore the place of preprints in the research lifecycle from the points of view of researchers, research performing organisations, research funding organisations and preprint servers/ service providers. Our investigation covered:

` Core benefits and usage in the case of researchers, including incentives and disincentives

` Attitudes of research performing organisations (RPOs) and research funders

` Values, strategies and aims of service providers….”

[1909.01476] How much research shared on Facebook is hidden from public view? A comparison of public and private online activity around PLOS ONE papers

Abstract:  Despite its undisputed position as the biggest social media platform, Facebook has never entered the main stage of altmetrics research. In this study, we argue that the lack of attention by altmetrics researchers is not due to a lack of relevant activity on the platform, but because of the challenges in collecting Facebook data have been limited to activity that takes place in a select group of public pages and groups. We present a new method of collecting shares, reactions, and comments across the platform-including private timelines-and use it to gather data for all articles published between 2015 to 2017 in the journal PLOS ONE. We compare the gathered data with altmetrics collected and aggregated by Altmetric. The results show that 58.7% of papers shared on the platform happen outside of public view and that, when collecting all shares, the volume of activity approximates patterns of engagement previously only observed for Twitter. Both results suggest that the role and impact of Facebook as a medium for science and scholarly communication has been underestimated. Furthermore, they emphasise the importance of openness and transparency around the collection and aggregation of altmetrics.

 

Maximizing dissemination and engaging readers: The other 50% of an author’s day: A case study – Green – – Learned Publishing – Wiley Online Library

“Key points

 

  • Dissemination should be the other 50% of what authors do: being read and having impact will not happen by itself.
  • Authors can influence discovery and readership through owned media – i.e. their own communication activities.
  • Earned media – i.e. when influencers write about your work – is key to reaching larger and more diverse audiences.
  • There is plenty of data for tracking engagement and use of articles, but it is scattered across multiple tools and providers and can be misleading or even incorrect.
  • Listservs can have higher engagement than modern, ‘cool’, social networking tools….”

So, are early career researchers the harbingers of change? – Nicholas – 2019 – Learned Publishing – Wiley Online Library

Interestingly, open science, which is something that many ECRs are still only waking up to as a concept, is the next most unchanging aspect. The large gap between positive attitudes (30%) and more practice (14%) is partly explained by the fact that it is only just obtaining traction and partly because of fears over tenure and reputation. Take Spanish ECRs, for instance, where assessment policies and reputational concerns – absolutely critical, of course, to ECRs in obtaining secure employment – conspire to prevent the ready adoption of open science in practice. That is not to say that all ECRs are completely happy with all the component parts of open science. Thus, they tend not welcome the visibility open peer review brings with it as it could have reputational consequences, as one French ECR said: ‘Open Peer Review is tricky because you engage your own reputation as a reviewer’. Open data can be a poisoned chalice as well because ECRs do not want to give away their data until they have fully exploited it, as one Spanish ECR told us: ‘Sharing data is good for verification and reproducibility, but we should wait before we do this until they have been completely exploited to avoid losing our competitive edge’. Nevertheless, a number of counties (e.g. France and Poland) are rolling out open science national plans, and funders will expect compliance down the line….

Returning to the question posed at the very beginning of the study, whether ECRs are the harbingers of change, weighting up all the evidence, the answer has to be yes, albeit a slightly qualified yes. The drivers of change are social media, open science, and collaboration propelled by ECRs’ Millennium generation beliefs. …

Indeed, there may be plenty of papers exhorting ECRs to embrace open practices (Eschert, 2015; Gould, 2015; McKiernan et al., 2016), but no research robustly showing that ECRs are in fact rushing to do this. Of course, most of these studies predate the Harbingers study, so, maybe, things have changed in the interim, which explains why the results of this study, indicating that the scholarly walls have been breached in places, and ECRs have planted one foot in the future, is at odds with the research of many of our peers. …”

Share or perish: Social media and the International Journal of Mental Health Nursing – McNamara – – International Journal of Mental Health Nursing – Wiley Online Library

Abstract:  The impact of published research is sometimes measured by the number of citations an individual article accumulates. However, the time from publication to citation can be extensive. Years may pass before authors are able to measure the impact of their publication. Social media provides individuals and organizations a powerful medium with which to share information. The power of social media is sometimes harnessed to share scholarly works, especially journal article citations and quotes. A non?traditional bibliometric is required to understand the impact social media has on disseminating scholarly works/research. The International Journal of Mental Health Nursing (IJMHN) appointed a social media editor as of 1 January 2017 to implement a strategy to increase the impact and reach of the journal’s articles. To measure the impact of the IJMHN social media strategy, quantitative data for the eighteen months prior to the social media editor start date, and the eighteen months after that date (i.e.: from 01 July 2015 to 30 June 2018) were acquired and analysed. Quantitative evidence demonstrates the effectiveness of one journal’s social media strategy in increasing the reach and readership of the articles it publishes. This information may be of interest to those considering where to publish their research, those wanting to amplify the reach of their research, those who fund research, and journal editors and boards.

Have you just published? Help your paper sail far and wide – Ruffell – – FEBS Letters – Wiley Online Library

It is certainly the goal of every journal to give the papers it publishes the best possible visibility, and publishers have a number of strategies to achieve this. Nevertheless, as an Author you can boost the prominence of your paper by joining forces with the Publisher to ensure that your hard work receives all the attention that it deserves….”