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‘Plum’ming the Depths of Altmetrics: OCLC and Plum Analytics Strike a Deal
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Posted On October 7, 2013


OCLC and Plum Analytics announced a partnership to integrate the WorldCat Search API into the PlumX analytics dashboard. Access to the data is enabled by OCLC WorldShare applications, and OCLC confirmed that this is the first deal of its kind that the nonprofit membership organization has implemented. It sees the deal as a way to “define how collections are being used and to provide researchers and libraries with an extended range of applications that take advantage of the same core data.”

An altmetrics company founded just over a year ago, Plum Analytics concentrates on tracking the impact of research beyond the traditional metrics that are based on citation counts, such as those supplied by the Journal Impact Factor from Thomson Reuters or the h-index, created by Jorge E. Hirsch, a physics professor.

Altmetrics looks at impact in other contexts. As Stacy Konkiel wrote in the July/August 2013 Online Searcher, “[V]alue can be assessed by tallying online shares, saves, reviews, adaptations, and social media usage related to research outputs of all kinds—not only traditional publications but also gray literature, digital scholarship, research blogs, datasets, and other modes of scholarly communication.” Plum lists all its metrics and categorizes them into five types: Usage, Captures, Mentions, Social Media, and Citations.

Plum Analytics is adding books and book chapters under the Usage category. Using OCLC’s WorldCat API, Plum can determine the number of libraries, worldwide, that hold a particular book title in their collections. The more libraries own a book, the more influential that title becomes, and, consequently, the more impact the author’s research is likely to have. Additionally, book chapters in compilations, where each chapter has a different author, will be tracked. If, for example, an English literature professor wrote a book about Chaucer and contributed chapters to books on early English literature, those would be gathered via the WorldCat API and added to Plum’s metrics.

A Plum Analytics blog post explains, “Giving access to library holdings data will help librarians, researchers and others to fully understand the impact of work especially in disciplines where book and book chapters represent a significant amount of research output. The seamless integration between PlumX and WorldCat helps scholars not only know how many books have been sold, but how many academic institutions hold those books for scholarship.”

On the PlumX dashboard, the WorldCat data is listed under Usage at the bottom of the page. Click on the number representing the holdings and Plum immediately takes you to WorldCat’s list of libraries owning the book, optimized by geography to show the libraries closest to your location. Use the browser’s back button to return to PlumX. Other impact metrics for books, also located at the bottom of the page, include Mentions, which lists the number of Amazon reviews, and the links out from Wikipedia.

Plum Analytics co-founder Mike Buschman said that books and book chapters matter more in the humanities and social sciences than in the hard sciences. When a multidisciplinary organization such as the Smithsonian Institution (a Plum customer) wants to know how its research efforts stack up in comparison with others, measuring the impact of astrophysicists is much easier than for cultural historians.

Looking ahead, Buschman would love to add other statistics about books. Library ownership of a title is only one element of impact. How many times it is borrowed through interlibrary loan or supplied through a document delivery company is another metric that OCLC might be able to contribute. What about tracking how many times a book chapter is assigned as required reading for courses? This could be possible if every chapter was assigned a DOI, but currently only a few publishers do this. Collecting data on the number of ebook downloads could also contribute to measuring research value.

Plum also has a new agreement in place with VIVO to incorporate VIVO participant’s profiles into PlumX. Researchers can augment their VIVO profiles with other research outputs and mentions of their work. Plum’s harvesting engine will then calculate metrics and provide both an analytics dashboard and visualizations.

As the world of alternative metrics expands and the definition of research impact enlarges to accommodate these other statistical measures, expect new developments from altmetrics companies such as Plum that will benefit libraries in their collection development efforts and support of researchers seeking funding, promotion, and research assistance.


Marydee Ojala is the editor-in-chief of Online Searcher magazine, chairs WebSearch University, and is Program Development Director for Enterprise Search Summit.

Email Marydee Ojala
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