Baltimore, MD – June 20, 2013 – The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) announces a new two-phase project to study, propose, and develop community-based standards or recommended practices in the field of alternative metrics. Assessment of scholarship is a critical component of the research process, impacting everything from which projects get funded to who gains promotion and tenure to which publications gain prominence. Since Eugene Garfield's pioneering work in the 1960s, much of the work on research assessment has been based upon citations, a valuable measure but one that has failed to keep pace with online reader behavior, network interactions with content, social media, and online content management. Exemplified by innovative new platforms like ImpactStory, a new movement is growing to develop more robust alternative metrics—called altmetrics—that complement traditional citation metrics. NISO will first hold several in-person and virtual meetings to identify critical areas where altmetrics standards or recommended practices are needed and then convene a working group to develop consensus standards and/or recommended practices. The project is funded through a $207,500 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
"Citation analysis lacks ways to measure the newer and more prevalent ways that articles generate impact such as through social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook, or blogs," explains Nettie Lagace, NISO's Associate Director for Programs. "Additionally, new forms of scholarly outputs, such as datasets, software tools, algorithms, or molecular structures are now commonplace, but they are not easily—if at all—assessed by traditional citation metrics. These are two among the many concerns the growing movement around altmetrics is trying to address."
"For altmetrics to move out of its current pilot and proof-of-concept phase, the community must begin coalescing around a suite of commonly understood definitions, calculations, and data sharing practices," states Todd Carpenter, NISO Executive Director. "Organizations and researchers wanting to apply these metrics need to adequately understand them, ensure their consistent application and meaning across the community, and have methods for auditing their accuracy. We must agree on what gets measured, what the criteria are for assessing the quality of the measures, at what granularity these metrics are compiled and analyzed, how long a period the altmetrics should cover, the role of social media in altmetrics, the technical infrastructure necessary to exchange this data, and which new altmetrics will prove most valuable. The creation of altmetrics standards and best practices will facilitate the community trust in altmetrics, which will be a requirement for any broad-based acceptance, and will ensure that these altmetrics can be accurately compared and exchanged across publishers and platforms."
"Sensible, community-informed, discipline-sensitive standards and practices are essential if altmetrics are to play a serious role in the evaluation of research," says Joshua M. Greenberg, Director of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's Digital Information Technology program. "With its long history of crafting just such standards, NISO is uniquely positioned to help take altmetrics to the next level."
The first phase of the project will gather two groups of invited experts in altmetrics research, traditional publishing, bibliometrics, and faculty assessment for in-person discussions with the goal of identifying key altmetrics issues and those that can best be addressed through standards or recommended practices. This input will form the basis of two virtual meetings open to the public to further refine and prioritize the issues. Additional community input will be sought through an array of electronic and social mechanisms and events coordinated with major community conferences. A report summarizing this input will identify the specific areas where NISO should develop standards or recommended practices, which will be undertaken by a working group convened in phase two. The complete project from initial meetings to publication of standards is expected to take two years. Information about the meetings and other methods for participation will be announced on the NISO website (www.niso.org) and in the monthly Newsline e-newsletter (www.niso.org/publications/newsline/).
About the National Information Standards Organization (NISO)
NISO fosters the development and maintenance of standards that facilitate the creation, persistent management, and effective interchange of information so that it can be trusted for use in research and learning. To fulfill this mission, NISO engages libraries, publishers, information aggregators, and other organizations that support learning, research, and scholarship through the creation, organization, management, and curation of knowledge. NISO works with intersecting communities of interest and across the entire lifecycle of an information standard. NISO is a not-for-profit association accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). More information about NISO is available on its website: www.niso.org.
About the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (www.sloan.org/) is a philanthropic, not-for-profit grantmaking institution that supports original research and education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and economic performance. Funds for this project were provided through the Foundation's Digital Information Technology program, which leverages developments in information technology to increase the effectiveness of scholarly research and public engagement with knowledge.