ecitations -- the missing ingredient for eprint success?

From: Dr. John R. Skoyles <skoyles_at_BIGFOOT.COM>
Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2000 20:52:14 +0100


Cogprints is at best only most moderately successful. Maybe, it is because
it lacks that key component still restricted to orthodox paper journals --
citation rankings.

But it need not be -- at least for the key measure of a paper -- its
visitations. Counters are standard upon commercial websites, and
sophisticated software exists to enable webmanagers to see how many people
are clicking on their pages. What if each uploaded paper at cogprint had a
counter and this was used to provide yearly visitation lists. Click on the
cogprint homepage and you could check out a list of the top ten visited
papers for 2000. The top ten papers visited [by different people]. The top
ten authors [total number of visits to all their work]? Top ten by various
categories: biology, computer science, linguistics etc. Top ten by peer
reviewed papers, by conference proceedings and so on. Which
and etc had its associated papers most visited? Obviously,
such counts could be cheated by researchers putting their own papers on
reading lists and getting students clicking in. But the existence in
citation rankings of papers that are cited merely because of offering
special research techniques does not invalidate the citation index as a
whole. And anyway means exist to get a fair estimate of paper visitation --
a paper getting all its visitations in a particular month (suggestion
linkage to a particular course) might be weighted against one with the same
number spread over the year.

This might seems information of curiosity value only. But I suggest its
absence is holding back the eprint movement. Simply uploading papers at
present has no feedback upon ones reputation -- no one has ever because of
this put an extra line on their CV -- no, 'I was the author of top ten most
visited uploaded papers'. Cogprints is silent to what gets researchers most
motivated -- their ranking to other ones. That matters since is competition
to upload papers. But that might change if appointment committees looked
down CVs and checked for eprint visitation ranking in the way they do now
days for citation impacts. In such a world, no researcher would let
themselves be left out. It does not even need such appointment committees
to exist for researchers to be concerned about them -- even the prospect
that they will exist in ten years will motivate uploading due to the
advantage of early birds that upload and get papers into the internet
linkage web will have over later comers.

Another related question: looking around sites, people are creating lists
of papers with links -- many courses are now accompanied not by paper
reading lists but webpages where the uploaded paper tends to be mentioned
because it offers instant reading access. Has any spider counted which
eprints are most commonly linked? Does -- the de facto academic
search engine -- gather which searched links get most clicked?

Again, if you want people to upload, motivation must exist and that can be
created by erankings. If nothing else, the publication of such ranking
lists of the most linked epapers will make researchers aware of the key
advantage of being on the internet for the up and coming generation of
students who will cite them later on in their own work.

Does visitation matter for reputation? Well, suppose technology existed
that let paper journals know the number of times a paper journal was opened
to be read in the library or study. Do you think that knowledge would be
ignored -- I suggest to you that it would be valued in the same manner that
we present treat citations. Of course, technology does not exist and can
never exist to count the number of times a person opens a particular page
in a paper journal. The information for knowing this, however, does exist,
for cogprints. It just is not being gathered. It should.

Dr. John R. Skoyles
6 Denning Rd,
Hampstead, NW3 1SU
London, UK

In the autumn, I will be at the London School of Economics, Centre for
Philosophy of Natural and Social Science.

Check out my Golden House-Sparrow award winning homepage
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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