The case for Kudos: information overload and wasted effort

July 15 2013 / By David Sommer

We were lucky to be asked to talk about Kudos at an ALPSP seminar last week. You can take a look at my slides here.

Information overload

I started by presenting a few facts and figures that help illustrate the problem that we are hoping Kudos will help to solve:

  • • Article numbers are growing by 3.26% each year (doubling every 20 years)
  • • 81% of early-career researchers worry that they aren't keeping up with the literature
  • • Consequently, only 40% of articles are being cited (many don't even get read)

That’s a problem for publishers, whose role is to make research visible and useful, and the quality of whose journals is judged - rightly or wrongly - on citations. It’s a problem for researchers, their institutions and funders, because their effort and investment isn’t making as much of a difference as it could. It’s a problem for librarians, because it means content they are licensing isn’t doing as much to support the research process as it could or should. And it’s a problem for those who are teaching, learning or researching, and trying to keep on top of what is happening in and around their discipline.

Wasted effort

Part of the problem is that research is typically presented in a formal format and language that can increase the time it takes to recognize "the story" behind the research. This means that quite a lot of relatively manual effort is required to draw out the "human interest", or the uniqueness, timeliness and context of the research. Consequently, its visibility to both peers and public is limited. Authors, publishers and institutions are already expending a lot of effort to create materials that address this challenge - from the "statement of societal benefit" that authors submit to funders, to the video abstracts that press & comms departments create - but this activity is typically happening in silos, with much of its output either scattered to the four winds or disappearing into a black hole.

How Kudos will help

Kudos aims to put these "lost assets" back together, so that they can help with the discoverability and filtering of articles - making them more findable but also, critically, making it easier and quicker, once you've found them, to assess whether they are worth downloading and reading in more depth. On the discovery side, there is rudimentary evidence to suggest that social media activity increases the visibility and therefore the usage of articles; on the filtering side, there is rudimentary evidence to suggest that multimedia (e.g. video abstracts) further increases usage. Our service will help authors make use of social and multimedia tools to increase the discoverability and filterability of their articles. We'll provide them with statistics so they know where to focus their efforts, and we'll also enable them to assign proxies - their institution, society, publisher or funder, say - to help them out.

Why the Kudos approach will work

  • • It's cross-publisher - authors and their 'proxies' don't have the time or inclination to expend this effort over and over again in artificial, publisher-oriented silos.
  • • It's optimization, not new effort - making better use of existing materials where possible.
  • • It's automated - or as much as possible is - to keep the effort down, and we'll also integrate as much as we can into existing workflows.
  • • It's measurable - we'll be able to show the effect of using the service, so it's not like putting more effort into a black hole.

ALPSP's Suzanne Kavanagh also wrote a great summary of my talk on the ALPSP blog if you want to read a bit more detail. Finally, as ever, you can contact us if this whets your appetite and you'd like us to come and talk about Kudos to your organization.

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