The 2018 Altmetric Top 100 Outputs with ‘Comics’ as Keyword

As it’s that time of the year and Altmetric has released its 2018 Top 100, in this post I share the 2018 Top 100 research outputs with ‘comics’ as a keyword according to Altmetric.

I queried the data from the Altmetric Explorer, looking for all outputs with this keyword between 13/12/2017 and 13/12/2018. I then refined the data to concentrate only on the Top 100 outputs about comics.

To see the complete Top 100, you can download the dataset I shared on figshare at

Below you can quickly take a look at the top 20 outputs with keyword “comics” ordered by their Altmetric Attention score :

Altmetric Attention Score Title Journal/Collection Title Publication Date
524 Ten simple rules for drawing scientific comics PLoS Computational Biology 04/01/2018
286 Comixify: Transform video into a comics 09/12/2018
154 Teaching Confidentiality through Comics at One Spanish Medical School AMA Journal of Ethics 01/02/2018
99 Bruised and Battered: Reinforcing Intimate Partner Violence in Comic Books Feminist Criminology 17/05/2018
84 Of Microscopes and Metaphors: Visual Analogy as a Scientific Tool The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship 10/10/2018
79 The potential of comics in science communication JCOM – Journal of Science Communication 23/01/2018
65 Alter egos: an exploration of the perspectives and identities of science comic creators JCOM – Journal of Science Communication 16/01/2018
61 Using comics to change lives The Lancet 01/01/2018
50 The Question Concerning Comics as Technology: Gestell and Grid The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship 24/09/2018
47 A survey of comics research in computer science 16/04/2018
41 Is There a Comic Book Industry? Media Industries 05/06/2018
38 The Utility of Multiplex Molecular Tests for Enteric Pathogens: a Micro-Comic Strip Journal of Clinical Microbiology 24/01/2018
38 Farting Jellyfish and Synergistic Opportunities: The Story and Evaluation
of Newcastle Science Comic
The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship 20/03/2018
35 Pitfalls in Performing Research in the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory: a Micro-Comic Strip Journal of Clinical Microbiology 25/09/2018
34 Neural Comic Style Transfer: Case Study 05/09/2018
31 Comics and the Ethics of Representation in Health Care … AMA Journal of Ethics AMA Journal of Ethics 01/02/2018
29 Undemocratic Layout: Eight Methods of Accenting Images The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship 25/05/2018
29 Communicating Science through Comics: A Method Publications 30/08/2018
26 Of Cornopleezeepi and Party Poopers: A Brief History of Physicians in Comics … AMA Journal of Ethics AMA Journal of Ethics 01/02/2018
26 On the Significance of the Graphic Novel to Contemporary Literary Studies: A Review of The Cambridge Companion to the Graphic Novel The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship 19/09/2018
DOI Altmetric Details Page URL

To see the complete Top 100, you can download the dataset I shared on figshare at

I am obviously very pleased to see The Comics Grid included in the Top 100.

It is interesting to note the diversity of countries associated to the profiles (where the metadata was available) giving attention to the outputs. According to Altmetric, there were 4,588 tweets about research outputs with ‘comics’ as keyword between 13/12/17 and 13/12/18 by 2,866 unique tweeters in 98 different countries. The map looks like this:

Countries and Number of Profiles that Gave Attention to Research Outputs with 'Comics' Keyword between 13/12/17 and 13/12/18 according to Altmetric. Chart by Altmetric Explorer.
Countries and Number of Profiles that Gave Attention to Research Outputs with ‘Comics’ Keyword between 13/12/17 and 13/12/18 according to Altmetric. Chart by Altmetric Explorer.


I shared the countries data on figshare at

For more information and context on Altmetric and using the Altmetric Explorer, see my 2016 post here. Many other posts about alternative metrics and the Altmetric Explorer can be found throghout my blog.


Priego, Ernesto (2018): Altmetric Top 100 Outputs with ‘Comics’ Keyword between 13/12/17 and 13/12/18. figshare. Dataset.

Priego, Ernesto (2018): Countries and Number of Profiles that Gave Attention to Research Outputs with ‘Comics’ Keyword between 13/12/17 and 13/12/18 according to Altmetric. figshare. Dataset.

Questions of Access in the Digital Humanities: Data from JDSH

[On 8 August 2017, this post was selected as Editor’s Choice in Digital Humanities Now at]

[N.B. As usual, typos might still be present when you read this; this blog post is likely to be revised post-publication… thanks for understanding. This blog is a sandbox of sorts].

Para Domenico, siempre en deuda

tl;dr, scroll down to the charts

I used The Altmetric Explorer to locate any  articles from the Journal of Digital Scholarlship in the Humanities that had had any ‘mentions’ online anytime. An original dataset of 82 bibliographic entries was obtained. With the help of Joe McArthur the Open Access Button API was then employed to detect if any of the journal articles in the dataset had open access surrogates (for example, self-archived versions in institutional repositories) and if so, which content they actually provided access to. The API located 24 URLs of the 82 DOIs corresponding to each article in the dataset.

I then edited and refined the original dataset to include only the top 60 results. Each result was manually refined and cross-checked to verify the resulting links matched the correct outputs and to what kind of content they provided access to, as well as to identify the type of license and type of access of each article’s version of record.

A breakdown of the findings below:

Visualisation of numeralia from the JDSH 60 Articles Altmetric-OA Button Dataset

(Note numbers re OA Button results will not add up as there are overlaps and some results belong to categories not listed).

It must be highlighted that only one of the links located via the Open Access Button API provided access to an article’s full version.

This disciplinarily-circumscribed example from a leading journal in the field of the digital humanities provides evidence for further investigations into the effects of publishers’ embargos on the ability of institutional open access repositories to fufill their mission effectively.

The dataset was openly shared on figshare as

Priego, Ernesto (2017): A Dataset Listing the Top 60 Articles Published in the Journal of Digital Scholarship in the Humanities According to the Altmetric Explorer (search from 11 April 2017), Annotated with Corresponding License and Access Type and Results, when Available, from the Open Access Button API (search from 15 May 2017). figshare.


The Wordy Thing

Back in 2014, we suggested that “altmetrics services like the Altmetric Explorer can be an efficient method to obtain bibliographic datasets and track scholarly outputs being mentioned online in the sources curated by these services” (Priego et al 2014).  That time we used the Explorer to analyse a report obtained by searching for the term ‘digital humanities’ in the titles of outputs mentioned anytime at the time of our query.

It’s been three years since I personally presented that poster at DH2014 in Lausanne, but the topic of publishing pracitices within the digital humanities keeps being of great interest to me. It could be thought of as extreme academic navel-gazing, this business of deciding to look into bibliometric indicators and metadata of scholarly publications. For the digital humanities, however, questions of scholarly communications are questions of methodology, as the technologies and practices required for conducting research and teaching are closely related to the technologies and practices required to make the ‘results’ of teaching and research available. For DH insiders, this is closely connected to the good ol’ less-yacking-more-hacking, or rather, no yacking without hacking. Today, scholarly publishing is all about technological infrastructure, or at least about an ever-growing awareness of the challenges and opportunities of ‘hacking’ the modes of scholarly production.

Moreover, the digital humanities have also been for long preoccupied with the challenges in getting digital scholarship recoginsed and rewarded, and, also importantly, about the difficulties to ensure the human, technical and financial preconditions of sustainability. Scholarly publishing, or more precisely ‘scholarly communications’ as we prefer to say today, are also very much focused on those same concerns. If form and content are unavoidably interlinked and codependent in digital humanities practice, surely issues regarding the so-called ‘dissemination’ of said practice through publications remain vital to its development.

Anyway, I have now finally been able to share a dataset based on a report from the Altmetric Explorer looking into the articles published at the Journal of Digital Scholarship in the Humanities (from now on JDSH), one of the (if not the) leading journal in the field of digital humanities (it was previously titled Literary and Linguistic Computing). I first started looking into which JDSH articles were being tracked by Altmetric as mentioned online for the event organised by Domenico Fiormonte  at the University Roma Tre in April this year (the slides from my participation are here).

My motivation was no only to identify which JDSH outputs (and therefore authors, affiliations, topics, methodologies) were receiving online attention according to Altmetric. I wanted, as we had done previously in 2014, to use an initial report to look into what kind of licensing said articles had, whether they were ‘free to read’, paywalled or labeled with the orange open lock that identifies Open Access outputs.

Back in 2014 we did not have the Open Access Button nor its plugin and API. With it I had the possibility to try to check if any of the articles in my dataset had any openly/freely available versions through the Button. I contacted Joe McArthur from the Button to enquire whether it would be possible to run a list of DOIs through their API in bulk. It was, and we obtained some results.

Here’s a couple of very quick charts visualising some insights from the data.

It should also be highlighted that of the 6 links to institutional repository deposits found via the Open Access Button API, only one gave open access to the full version of the article. The rest were either metatada-only deposits or the full versions were embargoed.

As indicated above, the 60 ‘total articles’ refers to the number of entries in the dataset we are sharing. There are many more articles published in JDSH. The numbers presented represent only the data in question which is in turn the result of particular methods of collection and analysis.

In 2014 we detected that “the 3 most-mentioned outputs in the dataset were available without a paywall”, and we thought that could indicate “the potential of Open Access for greater public impact.” In this dataset, the three articles with the most mentions are also available without a paywall. The most mentioned article is the only one in the set that is licensed with a CC-BY license. The two that follow are ‘free’ articles that require permission for reuse.

The data presented is the result of the specific methods employed to obtain the data. In this sense this data represents as much a testing of the technologies employed as of the actual articles’ licensing and open availability. This means that data in columns L-P reflect the data available through the Open Access Button API at the moment of collection. It is perfectly possible that ‘open surrogates’ of the articles listed are available elsewhere through other methods. Likewise, it is perfectly possible that a different corpus of JDSH articles collected through other methods (for example, of articles without any mentions as tracked by Altmetric) have a different proportion of license and access types etc.

As indicated above the licensing and access type of each article were identified and added manually and individually. Article DOI’s were accessed one by one with a computer browser outside/without access to university library networks, as the intention was to verify if any of the articles were available to the general public without university library network/subscription credentials.

This blog post and the deposit of the data is part of a work in progress and is shared openly to document ongoing work and to encourage further discussion and analyses. It is hoped that quantitative data on the limited level of adoption of Creative Commons licenses and Institutional Repositories within a clearly-circumscribed corpora can motivate reflection and debate.


I am indebted to Joe McArthur for his kind and essential help cross-checking the original dataset with the OA Button API, and to Euan Adie and all the Altmetric team for enabling me to use the Altmetric Explorer to conduct research at no cost.

Previous Work Mentioned

Priego, Ernesto; Havemann, Leo; Atenas, Javiera (2014): Online Attention to Digital Humanities Publications (#DH2014 poster). figshare. Retrieved: 18:46, Aug 04, 2017 (GMT).

Priego, Ernesto; Havemann, Leo; Atenas, Javiera (2014): Source Dataset for Online Attention to Digital Humanities Publications (#DH2014 poster). figshare. Retrieved: 17:52, Aug 04, 2017 (GMT)

Priego, Ernesto (2017): Aprire l’Informatica umanistica / Abriendo las humanidades digitales / Opening the Digital Humanities. figshare. Retrieved: 18:00, Aug 04, 2017 (GMT)

The 2016 Altmetric Top 100 Outputs with ‘Comics’ as Keyword


Any frequent readers of this blog will be aware I am interested in article level metrics. I am particularly interested in the work done by Altmetric. Last week they published their annual top 100 list. I wrote this post about it.

 The Altmetric Explorer is a tool for measuring the attention that scholarly articles receive online, and its intuitive user interface works as a live searchable database that allows users to browse the journals and repositories Altmetric tracks and obtain detailed reports.

On a weekly basis Altmetric captures hundreds of thousands of tweets, blog posts, news stories, Facebook walls and other content that mentions scholarly articles on the Web. The Explorer can browse, search and filter this data. The data can be exported by the user as ‘reports’ as simple text or spreadsheets, which can be then analysed in different forms. For example, The Explorer provides demographic data of the Twitter users found mentioning specific outputs, and thus works as a mechanism for the study of academic users of social media.

In the past few years I have often suggested, online, in talks, workshops and lectures, that the Altmetric Explorer can be useful to researchers as well. Librarians with access to the tool can help students and researchers get new views of recent articles that are receiving attention online. People often focus on ‘altmetrics’ as indicators of online activity around published outputs, but I often insist the Altmetric Explorer is useful as well as a tool for searching, discovering, collecting, creating, archiving, sharing and analysing bibliographic reference collections as datasets including not just bibliographic data including identifiers and/or URLs but also historical data of any metrics the service has tracked and quantified at the time of the data query/collection.

Inspired by Altmetric’s annual Top 100 list I used the Altmetric Explorer to search for the top articles with keyword ‘comics’ mentioned in the past 1 year. I did this particular search on the morning of Tuesday 20 December 2016. Dating the collection (and indicating the specific query) is always important as social media metrics are hopefully dynamic and not static (i.e. we expect an output’s altmetrics to change over time).

After my query I saved as usual my search as  a ‘workspace’ on the app and then exported the dataset as a CSV file. I then manually cleaned and refined the data to obtain a file listing the top 100 references specifically on comics including their altmetrics. Data refining was needed to ensure the list included articles about comics, eliminating any non-relevant outputs (i.e. they were not about comics) and to correct text rendering errors, add missing data (like output titles when missing from the initial export) and limit the set to only 100 items by deleting the extra outputs.*

I have deposited and shared the dataset as

Priego, Ernesto (2016): The 2016 Altmetric Top 100 Outputs with ‘Comics’ as Keyword Mentioned in the Past 1 Year. figshare. Retrieved: 17 06, Dec 21, 2016 (GMT)

Hopefully it will be of interest to some of you out there. For comparison here’s these other datasets I have deposited on figshare in previous years:

Priego, Ernesto (2015): Almetrics of articles from the comics journals mentioned at least once in the past 1 year as tracked by Altmetric (20 August 2015). figshare. Retrieved: 17 21, Dec 21, 2016 (GMT)


Priego, Ernesto (2014): Comics Journals Articles Tracked by Altmetric in the last year (Dec 2013-Dec 2014). figshare. Retrieved: 17 23, Dec 21, 2016 (GMT)


Though the two datasets above are outputs from different search queries (focusing on specific comics journals tracked by Altmetric rather than in any articles with keyword ‘comics’) we should we able to continue collecting data for future transversal studies.

Having yearly datasets obtained from the same queries, over a series of years, would provide evidence of comics scholarship’s presence online, and of the field’s (and Altmetric’s)  evolving practices.

*It is possible the degree of relevance varies. Some outputs do not have ‘comics’ in their title but do discuss comics, for example ‘A randomized study of multimedia informational aids for research on medical practices: Implications for informed consent’ (Kraft et al 2016). It is possible however that a non-comics article or two remained, if you spot one do please let me know or leave a comment on the figshare output and I will correct and create a new version. It might also be noted that various outputs included are from The Conversation, which is not an academic journal, but it is tracked by Altmetric as it focuses on academic research news written by academics. For information and context about how Altmetric sources the data please read this.

Inequality, Paywalled: Update from a Literature Review

I have done revisions to this post since publication.

[I don’t have time. What is this about?

My view is that altmetrics are not merely tools for the measurement of  online attention but tools that can help us discover the literature that is being tracked as mentioned. I used the Altmetric Explorer as a tool to discover articles about inequality. I cleaned the data into three tables to reflect only the articles that interested me from three journals and then checked them for access and license type. Most are paywalled and if free access the licensing is not clear. Scroll down to see the tables, or download the dataset here.

It’s better if you read the post, though. ;-) ]



Keep off the grass, photo CC-BY Attribution Some rights reserved by Kyknoord
Photo CC-by Kyknoord. Some Rights Reserved.


Using the Altmetric Explorer to Discover Literature

I‘ve been doing some research on the concept of ‘inequality’ from an economic and sociological perspective to add background to ongoing research on academic publishing and ‘monopolies of knowledge‘. I am interested in finding out more about the potential relationships between inequality of access to information (particularly access to peer-reviewed research publications) and other forms of inequality affecting social and economic development.

As you may (or not) know I am also interested in the potential for altmetrics as tools to help us in the discovery of research outputs. Some may not like it but needless to say people do search for and discover all sorts of information online. To give an example, these days many of us rarely get invited to a party with a paper invitation sent on the post (unless it’s a wedding, and even that is culture and country-dependent now); it’s likely, however, that there will be a Facebook invite, an Instagram account, or an email. OK, you may hate weddings or have never been invited to one. You must like music. If you are reading this you are likely to know people who discover new (and old!) music by looking into what other people listen to on apps like Spotify or Soundcloud, etc. (Yes, this sounds so old and so obvious!). We trust other people to recommend us stuff. (Think of how many of us travel today: TripAdvisor is a good example too).

More to the point, libraries and library web sites are no longer the only gateways to academic information (why should they be?). You don’t have to be a declared open education advocate to share, search for and discover interesting materials on Slideshare or YouTube. The distinction between ‘social networking’ or ‘social media’ sites and the rest of the Web is at best artificial: most platforms today imply inter-linking and therefore social interaction. Surely, I think, web platforms tracking social media activity like Altmetric can be used to discover what research people are mentioning online. One does not need a personal or institutional Altmetric account to discover other outputs from the articles themselves when they have Altmetric widgets. In other words, my view is that altmetrics are not merely tools for the measurement of  online attention but tools that can help us discover the literature that is being tracked as mentioned.

The bibliography collection is an important part of a literature review. We may collect bibliography we are interested in reading before we properly review or collect as we read/review (hopefully once one is reading one follows leads in an article, checks the references and notes, clicks on links, gets elsewhere). To discover published research I have used the Altmetric Explorer  many times before (see, as an example, “Ebola: Access and Licenses of 497 Papers Crowdsourced in 7 Days”, 14/08/2014).

Three Sets of Articles on Inequality

Recently I have been using it to search for articles on the topic of ‘inequality’. I am interested in which articles on this topic are being tracked by Altmetric as mentioned online, but I am also interested in the access and license types of the outputs tracked.

As I do normally in my research workflow I have been exporting the results of my searches and then cleaning the data. I do this by manually applying spreadsheet filters and adding and deleting columns, and using OpenRefine to deduplicate and standarise the data. I then check each output (i.e. I click on each link) and make a note whether I can access the full version without academic library credentials or not.

In this case I am sharing with you three sets of articles, each corresponding to a different journal that has published articles on inequality that have been tracked as mentioned online by Altmetric within the last year. In the tables below I have left the Altmetric score in timeframe (one year) in the first column and have organised the outputs in that order (from the highest score to the lowest). Having checked each article one by one manually not using any institutional credentials or IP, I have indicated in the last column the access type of each article. As Altmetric scores can change over time often quite quickly I have also left the most recent mention online according to Altmetric. This is of course not live data so it merely reflects the score and the most recent mention at the time of my data collection.

Information, Communication & Society

Altmetric Score in timeframe Title URL Most recent mention online according to Altimetric Access Type


Racial formation, inequality and the political economy of web traffic Tue, 16 Aug 2016 20:46:58 +0000 Free access. License not clear. 


The Trend of Class, Race, and Ethnicity in Social Media Inequality Fri, 26 Apr 2013 19:03:50 +0000 Paywalled


Social networking sites and low-income teenagers: between opportunity and inequality Mon, 07 Mar 2016 11:57:49 +0000 Paywalled


The contemporary US digital divide: from initial access to technology maintenance Fri, 19 Jun 2015 16:17:31 +0000 Paywalled


The Digital Production Gap in Great Britain Wed, 31 Jul 2013 14:46:59 +0000 Paywalled


Reconceptualizing Digital Social Inequality Tue, 02 Feb 2016 20:04:21 +0000 Paywalled


The disability divide in internet access and use Tue, 06 Dec 2011 17:05:28 +0000 Paywalled


Mapping the two levels of digital divide: Internet access and social network site adoption among older adults in the USA Tue, 24 Nov 2015 18:43:40 +0000 Paywalled

British Journal of Sociology

Altmeric Score in timeframe Title URL Most recent mention Access Type


After Piketty? Wed, 30 Sep 2015 08:47:42 +0000 Paywalled


Capital in the twenty‐first century: a critique Thu, 07 May 2015 09:55:36 +0000 Paywalled


Gendering inequality: a note on Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Thu, 07 May 2015 09:55:58 +0000 Paywalled


The politics of Piketty: what political science can learn from, and contribute to, the debate on Capital in the Twenty-First Century Thu, 21 May 2015 13:11:02 +0000 Paywalled


Income inequality, poverty and crime across nations Mon, 15 Dec 2014 18:00:58 +0000 Paywalled


Why ‘class’ is too soft a category to capture the explosiveness of social inequality at the beginning of the twenty‐first century Tue, 13 Jan 2015 00:56:42 +0000 Free access. Permissions required via RightsLink.


Where’s the capital? A geographical essay. Thu, 07 May 2015 09:56:17 +0000 Paywalled


Capital and time: uncertainty and qualitative measures of inequality. Thu, 07 May 2015 09:55:00 +0000 Paywalled


Class and comparison: subjective social location and lay experiences of constraint and mobility Sun, 31 Jul 2016 08:34:47 +0000 Paywalled


Alleviating poverty or reinforcing inequality? Interpreting micro-finance in practice, with illustrations from rural China. Sat, 17 Oct 2015 07:50:32 +0000 Paywalled


Configurations of gender inequality: the consequences of ideology and public policy1 Mon, 02 Mar 2015 00:00:00 +0000 Paywalled


Who do you think they were? How family historians make sense of social position and inequality in the past Mon, 07 Jan 2013 09:25:05 +0000 Paywalled


Tom Clark and Anthony Heath 2015 [2014] Hard Times: Inequality, Recession, Aftermath, Aftermath, New Haven and London: Yale University Press Mon, 28 Sep 2015 10:59:31 +0000 Paywalled


Cultural capital or relative risk aversion? Two mechanisms for educational inequality compared1 Thu, 03 Mar 2016 09:20:51 +0000 Paywalled


Piketty’s capital and social policy. Wed, 24 Dec 2014 10:30:35 +0000 Paywalled


Declining inequality? The changing impact of socio-economic background and ability on education in Australia Tue, 18 Sep 2012 02:04:48 +0000 Paywalled

Journal of Economic Perspectives

Altmeric Score in timeframe Title URL Most recent mention Access Type


Why Hasn’t Democracy Slowed Rising Inequality? Mon, 15 Aug 2016 12:20:10 +0000 Free Access (“Complimentary”)


Income Inequality, Equality of Opportunity, and Intergenerational Mobility Wed, 25 May 2016 10:20:30 +0000 Free Access (“Complimentary”)


The Top 1 Percent in International and Historical Perspective Tue, 02 Aug 2016 14:35:17 +0000 Free Access (“Complimentary”)


Consumption Inequality Sun, 28 Aug 2016 09:59:44 +0000 Free Access (“Complimentary”)


The Rise and Decline of General Laws of Capitalism Wed, 03 Aug 2016 00:00:00 +0000 Free Access. License not clear


The Inheritance of Inequality Wed, 27 Jul 2016 22:41:32 +0000 Free Access (“Complimentary”)


Crime, the Criminal Justice System, and Socioeconomic Inequality Fri, 08 Jul 2016 22:54:56 +0000 Free Access (“Complimentary”)


Pareto and Piketty: The Macroeconomics of Top Income and Wealth Inequality Tue, 10 Nov 2015 08:02:28 +0000 Free Access. License not clear.

I am not sure if this humble blog would be tracked by Altmetric so (ironically) I may or may not be contributing to the Altmetric score of the outputs above as I am linking to them. (It is insightful that altmetrics can be tracked when people have reached merely abstracts but not full texts). In this instance I am not listing them above because I necessarily recommend them but as a small sample of articles on inequality from recognised journals, noting their access type.

I do not know if the authors of these articles have deposited open access versions of these papers in their respective institutional repositories or elsewhere (if you are so inclined, you can check the three journals’ archiving policies here), and I am not publishing this post because I cannot personally access the articles above (so thank you very much indeed but please do not contact me, dear reader, to offer me the PDFs via email or Twitter). I am not saying the articles above are all there is on the subject; I am just sharing those results and detailing their access type (which you can’t easily get unless you click on them and try to access them, and even if you can access them -this means full versions- you may find it difficult to tell why you happen to have access to them).

In this post I have wanted to make a very simple point: following the links to the publishers’ versions of record of these articles discovered via the Altmetric Explorer, the access conditions were the ones detailed above.


It could be argued that as an academic I have used the wrong tool to access these resources. It can be said that in my case, as an academic based in London, UK, it is my fault to expect to access these resources from outside my library (you say you can’t access them, dear reader? Your fault!) What I am trying to do here is try to see and share what happens when someone who normally has access to this kind of research steps out from their traditional/standard discovery tools and/or position of privilege. If you don’t have the right credentials, how much can you access? [I must also note that the Altmetric Explorer requires registration and normally membership too; however, all the links listed above can be reached via regular search engines and Google Scholar].

Things are changing slowly but academics’ distrust and complaints about the low quality and lack of trustworthiness of information found on the Web are common, but at the same time we have allowed paywalled online academic journals to remain (to me weirdly) disconnected from the rest of the Web, with links leading to abstracts that promise you a full version if you pay or have the right library credentials. This breaks the flow of information that has made the Web the amazing invention it is, and contributes to the separation between the outputs of higher education and the ‘general’ public.

In my opinion it is a serious problem that if you don’t have the right credentials then so much detective work is required to access some important research (or to elucidate articles’ licensing conditions, even if they are ‘free’ or ‘complimentary’). Others, as we know, can’t be bothered at all and merely jump all the hoops, against all policies. The more barriers you impose, the more people will want to circumvent them. Ideally.

In reality, it is more likely that paywalled outputs remain inaccessible/invisible to the larger public, and perhaps even more to those affected by the very conditions studied in them. Even as an academic or student in an elite institution it is often hard (read: not straight-forward, not friction-free) to access them! A non-academic searching for this research online is likely to have already transcended many of the structural barriers created by inequality. Once you finally get to an interesting article, how great it must be then to be greeted by a huge ‘pay or keep off’?

Some might say my hypothetical non-academic individual seeking access does not really exist. Some have suggested to me that there is no evidence there is interest from the public, and that those who have access are the only ones interested. That the non-academic public wouldn’t understand the research anyway. That those interested could try harder to find surrogates. That in case they exist they are likely to know people who can ‘share’ the research with them anyway. The list of justifications of the current system can be long.

Having lived, studied and worked in a developing country I know intelligent, curious, well-informed bilingual individuals who have no access to versions of record do exist. This is people who face the inequalities of access to scientific information. They may be relatively privileged, because they have transcended the most pressing needs to enable them to seek out research. This, however, does not mean they do not exist and that their needs are not important.

I know interested individuals that are not academics exist here in the UK too. I also know for a fact that there are academics worldwide who do not have access to a lot of paywalled research. I am often one of them myself. I know there are others because I know them personally and because we know that not all libraries can afford to subscribe to the same ‘bundles’ (for the latter there is a growing body of evidence).  My personal experience does not count as scientific evidence, but it matters to me and I know it matters to others. I question why we assume that if there is supposedly no current public demand for research then it is acceptable to paywall it and not encourage further public interest and demand.

I am aware it is getting boring because I have been repeating this for several years know, but legal ‘frictionless sharing‘ wouldn’t go amiss, especially for this type of research. We call it “open access”.


Priego, Ernesto (2016): Inequality: Three sets of Journal Article Titles and URLs/DOIs from Three Different Journals, with Altmetric Score in Timeframe (1year), Last Mention at the Time of Collection and Access Type Noted. figshare.  [CC-0].

Ebola: Publisher, Access and License Types of the 100 Most Mentioned Papers

I made a quick alluvial diagram showing the publisher, access and license types of the top 100 papers in our dataset.

Alluvial Diagram Showing the Publishers of the Top 100 Ebola Papers According to Altmetric as of Wed Aug 06 2014 16:44:28 GMT+0000 (UTC)  By License and Access Type

Priego, Ernesto; Lewandowski, Tomasz; Atenas, Javiera; Andrés Delgado; Isabel Galina; Levin, John; Murtagh, John; Brun, Laurent; Whitton, Merinne; Pablo de Castro; Sarah Molloy; Petersen, Sigmund; Gutierrez, Silvia (2014): Articles with Ebola mentioned online anytime as tracked by Altmetric, with crowdsourced type of access and license. figshare.

Retrieved 10:22, Aug 15, 2014 (GMT)

Ebola: Crowdsourcing type of access and licensing of the most mentioned articles according to Altmetric

Update: for a follow-up, please read this [opens in a new window].

Ebola virus virion. Created by CDC microbiologist Cynthia Goldsmith, this colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) revealed some of the ultrastructural morphology displayed by an Ebola virus virion. Public Health Image Library, #10816. The image is in the public domain. Via Wikimedia Commons.
Ebola virus virion. Created by CDC microbiologist Cynthia Goldsmith, this colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) revealed some of the ultrastructural morphology displayed by an Ebola virus virion. Public Health Image Library, #10816. The image is in the public domain. Via Wikimedia Commons.

I have shared a dataset of 497 bibliographic entries of scientific articles mentioning the keyword ‘Ebola’. The spreadsheet is an export from an Altmetric Explorer report obtained on Wednesday 6 August 2014 at 7:55 PM BST. The spreadsheet includes the number of mentions in different social media and Web platforms each article had as tracked by Altmetric at the time of obtaining the report.

We need your help.  Ebola is a relevant topic right now and accessibility to research about it is critical. The intention is to crowdsource the type of access (non-Open Acces or Open Access) of each article (column J) and the type of license (column I).

Please click on the URL of an article (column E) and manually look for access type and license type. If you are accessing the Internet from your institution, please make sure to verify how you are getting access to an article; you may have immediate access to it, but this does not mean the article is Open Access properly. Please include your name and if appropriate Twitter username on column K next to your contributions.

For the purposes of this project an article will qualify as “Open Access” if it is freely accessible without previous membership, login or paywall. It must be described literally as such by the platform/journal that publishes it and must have been published with a Creative Commons or similar open license.

“Free Access”, “Free to You” or any other access model which is not explicitly self-described by the publisher on the article as “Open Access” and is not published with a Creative Commons license should be listed as “non-OA” as there is no guarantee said article will remain available free of charge or that it can be accessed, distributed or reused without cost or previous permission.

“Type of license” (column I) refers to the license with which the article has been published under. Options are “All Rights Reserved” for non-OA articles and all the types of Creative Commons licenses. By definition, any article published under All Rights Reserved cannot qualify as “Open Access” even if it is available without toll. If the license is not clearly visible, please add “N/A”. If the article is published under different type of ‘open’ license (but not CC) please indicate which one.

The data in the spreadsheet might also need refining; i.e. some titles might not be relevant (not scientific articles properly or not about ebola) and these should be removed.

The shared spreadsheet is a public document and all visitors can edit. Please edit respectfully, responsibly and ethically. As such this is also an experiment into the possibilities of open collaboration. Thank you for your contribution!

About the CC licenses:

Spreadsheet shortened URL:

Mastectomy: Scientific Articles Most Mentioned Online (Infographic)

 Mastectomy: Scientific Articles Most Mentioned Online (Infographic) (thumbnail)

I created this infographic which presents some findings from an Altmetric Explorer report I retrieved on 29 May 2013 9:59AM.

Needless to say I am not a professional designer and don’t have professional image-making software. Nevertheless I gave it a go to see what I could come up with quickly. I thought it had to be done and shared rapidly as it represents a snapshot in time (social media mentions can change over time).

It is a low-res .png made to be seen and shared online.

I spotted some typos and a sentence that would require rewriting but it took me so long to produce this version I will have to let it be. The CC-BY license means anyone could –in theory– correct it if they so wished.

It’s now on Fighsare:

Mastectomy: Scientific Articles Most Mentioned Online (Infographic). Ernesto Priego. figshare.