Researchers typically know where to find journal articles, reference books, and other materials on topics that interest them—but it can be difficult to separate trustworthy blogs from those that might, intentionally or otherwise, spread misinformation. That’s where the ACI Scholarly Blog Index, a curated collection of scholarly blogs for the academic market, comes in. It’s the only repository of scholarly blogs that can promise researchers they’re finding the best content, thanks to a rigorous vetting process and crowdsourced author updates.
Branching Out Into Scholarly Blogs
ACI Information Group is an aggregator of tens of thousands of curated social media publications in the academic, corporate, government, and nonprofit sectors. It was the first company to aggregate blogs, giving researchers a way to find sources outside of traditional media. Clients licensing blogs from ACI include LexisNexis, Thomson Reuters, ProQuest, and Gale. “About 2 years ago,” says Larry Schwartz, ACI’s president, “we started looking around for other markets and other segments that could be opportunities for us, and we settled into looking at the scholarly blogs and applying them to the academic library space.”
The index has developed the same approach as ACI’s commercial venture: find blogs, research their reliability, put them through an editorial process, sign contracts to get their full texts, bring them into the ACI system, and provide them to clients. To work on the index, the company brought in a team of experts in the academic sector that includes Pat Sabosik, the ACI Scholarly Blog Index’s general manager.
“I understand the space pretty well, and I understand the academic market pretty well, so I was really excited about an opportunity to work with Larry and his team on something that was social,” says Sabosik. “I began to do some work in the social space at Gartner, developing a peer-to-peer private network, but it wasn’t anywhere near what we’ve just done with the scholarly blogs.”
The index had its soft launch in January 2015 and is currently in the testing phase with a group of university libraries. With showcases at the Association of College and Research Libraries’ biennial conference in March and the upcoming Society for Scholarly Publishing (May) and Special Libraries Association (June) annual conferences, the index is slowly being rolled out to the academic space, says Schwartz, while helping to rebrand ACI at the same time. The company began life in 2004 as Newstex, but Schwartz felt that the news angle didn’t adequately portray its value to academic libraries. Newstex is now a product within ACI that is geared to commercial ventures, and the ACI Scholarly Blog Index is its academic product.
Gathering the Blogs
“We really see a trend in early-career scientists and early-career researchers, even in the social sciences, [that they’re] owning their research topics on the web, talking about what they’re going to do. And then post-publication, [we see] a lot of blogging on discoveries, positions, opinions, reports,” according to Sabosik. She says ACI built up the index’s content store so that it has “enough heft and enough volume to make it attractive to researchers”—right now, that means nearly 15,000 blogs and growing.
ACI uses RSS feeds to follow these blogs, and as new posts are published, they are pushed out to the index, updating it in real time. The company typically processes 5,000–10,000 blog posts each week. “It fluctuates … depending on who is writing, what’s the season, and how much is [being written], but we’re averaging about 10,000 blog posts a week,” says Sabosik. “We expect to exceed a million blog posts definitely by the end of the year, and probably before that.”
ACI’s team (which includes several librarians) selects blogs for inclusion in the index if they meet two sets of criteria:
- Does the blog contain original, current scholarship? Do the posts contain aspects of analysis, observation, or commentary?
- Does the author have academic credentials in the field in which he or she blogs? (e.g., Is an engineer blogging about engineering, not literature?)
The team also has to ensure that ACI has a balanced collection, says Sabosik, with quality blogs in all academic areas. “We’re rejecting about 50% of what we find, and just because we want to make sure that we’re not including things that for example are something like link bait—it’s just somebody providing a list of links of things that they found interesting, with no commentary,” she says. The index is currently about 40% social sciences, which encompasses fields such as business, politics, law, and economics, says Sabosik. Scientists are also becoming active bloggers, along with people in the digital humanities field.
Indexing the Posts
Posts are categorized by up to three Library of Congress (LC) classifications and have embedded citation management tools, including EasyBib, Zotero, EndNote, and Mendeley. The index also features embedded Twitter feeds and analytics about authors and blogs. ACI does not index comments, but it records the number of comments on blog posts to indicate whether the posts have generated interest or controversy.