Yesterday we announced the roll out of Altmetric across all Wiley journals. Today we bring you an interview with Amy Brand, VP at Digital Science, the division of Macmillan which produces Altmetric.
Q. What is Digital Science and what is your role there?
A. Digital Science is a relatively young division of Macmillan Science and Education that invests in and incubates academic start-ups. More specifically, we support entrepreneurs who are developing software to accelerate scientific research, either by facilitating aspects of the research cycle directly or by facilitating the administration of the research process.
I wear two hats at Digital Science. One is as VP North America, overseeing our North American operations and office, which is located in Cambridge, MA. The other is as VP Academic and Research Relations, cultivating relationships with North American universities and serving as a domain expert on their research, administrative, and policy needs.
Q. How did your previous experience prepare you for this role?
A. I’ve had a long and varied career immersed in scientific and scholarly communications: as an MIT-trained researcher, executive editor at The MIT Press, Director of Business and Product Development at CrossRef, manager of Harvard’s Office for Scholarly Communication and then Assistant Provost, founding member of ORCID’s board of directors. So I’ve spent my whole professional life in the scholarly communications field, with deep dives as a research scientist, publisher, business and product development lead, and university administrator. The move to Digital Science seems quite natural to me, and I feel I bring a rather unusual well-roundedness to the job, with true insight into the perspectives of all stakeholders in the research enterprise. I also bring an extensive web of stakeholder connections that are very valuable in my new position.
Q. What products has Digital Science developed for researchers and what problems are they looking to solve?
A. We currently have seven start-ups in the Digital Science portfolio, offering a range of technologies.
In the science metrics space:
Symplectic Elements is a research management system for research administrators, enabling them to track their research activities and outputs.
- Altmetric tracks a wide array of impact indicators and analyzes online activity around scholarly publications.
- ÜberResearch provides grants analytics and business intelligence for funding agencies.
In the knowledge discovery space:
- ReadCube offers enhanced PDF reading and navigation, along with document sharing and management capabilities.
- In the research tools space:
LabGuru is a modular web-based laboratory management system that can track all components of the laboratory research process.
- figshare is a cloud-based repository where users can make all of their research outputs available in citable, shareable and discoverable form
- BioRaft support environmental health and safety offices in research enterprises by streamlining and improving their health and safety compliance processes.
Q. You have a PhD in Cognitive Science. What is one technology you wish had been available to you as a researcher?
A. I completed my PhD about 25 years ago, and I recall lots of time spent in the MIT Libraries locating the print books and journals I needed for my research, as well as time spent traveling to other university libraries to access their dissertation collections. So, at that point in time it would have been miraculous just to have all of these materials readily available online, as they are today.
Q. What are the major benefits of Altmetric? Do you feel that altmetrics are going to break down the strength of the impact factor and/or have they already?
A. Altmetric is extremely useful to publishers and institutions because it aggregates the full range of article-level attention and impact indicators into one interface. Altmetric captures hundreds of thousands of tweets, blog posts, news stories and other content that mention scholarly articles each week, and its scoring visualization allows for quick quantitative and comparative analyses. From a researcher perspective, it’s satisfying to be able to easily see who is discussing your work and what they are saying.
Impact factor and article level metrics are used very differently. Impact factor is a proxy for journal quality, and in my experience isn’t directly referenced in the academic evaluation process, mainly because experts already know which journals in their fields are better than others. On the other hand, article-level indicators like citation counts provide direct information about how influential a researcher’s work is. Supplementing that kind of citation-based measure with other indicators of online attention provides a more complete picture of influence, especially with the ability to factor in who is paying attention and what they are saying.
Q. How is Readcube improving the reader experience? What are its main benefits?
A. ReadCube provides a very innovative reading technology, and it’s available through desktop, mobile and web apps. It really changes the way readers interact with scholarly literature. Whether they are making comments on an article with annotation tools, exploring the relationships between what they’re reading and other articles with interactive inline references, interrogating the publication histories of authors with a single click, or reviewing contextual article information – which, by the way, can include supplementary information and altmetrics -- they will have far more at their disposal with ReadCube than they ever had with the PDF. Also, ReadCube's reference manager and citation tools offer a complete solution for discovery, reading, organization, and citing.
Q. What’s next for Digital Science?
A. Digital Science is entering a very exciting period as several of our portfolios have matured and are now poised for a serious push into the global publisher and institutional markets. We’ve also just announced the launch of our Digital Research Reports, a new quarterly series of publications about research data and analytical possibilities in a practical, applied context.
Some great new partnerships and investments will be announced in coming months, so stay tuned! You can keep up-to-date with Digital Science's news via our social media accounts.