Beyond the numbers: what is signified by different online interactions with scholarly content?

September 26 2016 / By Charlie Rapple


If you’re a follower of emerging scholarly communications metrics, you’ll know that the focus for many is shifting towards “getting beyond the numbers”.  For some, this means shining a light onto the source of attention for a work, as our partners at Altmetric do – for others, it’s helping to create that attention in the first place, as we do here at Kudos. One of the continued challenges for all of us is understanding the motivations of the online behaviours that make up “attention”. It’s (relatively!) easy to track people discussing, sharing, recommending or bookmarking scholarly content online. But what do these actions signify? To what extent does each kind of action correlate to intentions to read, download or cite work?

Kudos is of course building and analyzing data to answer these questions quantitatively (for example, the recent study by the Altmetrics team at Nanyang Technlogical Institute, which showed that proactive efforts to share work online correlate to 23% higher downloads). We’re now partnering with Altmetric on some more qualitative exploration of the topic. We want to lift the lid a little on what follows those initial actions, to help shape the kind of guidance that Kudos gives, or the ways that Altmetric tracks and measures attention.

We’ve undertaken some initial interviews and begun to learn some interesting things – for example, some people are surprisingly disciplined and strategic in how they use different options (one person explained that he only retweets things he’s going to read, and estimates that he does indeed manage to read 90% of what he retweets).

We’re now looking for more people to participate in the study!

In the first instance, we’re interested to hear from users of, Mendeley and Twitter. If you use one (or more!) of these platforms to find, keep track of, or read scholarly information, would you be interested in participating in a 20-30 minute interview about your actions? For example, we’ll be interested to ask how you decide who to follow, what proportion of the posts you see are about people’s work, whether you interact differently with content from people you know in real life versus people you have only “met” online, what different interactions signify in terms of follow up actions, and whether the language or availability (business model) of the work affects how you interact with it. We will present the results at next year’s UKSG Annual Conference, among others.

Please get in touch with Charlie ( or Stacy ( if you would be willing to participate in our study!

And please share this post with anyone you else might be willing to share their views! Thanks!

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