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#Solo11: ‘Microattribution’

14 Sep, 2011

Last weekend I attended this year’s Science Online London conference (which the Wellcome Trust sponsored). This week I’ll be reporting on a few of the key things I took from the conference:

  1. Open science
  2. Post-publication peer review
  3. ‘Microattributon’
  4. Drowning in data
  5. Open data -> sooner treatments?

3) ‘Microattribution’

I have to confess, I didn’t attend the dedicated parallel session on this, but the topic came up so much that it was hard to ignore.

To clarify, ‘microattribution’ is the issue of how researchers might get and give credit for that which would not normally get cited. The research community lives and dies on ‘credit’ for things, often in the form of citations for published papers (the ‘currency’ through which researchers get jobs and raise their profile). But how to do this for stuff that’s not in a peer reviewed journal, or even a paper at all? This could be the sharing of small datasets, or the creation of new tools and techniques, but it might also stretch to include blogging and media work.

Michael Nielsen discussed this as part of his keynote: is the lack of such credit a hindrance to open science (why would you blog about an idea only to get scooped? What’s the point in taking part in a wiki or critiquing papers in a blog if you can’t get credit? And what about those who create new tools, such as new mouse strains, who aid other research findings, but who get no credit that can be used toward their tenure application?). (related link: Professor gets tenure with help of his Wikipedia contributions).

Both Nielsen and Nature Physics’ Ed Gerstner spoke warmly of the ArXiV pre-print paper archive for the physics community. Gerstner said contrary to it endangering your chances of publication, iit was stupid for any researcher not to put their paper in the archive: it’s a ‘stamp of your authority on an idea before publication.

Later, in a session on ‘incentives’ for online research and communication, panellists including representatives from the research funders and University management said people should attribute and cite all tools and sources that make your work possible. Acknowledgement changes people’s opinions. Perhaps it just needs enough people to start doing it?

With the constant references, I regreted missing out on the actual microattribution session. But luckily nothing on or about the internet goes unrecorded. Martin Fenner, who led the session, had written a post about the topic on PLoS Blogs beforehand and you can read the interesting and very practical comments from the session on this Keepstream and this Storify. There’s also this interesting post from Brian Kelly pulling it all together.

Want more? Full list of blog coverage of #Solo11 is available on their wiki.

Researchers: where are you having online discussions about your work? We’d like your input on this post.

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