I am now back in London and already missing Kenya. There are many ways of catching up with what happened.
Most of the decks of slides from the presentations have been now added to the “Africa e-Science Commons” collection created by Bruce Becker on Zenodo (log in required but it’s easy, quick and free to register).
I am also putting together a fileset that will be uploaded to figshare as soon as possible.
On the way back from Nairobi I transcribed and uploaded as a text file some of the notes produced by the workshop participants and is available through the following DOI on fighsare: http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.958929
You can also explore the live (while the Google spreadsheet allows) #scholarAfrica interactive tweets archive here.
The Facebook page of the OpenUCT Initiative (University of Cape Town, South Africa) also has some pictures of the event here (no Facebook login required).
You can make a difference to tackle the inequality in visibility and recognition of African research. Please help increasing the visibility of the work done by African scholars by sharing and attributing their resources online.
Bruce Becker (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, UbuntuNet Alliance, CHAIN-REDS, South Africa and Italy)
Michelle Willmers (OpenUCT, Cape Town)
Tezira Lore (International Livestock Research Institute, Nairobi)
Firoze Manji (Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, Senegal)
Kaitlin Thaney (Director, Mozilla Science Lab, New York)
It is a real privilege to be here. As a Mexican and Latin American I cannot but verify the close connection we have with African cultures in general and in specific with the challenges and opportunities in terms of academic dissemination, discoverability and recognition. The kinship is both moving and inspiring, and for me a reminder of how much remains to be done to bring that relationship to the fore and learn more from each other.
Kaitlin Thaney (Director, Mozilla Science Lab, New York), who is here to present at the workshop as well, has written a post you should read, here.
If you are interested in the kind of apporach we’ll be taking the following resources may be of interest:
I have deposited on figshare a third alluvial diagram, this time focusing on the country of affiliation of the Principal Investigator/Author of the articles and the geographical area mentioned in the article title.
Like the previous two diagrams the source data is an Altmetric Explorer report I exported on 19 February 2014 including the 25 articles which according to Altmetric were the articles with the highest Altmetric score. Fourteen of those 25 are Open Access articles; 11 are paywalled.
Columns in the diagram correspond to 1) Country of affiliation of the article’s Principal Investigator/Author, 2) Geographical area covered in the title of the article, 3) Journal title 4) Access type.
Nine of the 25 PIs are from the USA; 6 from South Africa; 3 from the UK; 2 from France; 2 from Spain; 1 from Sweden and 1 unknown (author information was paywalled).
Nine of the 25 article titles mentioned the geographical term “South Africa”; 6 “Africa”; 3 “Southern Africa”; 2 “West Africa”; 1 “Central Africa”; 1 “Guinea” and “Africa”; 1 “North Africa” and “Southern Europe”; 1 “Northwest Africa”; and 1 “Southern and Eastern Africa”.
Also as previously indicated source data was deduped and cleaned and non-peer-reviewed outputs were removed from the original export. Source data is likely to change in future reports and it represents the online activity as tracked by Altmetric at that given point in time.
Time flies and I can’t contain my excitement that I will be participating in the Discoverability of African Scholarship Online. Practical strategies and collaborative approaches workshop in Nairboi, Kenya, organised by the OpenUCT Initiative. For me there’s three very important A’s in scholarly communications: Africa, Access and Altmetrics.
I have been doing some digging, refining and visualising this week, and today I shared two first rough drafts of a couple of alluvial charts I made visualising a dataset of the 25 highest scoring peer-reviewed articles with the term “Africa” in the title (within the timeframe of one year). To collect the articles data I used the Altmetric Explorer. The data corresponds to a report I exported on the 19th of February 2014.
The Altmetric score is a quantative measure of the quality and quantity of attention that a scholarly article has received. It takes into account three main factors:
Volume. The score for an article rises as more people mention it. The Explorer only counts one mention from each person per source, so if someone tweet about the same paper more than once Altmetric will ignore everything but the first.
Sources. Each category of mention contributes a different base amount to the final score. For instance, a newspaper article contributes more than a blog post which contributes more than a tweet. Altmetric looks at how often the author of each mention talks about scholarly articles, whether or not there’s any bias towards a particular journal or publisher and at who their audience is.
Authors. For example, a scholar sharing a link with other scholars counts for far more than a journal account pushing the same link out automatically.
The focus of my study, however, is not necessarily the Altmetric score itself. One of my goals is to try to discover patterns or correlations between journal title, country of affiliation of Principal Investigator, access type of the article and the attention the article in question gets online. Logically the dataset I obtained and refined and its visualisations are not representative of all scholarly outputs with “Africa” in the title out there, but only of the data Altmetric is able to track in the first place.
The original dataset contained 2826 articles. I refined this set using Open Refine, to ensure there were no duplicates, text encoding errors, irrelevant entries (for example articles not about Africa but by authors whose first name is Africa, or academic news items that are not peer-reviewed). I then manually edited a CSV file of the top 25 peer-reviewed articles, and then created another one so I had only the categories I wanted to visualise and added other columns like PI country and Access Type.
I used Raw to make the diagrams. Alluvial diagrams can be helfpul to visualise flows and reveal correlations between categories; visually linking to the number of elements sharing the same categories. I wanted to see if this kind of diagram could provide a quick and clear insight on any possible correlations between access type and a higher number of online mentions. I manually looked at all the 25 articles, to check access type and country of affiliation of the Principal Investigators.
Though painstakingly time-consuming, I made some interesting discoveries in doing this by hand (for example many articles about Africa are co-authored by PIs based outside Africa with collaborators from African institutions, with an overwhelming South African majority). Another insight in the data but not visualised in these two charts is the dominance of articles with a focus on South Africa only.
I will share the original dataset file later on, as I still want to make sure the file is presentable enough to share publicly. In the meanwhile I have deposited both diagrams as figures to Figshare, and posted them here for your perusal. I will keep working on these diagrams, as they need to be edited to add different colours, etc., and to write-up a proper qualitative narrative of what we make of the data.
A quick insight from both diagrams is that open access articles are having, according to Altmetric, more mentions online, on blogs, media and online social networks. African Principal Investigators, however, are the minority in this top 25 set, with only South African researchers representing the whole continent.
There is only one article which is not within the STEM disciplinary boundaries proper– on mobile phone coverage and its relationship to political violence, published in the American Political Science Review. This might also be a reflection on the sources Altmetric tracks (where social sciences, arts and humanities are a minority).
It is also noticeable there are two different articles in the Journal of Infectious Diseases on antiretroviral therapy, with very similar titles, one open access and the other paywalled. The former has a slightly higher Altmetric score. I could not find out if the authors of the paywalled article were the same, as the paywall did not link to author information.
It also appears that at least for articles with the term “Africa” in the title, from the journals that Altmetric tracks, UK authors are divided in their adoption of open access.
24 February 2014. Correction: I had accidentally added the same caption to both diagrams; I have corrected this so the second diagram has the correct caption and doi.
My new post at Altmetric is guided by the concept of digital opportunity. I take a quick look at some research on the uptake of ICTs and social media in Africa and link to and comment on Altmetric details of two articles on Africa we located through the Altmetric Explorer.
As a Latin American I have always been wary of the risk of mis-representation in research on developing nations which is carried out from a developed-nation perspective. On the one hand I believe we always function from specific positions that enable us or disable us, empower us or disempower us; on the other hand I believe it is possible to at least try to recognise all that we can’t possibly know given those positions. In other words this is to say that this is a post that was very difficult to write for me. I attempted to back up any claims with the consulted research and to offer a balanced, yet accessible perspective. It is a blog post, not a research paper, so what I can and cannot do is also determined by it.
I would like to thank Euan Adie at Altmetric for his patient critical feedback, Tomi Oladepo, (Researcher on Digital Public Sphere, University of Warwick) for her kind help locating some bibliography and to Julie Soleil Archambault (Departmental Lecturer in African Anthropology, Oxford University) for answering my questions.