April 27, 2015
Both journal editors and authors rack their brains on how to increase citation scores. This is why they should work together to solve the problem. As I pointed out in my previous entry on this topic, to be cited an article has to be first discovered. The discoverability of a paper can be increased with, amongst others, search engine optimization and academic blogging. I discussed the problem of SEO here. Now it is time to write a little bit more about academic blogging.
Academic blogging is quite a new thing and we are still lacking a deeper understanding of this concept. Some academics are reluctant to devote their time to the blogosphere. They usually think they have more serious things to do, and that it is better to spend more time on research or teaching than on writing posts. But there is growing evidence to suggest that blogging is a very efficient tool for academic communication, and that it also may have positive influence on career development.
Will a blog post about your paper increase its readership?
People who chase citations (both editors and authors) should understand that there is a long way between readership and citation, but citation is not possible without readership. And blogging can significantly increase readership. This was claimed a.o. by David McKenzie and Berk Özler in their study The Impact of Economics Blogs, based on a sample of 94 economics papers, which were mentioned on economics blogs. They found that being mentioned on blog usually results in a huge increase in the number of views and downloads for a paper. The study examined the impact of popular, well known blogs, dealing with economics, so we cannot assume that results would be similar for other fields and in the case of regular blogs. But we can try to understand what possible mechanism of blogging can influence the readership of an article.
First of all, more and more researchers today use Internet search engines in their work; to search for some publications they already know, to quickly verify information, or sometimes to find more sources of information. And in some cases blog entries about an article or a book might be easier to find on the Internet than the article itself. Especially, very well known blogs, with good domain names, which are well ranked by searching bots.
Secondly, some academic blogs have big networks of readers, who are sometimes researchers themselves, and who read them frequently to keep up to date with all current discussions. And to be honest, the average readership of an academic article is very low, and in many cases it is much lower than for a good blog post. Thus, one good blog post about an article may generate a huge increase in the number of views and downloads of the paper. Of course these downloads will not automatically trigger citations, but in some cases the blog post may bring your article to the relevant audience, which will be likely to cite your work in the future.
Start your own blog and/or cooperate with existing ones
Of course it is not easy to gain significant readership for a new blog. Starting a blog itself will take you less than hour, but getting the right readership needs months of regular work, and a little bit of luck. Regardless of whether or not you have already started this work, writing a guest post for more established blogs is always a good idea. It may bring attention to your work (and to your blog if you already have one) from a large group of people.
Almost all academics publishers at this moment run blogs, which are designed to stimulate discussion among researchers (like De Gruyter Open runs the Open Science dot com Blog). These blogs are a good point to start your blogging adventure, or to attract to a new audience to your work. So you should not be surprised when a journal or book editor offers you the option of writing a guest post for the company blog to publicize your research, or to just discuss some problem that you have faced during your research. This might be a good opportunity. If your editor has not mentioned this option, do not be discouraged. If you have an idea for a guest post to be published on a publisher’s blog, ask the editors what they think about it.
A blog post usually needs less work to be published than an academic article, so you can start blogging about your research project long before you publish a paper which summarizes it. The blog (a personal one, the one belonging to your publisher, or the one managed by your university or a group of researchers working in your field) might be a place for valuable discussion, which may have a positive influence on every stage of your work. You can write about partial results, about methods, about problems and about your work flow and research team organization issues. This will make your work more open, more interesting and more attractive to both the general public and your peers. It may help you to gain citations and recognizability in your field and without a doubt it will be useful for a lot of people to read a little about your work.
Image: Émile Friant Political Discussion 1889. This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.