Shaking It Up – Are the screws loose in your metrics?


Pliers? What’s a set of pliers doing there?

First, these are (IMHO) one of the best pliers in the world and an incredibly cool tool in general. Second, they’re valuable to me because the more I use them, the more I learn how to use them. While they are spectacular, I’ve come to understand they have limitations. There are a lot of important tools but none of them is the only tool I will ever need. Understanding there are proper tools for each job is critical for success.

I’m speaking in Boston next week at Shaking It Up. The focus of the workshop is “How To Thrive In – And Change – The Research Ecosystem” and the organizers pulled together a great group of experts to challenge the way we think about scholarly research. My panel with Mike Taylor (Research Specialist, Elsevier Labs), Ashlea Higgs (Founder of UberResearch), and Andrea Michalek (Co-Founder of Plum Analyticsis about evaluation and metrics. You’ll need a base level knowledge about scholarly metrics because simply distinguishing AltMetrics and ALMs is boring. Our goal is to challenge the way you think about the tools we call metrics. Hopefully, you’ll leave with more questions than answers, but actually able to job metrics.

We often get stuck trying to use one metric or another for evaluation and kinda, sorta make it work. Just like I can pound a nail with a screwdriver, I can use Tweets to determine scholarly influence. But in both cases there is high probability of a less than perfect result. How often do we step back and ask what is the purpose of each metric? Did you look at the set of pliers above and think you could build a house with them? Of course not, THAT would be silly. But I’ve seen THAT happen with metrics more often than I want to remember.

Those pliers are important, but to build a house I’ll also need a screwdriver, hammer, saw and a lot more tools. The right combination of tools creates a better product and helps me be successful. Likewise, I’ll need to measure a lot more than downloads if I want to understand the impact of my research.

Recognizing the value of different tools and how to properly combine them for different purposes is what we’ll talk about on Monday. The conversation should be a little uncomfortable at times. Heck, we were asked to Shake It Up!

If you’re in Boston on Monday, give me a shout so we can connect at #ShakingItUp14. If not, you can also watch it live!