November Downloads in ORO

This months Top 50 includes one of the oldest records in ORO at number 40.  The eprint number is 38 (we are now on eprint number 48065 and counting), which indicates it was one of the first to be added to the ORO eprints software.

The paper  Ekins, Paul; Simon, Sandrine; Deutsch, Lisa; Folke, Carl and De Groot, Rudolf (2003). A Framework for the practical application of the concepts of critical natural capital and strong sustainability. Ecological Economics, 44(2-3) pp. 165–185 was deposited over 10 years ago in ORO and according to the eprints software has had 3,762 downloads and 422 views.  Over half of those downloads have come direct from Google (or Google Scholar).  

The full text of the paper is also in ResearchGate which records 137 reads – although I’m not entirely sure when it was added to ResearchGate or exactly what a “Read” is!  It is also in Repec which is a subject repository for Economics – but there is no full text archived there. The full text is also in CORE and it looks like it was a pretty early addition to CORE if the url is anything to go by.

Downloads of the item in ORO have grown over the years in a not dissimilar pattern to how a paper accrues citations:


Citation data in Scopus indicate that this is a very highly cited paper, accruing over 240 citations, with a Field-Weighted Citation Impact of 4.34.  In terms of citations it appears to be in the top 2% of papers, based on its subject area, date and type of publication.  Citation pattern from Scopus is below:

scopus citations

I’m not attempting to make any correlation between downloads from ORO and citations from this single instance… I have made some exploratory analysis before.  It’s just rewarding that something archived in the infancy of the University repository is a highly cited paper, was originally made Open Access via ORO and remains a popular paper in terms of downloads today.

Top November downloads from ORO are below:

November Downloads

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Author Profile Systems

Author Profile Systems (like, ResearchGate, ResearcherID and Google Scholar profiles) have grown in number over the last few years. The prevalence of them begs the question as to which one(s) to use, or, should you use any at all!  So in this post I’ll try and outline some of the benefits of the systems, their different characteristics, and some particular things you should consider when creating and curating author profile systems.

The benefits

Simply put, the benefits of Author Profile Systems are:

  • To make your research known
  • To increase chance of citation
  • To correct attributions
  • To ensure research is counted in research assessment
  • To increase chance of new collaboration
  • To increase chance of funding

The differing characteristics of the systems

Different functions have created different Author Profile Systems – that might sound awkward and I intend it to be.  What I mean is that the primary function of a system (e.g. author disambiguation, open access, reference management or search engines) has created different types of profile systems.  So the characteristics of a Google Scholar profile will in part be defined by the original function of Google Scholar, that being a search engine.  However, the common feature of all profile systems is the attempt to increase the visibility of the researcher and their work.

Copy of Disambiguation

A further point to consider is that different Author Profile Systems have different modus operandi which will affect your interaction with them.  Some are institutional, others are personal; some commercial, others not for profit; some are open, others are closed (or should I say are a walled garden).  The tension between these aspects may determine how you interact (or choose not to interact) with any particular profile.  I have written before on the considerations anyone should make when using commercial profile systems like ResearchGate and

Readymade Systems

Importantly, some profiles already exist, without you having to create them yourself. These include ScopusID (the Elsevier persistent identifier for researchers) and OU People Profile pages.  For ScopusID this is important as Scopus attempts to match publications to an existing author profile or create a new author profile – this doesn’t always work, it’s an algorithm.  So in Scopus you can get multiple author profiles for the same person and you can get papers associated to a particular author’s profile that weren’t written by them at all.  So this profile needs to be curated.

For the OU Profile pages the problem is different, but the solution remains curation.  The profile pages are automatically created so if you don’t add any information to them then they are basically empty – a zombie profile, so to speak.  And, unfortunately if you own a zombie profile and do a google search on your name and “Open University” that zombie page is going to appear pretty close to the top of a search results page.  Which I don’t think is desirable.

So here is a bit of checklist of author profile systems and what they ostensibly can and cannot do.  There are a couple of caveats to this checklist.   Firstly, functionality changes very quickly on some of these systems so what it can’t do one week it may be able to do the next.  Secondly, not all Yes’s are equal, for instance whilst ResearchGate and ORO can provide metrics, it is a qualitatively different type of metrics to that offered by ResearcherID or ScopusID.

APAuthor Profile Systems PDF

What should you do?

Well firstly you should look after the OU People Profile and the ORO publications that populate the publications page.  There are external drivers (i.e. REF) to maintain a publication record in ORO and there are significant benefits in making publications Open Access in ORO wherever possible.  Add some biography to the People Profile and keep it current.

Secondly, look after any other profile that is readymade.  This at the moment might only be a light touch review of your Scopus account – this shouldn’t be onerous, but it is important as it may be affecting author level metrics created in Scopus.

Thirdly, get an ORCID.  I’ve written about the benefits of ORCID before.  ORCIDs are quickly becoming the de facto standard in scholarly communications because they are open and non-proprietary.  They are increasingly expected (if not necessarily required) by publishers and funders.

And, then, I’d suggest, take your pick based on any key criteria you have.  If you are an Early Career Researcher attempting to make connections for collaboration and funding then using a commercial platform to help you seems a sensible option.  Choose a platform you are comfortable with and where your peers have a presence.  However, if you already have those connections you may not need to take the trouble.


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Metrics: what they are and how to use them

David and I ran the session on metrics on Wednesday and had a good attendance – so thanks to all who came out.

metrics-what they are and how to use them-December-2016- Blog

The session was an overview of metrics, researcher profiles, the application of metrics and the problematic behaviours these applications have created.

The slides are available: metrics-what they are and how to use them-December-2016- Blog and so are our notes:  Metrics-what-they-are-and-how-to-use-them-script-December-2016.



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Where do Institutional Repository (ORO) Downloads come from?

Checking monthly download statistics gives a great insight into individual cases of how events in social media can impact the dissemination of Open Access research outputs. In October the article An investigation into written comments on assignments: do students find them usable? by Mirabelle Walker in Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 34(1) received an exceptional 531 downloads.  But unfortunately I couldn’t track down the event(s) that caused this spike.  All I could see was a large set of referrals from a Facebook post (which I couldn’t get any more specific about…. gggrrrr!!!) and also a large set of referrals from Greece!

Top downloads for both September and October are below.

September Top Downloads

October Top Downloads

So I stepped back and decided to think about the bigger picture – how do items get downloaded from ORO i.e. what platforms are being used to download items from ORO and exactly where in the world do they come from.

Firstly, I compared the number of external referrals to referrals from ORO itself (e.g. someone clicking the download file from an external website rather than downloading an item from within ORO itself).


Internal referrals equalled 604,344 (44%), whereas external referrals equalled 783,232 (56%)… most users of ORO never actually visit the site!

So from here I looked at the most popular external referrers (no prizes are on offer…)

Audience referrrers_v.2Yes, ORO loves Google (82.69%, 642,185 downloads).  Unpicking it a bit I was surprised how little traffic gets referred from Twitter (0.19%, 1,438 downloads) and that more referrals actually come from Facebook (0.66%, 5,126).  I was also pleasantly surprised to see a significant minority of traffic coming from Library Search (1.89%, 14,671).  But, really, ORO loves Google.

So where in the world do these external downloads come from… Audience location_v.2 Again, no surprises, the UK the biggest country of referrals (41.6%, 185,834), followed by the US (10.81%, 48,282) and India in third (3.42%, 15,278).

So, whilst the individual stories can be fascinating, the overall picture is that downloads come direct from Google and are most likely to originate from the UK.  The take away is we need to ensure ORO remains visible to search engines, it doesn’t actually matter whether people “use” the website, as long as they can access the content.

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ORO Faculty Reports 2015-16

We’ve produced some Faculty Reports for the University Year 2015-16 based on the new Faculty structure. We’ve been able to report at School level which shows some interesting detail in both the downloads and deposits in the last University year and going back to 2009-10.



There are some challenges mapping old departments to new schools, especially where new Schools could not be previously mapped (e.g. The Law School).  This has resulted in varying degrees of Unaffiliated deposits and downloads, especially in FBL, nevertheless I think it’s a useful exercise.  Any feedback welcome!

FASS 2015-16 ORO Update (PDF)

STEM 2015-16 ORO Update (PDF)

WELS 2015-16 ORO Update (PDF)

FBL 2015-16 ORO Update (PDF)

IET 2015-16 ORO Update (PDF)

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HEFCE Open Access Policy – Update

Earlier this week HEFCE updated their Open Access policy. It had been expected that the time frame for deposit to a repository would shift from 3 months of first online publication to 3 months of acceptance from 1st April 2017 – this has been postponed. The policy has been updated to state:

“To take account of the need for systems to be developed to support deposit-on-acceptance, during the first two years of the policy (1 April 2016 – 1 April 2018), outputs can be deposited up to three months after the date of publication. This flexibility will be subject to a review of the readiness of systems within the sector in autumn 2017.”

Updated HEFCE Open Access Policy.

This uncertainty about the time frames of deposit to a repository is worth reflection. Firstly, it causes continuing problems in administering a policy that has shifted from its initial 3 months from acceptance, to 3 months from publication until April 2017, to, now, 3 months from publication until April 2018, subject to review...

Secondly, this delay highlights another problem with the policy – and it’s not just about having the appropriate systems in place! Where no embargo has been stipulated by the publisher, “deposit at point of acceptance” will often mean making the paper available in a repository before it is made available via the publisher platform.  Now this may well be the intention of the policy, but it’s a cause for concern for both authors and publishers who don’t operate in a Preprint culture.

Given the increasing number of papers in the UK being deposited in institutional repositories I’m unsure how publishers who don’t currently require an embargo will react.  One course of action for publishers would be to simply establish new embargo periods where previously there weren’t any.  But Green Open Access with long embargo periods isn’t really Open Access!  The risk is “deposit at point of acceptance” may provoke a response that undermines the Green Open Access route the policy attempts to exploit.

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Statista – a statistics portal with market and consumer data from over 600 industries

We would like to bring your attention to Statista, a statistics portal where OU researchers can easily find and use market and consumer data from over 600 industries.

The OU Library has a subscription to this resource and users can log in via this link or access it via our Statistics sources page.

Please see Statista’s introductory video for further information.



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Getting to grips with Research Data Management; training workshop 1st November 2016


Today I ran a training session for research staff and doctoral students on research data management. The slides are stored on slideshare: click on the link below the image

We run these sessions in November and again in May; so if you missed the session today and would like to attend the next workshop, keep an eye on the Research Career Development program.

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“Open Research for Academics” – lessons learned

I went to Open Research for Academics: A Workshop and Hackathon on Saturday. It was a really useful event that examined all aspects of openness in academia except open access publishing. Here are my main takeaways:

Journalists and style guides can provide tips on writing to make research more accessible

Simon Makin, a science journalist and former researcher, gave a great presentation crammed with practical advice on how researchers can write for a wider public. I won’t try and list all the pointers he gave here but I will link to his presentation if/when it becomes available online. He recommended “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White as a good starting point for those interested.

Academic writing does not necessarily have to be accessible

In contrast, Gary Hall, Professor of Media and Performing Arts and Director of the Centre for Disruptive Media at Coventry University, argued that academic writing does not have to be easy to read. This was a new perspective to me. I certainly agree that works which challenge their readers can force them to think and draw conclusions for themselves. However, it has to be accepted that not everybody will take up this challenge and that this style of communicating research is perhaps more suited to philosophy, for example, rather than STEM subjects.

I found it useful to have longstanding tensions in academia presented in a current context: higher education was discussed as an environment in which the academic desire to explore and express ideas freely contrasts with pressures to engage the public and address accusations of elitism and privilege. 

Openness takes different forms

Kat Jungnickel travels the country wearing her research in public. This is a very different approach to open research than the one I am used to, working as I do with the functional aspects of open access publishing. Kat’s Bikes and Bloomers project researches and recreates women’s convertible cyclewear from Victorian Britain and her rationale was striking: the clothing does not make sense if it is not worn by people and seen in action. She feels her research has to be performed to be fully appreciated and it was fascinating to hear her talk about putting the friction back into data in order to give a richer learning experience. This viewpoint contrasted and complemented that of the Frictionless Data project presented by Jo Barratt, which aims to make sharing and validating research data as easy as possible.

 Openness is a means to an end, not an end in itself

People need the capacity to use information as well as the freedom to access it. During Jo’s talk, an audience member criticised open data on the basis that, typically, only large companies have the expertise and infrastructure to really benefit from it. There may be counterexamples but this reinforced that the open movement often focuses on removing technical barriers to data use yet many non-technical barriers exist. These can take the form of social barriers, cultural barriers, financial barriers, educational barriers and so on.

Mark Carrigan, talking about social media and open research, claimed that academic understandings of dissemination are flawed, describing how openness alone won’t solve problems in society. Giving people research literature can only be part of an answer.

We can rethink using social media

Mark pointed out that academic use of social media can be seen as largely instrumental and individualistic, focusing on people demonstrating their value and promoting themselves. However, success for him comes via emphasising its social aspects in a way that dovetails with traditional notions of academic communication. In practice, this involves using social media more in terms of purposeful collaboration and exchange of ideas than to prove personal popularity.

He pinpointed a key issue: that social media is technically easy to use but hard for researchers to conceptualize how they should use.

Citizen science does not necessarily save researchers time or energy

Sophia Collins talked about The Nappy Science Gang, a citizen science project investigating cloth nappies. She felt that citizen science projects took as much time and energy as other science projects because participants, who are often not used to doing research, need a lot of support. It was noteworthy that Sophia had really made the effort to have the project designed and run by citizens as opposed to just using citizens to collect or analyse data in a project designed by professional researchers.

My thanks go to the organisers, Caspar Addyman and Bianca Elena Ivanof.  It was great to hear speakers from a variety of backgrounds and to be encouraged to challenge the structures within higher education: there’s not just one type of openness, not everything should be open, just making things open isn’t an end in itself.





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Roundup of “Metrics: what they are and how to use them”

Chris and I delivered a session entitled “Metrics: what they are and how to use them” today as part of the Research Career Development Programme at the OU. It was really enjoyable and we got some great engagement from the audience.

You can access our script/notes for the session here:

Metrics-what they are and how to use them-script-October 2016

The main takeaways from the session were:

  • Different databases can give different metric scores (i.e. a citation count for an article in Web of Science may not be the same as in Google Scholar)
  • Different databases provide different metrics
  • Metrics can be flawed and misleading, you need to understand how they work to engage with them fully
  • Curate your author profiles (e.g. in Scopus, ORCID, ResearchGate etc.) to ensure metrics about you are more accurate
  • Different author profile system offer different functionality, depending on their aims
  • It is not clear how metrics will be used in the next REF yet

When asked what they thought about metrics at the beginning of the session, there were attendees who commented on the fact there are numerous metrics out there (which can be confusing!), that metrics appear to be simple (but are not really), that metrics need to be understood and interpreted to make them useful and that metrics can help with literature searches.

When asked what they thought about metrics again at the end of the session, comments focused on the fact that metrics show what research is popular but not what is high quality. It was also asked whether the REF needed its own metric rather than relying on existing metrics.

Thanks to everyone who attended and please be aware that we are running the session again on Wednesday December 7th from 2-3.30pm. To book a place, please email

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