Charlie Rapple
Charlie Rapple
Co-founder, Kudos

Kudos_butterfly-624x569Kudos is anew service, currently under development, designed to help scholars and their institutions increase the impact of their published research articles. We recently interviewed Charlie Rapple, co-founder of Kudos together with Melinda Kenneway and David Sommer. All three are publishing consultants and between them they have held senior roles at Oxford University Press, Publishing Technology, Blackwell, and Macmillan. They are supported by Leigh Dodds (Chief Technology Officer), Louise Russell (General Manager) and Charlotte Van Rooyen (Partner Relations).

 

1.  What problem did you set out to solve with Kudos?

 

There were three problems that seemed to us to be interconnected: first, the issue of information overload,with the number of published articles predicted to double every 20years, but academics not having any more time to read them. This means they need help to read more 'strategically', and be able to evaluate potential sources more efficiently so that the time they do have for reading is optimized. The second problem is that a lot of the materials that might support such 'strategic reading' exist only in silos, and often aren't made publicly available alongside the article - for example, the lay summaries produced as part of some journals' submission process; the impact statements submitted to funders; videos created for teaching or PR; slide decks put together for conferences; and so on. There's plenty of evidence that shows the presence of such materials can increase usage and/or citations - dramatically, in some cases - but because that evidence isn't being flagged up at the right points in the publishing process, there hasn't been an incentive either for publishers or for authors to make these materials more discoverable. Finally, academics often have excellent relationships with others who might find their work useful, but they don't necessarily make the most of these networks in terms of using them to share their articles or related materials. We had often talked about these three issues and began to see an idea emerging from the intersection between them: what if all those related materials could be pulled together into one place, and academics' existing networks could be used more effectively to share them, in order to enable more efficient 'strategic reading'?

 

2.      What exactly is Kudos - how does it work and what is your business model?

 

Kudos is a platform that helps academics to measure, monitor, and maximize the usage and impact of their published articles. First, it enables academics to create 'profiles' around their articles, by uploading simple metadata (short title, lay summary, impact statement) and links to related content (videos, slidedecks, data etc).Second, it provides them with guidance, templates, and trackable links for sharing these article profiles via social media and email. Crucially, both before and after these steps, it enables them to see usage statistics and altmetrics for their articles, as well as click rates for the links they've shared. This means they can measure current readership and discussion of their article, and monitor the effect of using the Kudos tools to maximize both of these. It ties into research impact and evaluation - particularly the need to understand these at the article, rather than the journal, level - and it builds on developments elsewhere (such as the altmetric movement, and the proliferation in academic profiles) by adding an 'action' layer: beyond measuring and monitoring, Kudos gives you the chance to maximize your impact and usage. One quote from our early research sums up the value of this:"I know I should do this," said a UK lecturer in social sciences, "but I don't feel confident enough." We want all academics to feel more confident about broadening the visibility of their work, so that maximum levels of usage and impact are not just the preserve of the few.

 

Our business model will be a freemium service for individual authors, and a membership model for institutions. A substantial part of the core service (everything that I've outlined above) will be free for academics; they'll be able to upgrade if they want to be able to compare their metrics to those of their peers (anonymously, in aggregate)and to receive more personalized guidance about where to focus their efforts for best results. Institutions,publishers, or others that represent groups of authors - e.g., funders or societies - can take up a membership that will enable them both to act as proxies for their authors (helping to complete and share profiles on their behalf) and also to access reports and undertake comparisons at the institutional level (comparing themselves to similar institutions). Our initial research shows a substantial appetite among all these groups, as the research environment becomes increasingly competitive for everyone.

 

3.      Can you tell us about the alpha launch?

 

We launched our alpha site in mid-September 2013 and had 1,000 academics sign up in the first 24 hours (two weeks later, we've got over 2,000 and the number continues to grow). This was staggering, not least because the alpha is a controlled study which is only open to about 50,000 authors. We've barely begun our roll-out - eligible authors have only had one email of the 6 or so that we plan to introduce them to different aspects of the service- and already 4% have signed up. The open rate of that initial email was 35%, which those who work in marketing will know is high. Our initial research showed that 85% of academics think more can be done to increase the visibility, usage, and impact of their work, and 75% would be personally willing to use tools such asKudos. It's been very encouraging to see that what academics *said* they would do is beginning to be borne out by what they are actually doing now that the alpha is live.

 

4.      What are the results so far?

 

It's fascinating to see how academics are using the service. On average, they are claiming about 1.5 articles each,and about 19% of these have had some sort of metadata or links added, or have been shared by social media or email. It's a widely held view in publishing that "academics can't write lay summaries", that they can't explain their work in plain English, but the examples we're seeing refute that view - some very dense scientific or theoretical abstracts are being digested into simple explanations of the article's overall finding, and why that is important to the field or to society more broadly. It's happening across disciplines, too; we deliberately chose a diverse group of partners for the alpha - AIP Publishing, Royal Society of Chemistry and Taylor & Francis - so that we could see whether subject area would be a factor in the level of author engagement. So far, our quick and dirty analysis indicates that it isn't - Kudos is being used to good effect by everyone from particle physicists to social historians - and all of the additional interest is ultimately directed back to the full text on the publishers'websites, with prominent "Read article" DOI links on all Kudos article profile pages.

 

5.      What’s been your biggest challenge to date?

 

Wrangling the data! We needed our publisher partners to provide not only article metadata (pretty straightforward) but also daily feeds of article-level usage data. That's not something for which there is much precedent in the industry. Our team includes the chair of COUNTER and co-founder of KBART, so we knew what we were up against; our excellent CTO Leigh Dodds and General Manager Louise Russell also have considerable experience at the back-end of online publishing, and our publisher partners were enthusiastic and positive in their approach, so we've managed to get good processes in place. This was probably the most Gordian of the knots we've had to work out, but in doing so we've created a clear standard that will make life much easier for everyone in future phases.

 

6.      What are your future plans for Kudos?

 

In our beta phase, from 2014, we'll be broadening the data set from the 120,000 or so articles currently in the system to at least 500,000; we'll shortly be finalizing the list of publishers who have signed up for the beta service - we're working mostly with publisher customers for the alpha and beta phase, as that is where the short-term value proposition (e.g. usage growth) lies. There will be further development of the technology - both front end and back end - for example, with the addition of an API and widgets to enable publishers to pull data out of Kudos for display alongside the full text. We will undertake a rigorous and nuanced analysis of the ongoing usage of the service: which activities are most effective? Does it matter which order you do them in - what if you share your article before adding any additional metadata or multimedia? Is Kudos proving particularly effective in any particular discipline, or region? During the course of the beta, the longer term value proposition (e.g. effect on citations) will become clearer, and we'll start to sign up a broader customer base - beyond publishers, for example, of institutions' research support groups, and of individual academics.

 

7.      How do you see Kudos fitting in with the broader ecosystem of researcher/author tools?

 

Our plans also include integration with as many other tools and systems as possible - for example,we currently enable single sign-on via Twitter or Facebook profiles, and would like to extend this to academic profiles such as ORCID, Academia.edu or ResearchGate, and to the various CRIS systems in use by institutions - to minimize the duplication of effort for authors. If academics don't yet have a profile anywhere - as, according to our research, 43% don't - then we'd like them to be able to create one in Kudos that we would then share with those other services. We anticipate, too, that populating the article profile could be part of manuscript submission and acceptance processes and systems. This is one reason why it's so important that Kudos is cross-publisher: no author is going to want to compile all this information in separate publisher-specific systems. If the information is gathered in the central Kudos database then it is 'portable' and only needs to be done once, even if the article ends up being submitted in multiple places. Meanwhile, we already incorporate usage statistics from the publisher, and data from Altmetric.com. In the long term, we will explore broadening our integration with other providers of metrics - from Mendeley shares to repository downloads to citation counts -to give academics the broadest possible range of measures to choose from, knowing that different things matter to different people, and that some metrics are more meaningful in some disciplines than in others.