29. oktober 2013
Conference highlights important job skills for librarians
In September, PhD student from RSLIS Lorna Wildgaard travelled to Berlin to take part in a conference about the role and design of bibliometric indicators.
The 18th International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators (STI) took place from 4-6th September 2013 at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Berlin, Germany. Lorna Wildgaard took part in the conference and the European Summer School in Scientometrics (ESSS). While she was there, she found the time to tell Insight about her experiences.
Lorna Wildgaard has also written the article "Translational twists and turns" about the conference.
What is the purpose of your stay in Berlin?
I am here for nearly two weeks to take part in the STI conference and the ESSS. The world of bibliometric research is very small and as a junior researcher you quickly get an overview of who researches in what and in which direction the field is developing. There have been some long days from 9am to 6.30pm every day in the conference hall, running between sessions to hear as much as possible. But the day doesn’t stop when the conference closes for the day. It is really important to join colleagues from other institutes and countries for dinner and a beer. A lot of networking and deals are made socially and articles are brainstormed over a beer.
What is the STI conference about?
The conference is an opportunity to discuss the role and design of bibliometric indicators and their use in research evaluation. The audience includes bibliometric researchers, indicator developers, policy makers, students and librarians. Returning debates included the appropriate application of impact factors and other metrics in different disciplines and level of aggregations.
Especially hot this time was the use of indicators to measure performance at the individual level. The humanities and social sciences gained a lot of interest, especially network analysis of book citations and publishers and the use of altmetrics, where visibility on Lorna Wildgaard in front of the commercial for ESSS. Twitter and Mendeley is considered perhaps a proxy for societal impact. But no one is quite sure yet what measuring this type of communication activity indicates. Bibliometrics is a young field, formerly a sub-field to library and information science but has over the last 10-20 years become increasingly important for research policy and evaluation. So there is a lot of work to be done and that means there are a lot of opportunities for younger researchers to co-operate with “The Grand Old Men” and make their mark.
As ministries and policy makers like numbers, it is important that standards for the methodologies used in bibliometric analyses are clear, and standards for the use and interpretation of statistics on non-parametric data are established. Citation data is highly skewed and conclusions drawn should not be generalized, especially at the individual level. Therefore it is vital in assessment reports to protect the researcher both during the evaluation period, and after as well. This is to protect the researcher from possible repercussions, when the professors or researcher group leaders use this statistical information in decision making, such as reducing the group or distributing funds.
Right now the STI conference is over and I am in the middle of the European Summer School in Scientometrics. ESSS starts with two conference introductory days addressing the field of bibliometrics as a whole, sophisticated analysis are introduced, the work of evaluation agencies presented, the role of libraries in bibliometric analysis and the pitfalls of (mis)use of both bibliometrics and statistical analyses. This is followed by three days with seminars, individual hands-on sessions and teamwork in small groups. We are lucky enough to have leading European scholars to teach us and software developers to guide us through the practical exercises so we get the most out of their products. I am especially looking forward to getting my hands on freely available visualization software for mapping co-authorship networks and other measures of relatedness.
How is the conference relevant to RSLIS students?
The conference is open to all who are interested in bibliometrics, evaluation and research policy and the sociology of science. There are many job opportunities in this field. Knowledge of research evaluation, scientific communication, performance indicators and how to interpret these statistics in a report are important job skills for librarians who wish to work in academic libraries, be part of a research team or work in the private sector. It is all about ensuring the method, validity and reliability of the data we provide for policy or departmental reports, as these can influence budget cuts, staffing reductions or the direction of research at an institution. It is important to understand the role libraries have in research evaluation – which databases and journals are important for researchers to publish in is just one example.
Other examples are how bibliometrics can delimitate a field and identify the important publication sources, the links between research and technology in patents and new emerging fields that could support smart specialization for the university. It is important for librarians to give researcher-support by for example ensuring that the best publishing strategies are used or advising researchers against the uninformed use or misuse of ready-to-use indicators. The H-index, for example, should not be used to compare researchers to inform a decision. Bibliometric indicators play a supporting role in evaluation but as they are objective, they are competing with the legitimism of peer review and the consequences have a direct effect on financing distributing money.
Af Helle Saabye