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Posts Tagged ‘chemistry’

In the Shadow of Bibliometric Analysis

Posted by gazjjohnson on 19 March, 2009

As anyone who’s following me on Twitter knows, the last week or so has been rather dominated by my work on bibliometrics.  Let me state up front here, I’m not a bibliometrician (sounds worryingly close to mathamagician to me) nor statistician, rather I’m a former scientist who spent a lot of time working with stats in another life.  I sat in on a meeting about statistical teaching last week which served to rather poitnly remind me of all the things I used to know how to do (linear regression, chi squared, two tailed T-tests etc). 

On the other hand I’ve always quite enjoyed working with data collection and simple anaysis; when I was a library researcher at Univ Warwick I spent quite a bit of time doing just this.  So this does mean that any outputs that I produce aren’t going to be stunningly complex, but they should help people to get a picture based on fact.  This, and my role as LRA personage involved in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) preparations, are doubtless why I was tapped by Louise to run a bibliometric profile of the Chemistry dept. 

Bibliometrics, in case you didn’t know, is the analysis applied to texts or information.  In this case I was asked by the Dept. to run a sample profile of their publication outputs; in an attempt to establish where they stand in relation to the rest of the academic world.  In practise this meant taking a sizable sample (half the departmental academics) and looking at which journals they’ve published in over the last 9 years (2001-date).  This is a key range for a number of reasons – firstly due to the suggestion that the REF will take account of publications back to this date.  It’s also due to the fact that Journal Citation Reports (JCR) only goes back to 2000 online, so it’d be harder work to analyse publications beyond this point.

Now whilst the results are naturally confidential at this point I can tell you about what I sample in brief

  • Article outputs– Number of articles produced and indexed within the time frame.
  • Citation counts – Number of references to articles produced.
  • H Index– The Hirsh Index quantifies both the actual scientific productivity and the apparent scientific impact of a scientist. It is increasingly viewed as a major indicator of academic esteem.   Anything over 100-120 and you’re into Nobel laureate territory.
  • Journal Impact Factors – A measure of how often all articles in a specific journal have been cited.   Usually the most common “How important is this journal?” value.
  • Cited Half Life – measures the number of years, going back from the current year, that account for half the total citations received by the cited journal in the current year. 

From these I’ve been able to profile the departmental research publications as a whole, as well as getting an idea about the impact of the individual contributions to it.  Quite looking forward to discussing the results with Chemistry in the near future.

The biggest challenge (data collection aside, which currently is very long winded) is knowing when to stop.  I’m still very new to bibliometrics, and my inner scientist kept suggestion other ways to contrast the data or to analyse it.  Essentially I could have been at this for weeks.  And since we’re still not quite sure what metrics the REF will be using there didn’t seem much point in going to far with the first attempt.

There’s also the question of benchmarking.  Raw stats on our depts are all well and good – but where do they stand contrasted with the rest of the world?  That’s something that I might need to follow up on, but would likely be a far more time consuming operation than a week’s work.  For now the Chemists might just need to trade notes on H Factors held by comparator academics, in contrast with their own.


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Crossing the peaks for CrossFire

Posted by gazjjohnson on 27 November, 2008

Yesterday I went across the peaks to the University of Manchester for a CrossFire training session.  Though I’ve actually taught a session recently to PhD Chemists on CrossFire and SciFinder scholar, but I have to confess that most of the material I was using was largely cribbed from their online help guides.  Yesterday was all about getting my comprehension of how the database functions and is searched up to a much higher level. 

I’m no Chemist, but I have come back with a much broader appreciation about how to support this resource and search it.  I’ve even come to be reasonably fond of the interface, which before scared the living daylights out of me.  It was a bit of pity that the training room we were in had some sort of IP conflict for the resource, which meant that some of the time our searches just dropped out of contact with the server giving null responces at random.  But Jo from Mimas worked around that very well; I certainly was impressed with her professionalism underfire having had to run sessions myself where databases have not worked quite as they should (RefWorks comes to mind).

One of the things I wasn’t aware of before the session was the reason CrossFire is only updated every three months is the sheer complexity of the dataset.  What I also didn’t realise is that the version we use if generally 6-9 months out of date, due to the time it takes for Mimas to get their hands on the dataset and then upload it themselves.  Certainly a little info nugget I’ll be passing onto my students.  That said it is a totally brillaint resource for Chemists, and one that I hope they continue to use.  My day was well spent learning more about it.


A word on East-West rail travel.  It seems the trains that used to run cross country Nottingham-Manchester are down to just three a day in the early morning.  Thus I could get there okay, but coming back had to change twice (three times if I’d not driven to the station in the first place).  All of which made a journey that used to take under two hours now take closer to 4.  Having spent the vast bulk of yesterday on trains/platforms it will certainly make me think twice about heading over to events on that side of the country; which I think is a real shame.  Maybe when the new timetables come out it’ll be easier, but I have my doubts.

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I’m all alone, all by myself…

Posted by gazjjohnson on 12 November, 2008

Maybe it was my aftershave.

Just returned from “running” by PhD chemistry databases session. I say “running” as despite having been there a good ten minutes early to clear the room of errant undergrads and there until 2.35pm not a single solitary PhD Chemistry showed their face in the room.

It’s enough to give a librarian a complex.  Ah well, I’ve been stood up before and doubtless I’ll be stood up again.  At least the weather was fine and a walk in the sun was lovely.

I will say that Twitter proved a very valuable tool though during these bleak 35 minutes as I discussed the issue of student inattendance, how long is polite/permissible to hang around before you have to call the deal done and even discussing chemistry resources with another academic.  So at least the time wasn’t wasted.

Personally I found the day and half of teaching prep and production of the handouts useful in my own learning and development.  I know a lot more about CrossFire and SciFinder Scholar than I did before this week.

Now the session was mandatory for the students, so I popped by the office of the Graduate Secretary to fill her in on the situation and I have to say she was wonderful.  I think she was more miffed than I was about them not turning up.  Handed over all the guides, so maybe somehow the students will learn something from my endevours – and next year’s prep won’t take half the time!

Now enough of that and onto a spot of bibliometrics…

Slides from the session are at:

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