Social Networks for Academics Proliferate, Despite Some Scholars Doubts

Here’s an article with an overview of online products out there for research social networking;  the big gap in the article is that no institutional products are included such as Profiles, VIVO, etc. This is noted in one of the comments at the end, by Titus Schleyer.

That aside, there are interesting opinions in this piece, a few clipped below, and perhaps pointing to the current status of the space,  where the sweet spot has not yet been found.  

“After six years of running Zotero, it’s not clear that there is a whole lot of social value to academic social networks,” says Sean Takats, the site’s director, who is an assistant professor of history at George Mason University. “Everyone uses Twitter, which is an easy way to pop up on other people’s radar screens without having to formally join a network.” 

Scholars aren’t interested in sharing original ideas on such sites, [Christopher Blanchard, an adjunct professor of community and regional planning at Boise State University] now believes, “because they’re afraid they’ll be ripped off” and because they simply don’t have the time.

“We have thousands of new discussions taking place every day—scientists helping scientists without getting anything for it,” [Dr. Madisch, of ResearchGate] says. “Three years ago, people were smiling at me and saying that scientists aren’t social. They won’t share information. They were wrong.”

Social Networks for Academics Proliferate, Despite Some Scholars Doubts – Technology – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Describing the Difference Research Has Made to the World

Here is an interesting new blog post by Heather Piwowar about the different ways research can impact the world and the importance of telling them apart. Good food for thought as we think about ways to help researchers analyze how people are reading, bookmarking, sharing, discussing, and citing research online.

I think Anirvan made a great point to think about ways how we can integrate “altmetrics” data with UCSF Profiles. Some of the metrics mentioned below may be a great starting point.

Here’s what Heather writes:

Figuring out the flavors of science impact. CC-BY-NC by maniacyak on flickr

We have clustered all PLoS ONE papers published before 2010 using five metrics that are fairly distinct from one another: HTML article page views, number of Mendeley reader bookmarks, Faculty of 1000 score, Web of Science citation counts as of 2011, and a combo count of twitter, Facebook, delicious, and blog discussion.

We normalized the metrics to account for differences due to publication date and service popularity, transformed them, and standardized to a common scale. We tried lots of cluster possibilities; it seems that five clusters fit this particular sample the best.

Here is a taste of the clusters we found.  Bright blue in the figure below means that the metric has high values in that cluster, dark grey means the metric doesn’t have much activity.  For example, papers in “flavour E” in the first column have fairly low scores on all five metrics, whereas papers in “flavour C” on the far right have a lot of HTML page views and Sharing (blog posts, tweeting, facebook clicking, etc) activity. View image and read on

Further reading:

AMIA 2012 Joint Summit: a report back in tweets

Eric, Leslie, and I from CTSI at UCSF’s Virtual Home team spent the past three days at the AMIA 2012 Joint Summit in San Francisco.

Here’s some of what was happening on the researcher networking, social networking, knowledge representation fronts, and public search front, via Twitter:

Other tweets that caught my eye from the rest of the conference:

Using Research Networking Effectively in Academia: UCSF-CTSI Team Presents On National AMIA Panel

Three of us from the Virtual Home team at CTSI went to this year’s AMIA (American Medical Informatics Assoc) meeting in DC and presented on a panel with Griffin Weber of Harvard University. The panel was called “Four Steps to Using Research Networking Effectively at Your Institution”

Griffin spoke on cutting edge features of research networking tools, such as linked open data and social network analysis.

Eric Meeks of UCSF spoke on standard APIs, such as OpenSocial, to leverage a community of developers, I spoke about incentivize usage and understand your audience, and to round it out, Brian Turner spoke about using data, tools and strangers to improve user interfaces.

The panel presentation was a 90 minute break out session and we were happy to have a good turnout and an engaged audience. I think that the work that UCSF has put into the ‘social engineering’ of the tool has really paid off. Our usage and engagement numbers are on the rise and comparatively speaking, Griffin mentioned that our traffic is about 5-times that of what Harvard Profiles is currently getting.

In addition, Eric also had a poster session at the meeting!

The UCSF presentations will be up on Slideshare, available on the CTSI channel and via our individual UCSF profiles:

Real-Time Stats from Google Analytics: Could we integrate the data with our UCSF Profiles activity stream and future dashboards?

I’m wondering what our tech team thinks about that…  

The “New Version” link is in the top right of Google Analytics. Real-Time reports are in the Dashboards tab (though they will move to the Home tab in the updated interface next week) .

More information

Notes from the 2011 Medicine 2.0 Summit at Stanford

Some argue that as technology advances it turns into a barrier and prevents essential human interactions, such as at the bedside. Even though this is a concern that we need to address, the Medicine 2.0 Summit 2011 provided a lot of examples that showed how technology can turn into a powerful mediator.

For those interested who did not get the chance to attend the event, here is a list of the main topics and initiatives presented that use social media, mobile computing applications, as well as Web 2.0 in healthcare and medicine to create new ways for people to connect. Please feel free to add your impressions and ideas of the summit and conference. Thanks!

1. If you are interested in learning from ePatients on how to build and leverage communities of practice and participatory medicine, you might want to explore the following blogs and platforms: 

  • Amy Tenderich’s blog,
  • SmartMobs, authored by Howard Reingold, who was diagnosed with colon cancer and shared his experience on a blog called Howard’s Butt
  • PatientsLikeMe, where more than 115,000 members with over 1,000 conditions share their experiences to see what interventions are working for others

2. Patients have been connecting for some time. However, how can we help connect physicians and patients in a meaningful way? During the session “The Healthcare Transformers”, the panelists presented their views on personalizing healthcare and new ways for physicians and patients to communicate. 

  • Jay Parkinson, founder of HelloHealth and Futurewell, shared his passion about using creative design to improve health — and a few critical lessons learned (including” innovation is lonely” and “colleagues are critics”) as he and colleagues opened a “virtual clinic”, a “web-based patient communication, practice management and electronic health record in one solution”.
  • Lee Aase from the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media gave a very entertaining talk on social media in the spirit of “Suus non ut Difficile” (It’s not that hard).  See one of their latest success stories: “When Patients Band Together – Using Social Networks To Spur Research for Rare Diseases”. They are very proactive about arming their health care professionals with the right tools to leverage social media for their successful communication. They even started a “Social Media Residency”. Aase also introduced the Social Media University, Global (SMUG), a post-secondary educational institution dedicated to providing practical, hands-on training in social media to lifelong learners.
  • Bryan Vartabedian, pediatric gastroenterologist, writes an interesting blog 33charts  about “the convergence of social media and medicine”.
  • Wendy Sue Swanson, practicing pediatrician, mother, and author of SeattleMamaDoc, walks a fine line and shares resources and methods that she learns from her patients, friends and family, both in and out of the field of medicine. She applies the concept of storytelling to achieve her goal of helping parents decipher some of the current medical news.
  • Ron Gutman, founder and CEO of HealthTap , who we wrote about in our earlier post, presented his solution to ending health care communication in silos. Some of the latest updates include 1) peer review features which will help give great questions more weight in the HealthTap environment, 2) offering a mobile solution, and 3) allowing participating doctors to be notified of questions coming from local patients.

3. “The Knowledge Revolution”: If you are interested in using innovations in Medical Education, you might find the following projects of interest:

  • Bertalan Mesko from provides curated medical social media resources in over 80 medical topics in over 17 languages to help patients and medical professionals access the most relevant social media content in their own languages on a customizable, easy-to-use platform for free.
  • Parvati Dev from Clinispace presented their virtual, 3D virtual training environment for healthcare professionals where learners can practice on realistic virtual medical scenarios and recover safely from errors.

4. The panel on  “The Interconnected Life” discussed social tools and platforms such as Epocrates, Google Correlate, which finds search patterns which correspond with real-world trends, and Quora.

5. During the panel “The New Scientist”, Michael Conlon presented VIVO , an “open source semantic web application”, a tool that is – like Profiles, Loci and others –  used or being implemented by universities across the nation to enable and support scientific collaborations and expertise discovery. 

  • Jan Reichelt, Co-Founder and President at Mendeley, talked about how the tool, a free reference manager and academic social network, helps investigators organize their research, collaborate with others online, and discover the latest research.
  • Peter Bienfield from PlosOne reminded us that most of the 1.5 Million papers published every year are still “closed access”. However, as established publishers experiment with “open access”, e.g.,  Sage Open , BMJ Open , Biology Open ,and Scientific Reports ,  they validate the model…
  • And, David Pescovitz explained how he is looking for “signals” to identify far-out ideas. He is editor for Boing Boing and MAKE as well as research director with the Institute for the Future.

6. Dennis Boyle, IDEO Founding Member and Partner, gave an interesting closing keynote on “design thinking” and “a human-centered approach to innovation.” He highlighted some of their recent projects… worth exploring….

 More information:

How to run a hack day

Science Hack Day San Francisco

Science Hack Day San Francisco 2010

We’re considering running a half-day event for campus developers and webmaster to learn about and tinker with UCSF Profiles’ open APIs and OpenSocial development platform. Whether you call it a hack day, a hackathon, a code-a-thon, or a developer day, the idea’s the same—bringing together technologists to learn, experiment, create, and share.

So how do you run a hack day? Here are some essential hackathon to-dos from my friend Sumana Harihareswara, based on work done for the Wikimedia Foundation:

  • A public wiki page stating the date, time, and venue, and specifying that everyone is welcome. Also tell people what to bring (laptop and power cord), ask them for topic ideas, and ask them to put their names down — no obligation.
  • Outreach/publicity drive, starting at least six weeks in advance, to relevant communities. Ideally you’d get the word out to technical interest groups, local user groups, consultants and other businesses in the industry, individuals whom you want to attend, professors and colleges and universities and technical schools and trainers, email lists, and (if relevant to your audience) newspapers.
  • Some experienced developers. I don’t know the exact ratio, but perhaps a fifth of your participants should be people who have had some experience in developing Wikimedia/MediaWiki stuff, loosely defined. You need some seeds.
  • Documentation tools & some people who will take notes with them (more below).
  • Lightweight tracking. At some point, somehow, at the event, get every participant’s name and email address. That way you can follow up and continue encouraging them after the event.

Because this would be our first time sharing our UCSF Profiles APIs with a wide internal audience, we’ll also need to get our own house in order, to make sure we’re ready to share:

  • Document every API that will be presented, and ensure that it’s comprehensible to our target audience
  • Develop sample “hello world” applications, so our audience can get started quickly, and pull apart working examples
  • Finalize policies around API licensing and data reuse, so developers aren’t left in the lurch if they want to build on our work

Read more:

Google Scholar Citations – an easy way to get citation metrics into UCSF Profiles?

Recently Google launched Google Scholar Citations: a simple way for you to compute your citation metrics and track them over time, per this blog post.

I went in to check it out on July 25, 2011 and ‘signed up’ – and here’s what I found. NOTE: apparently this is a limited launch with a small number of users, so if you can’t sign up, you can provide your email address to be notified when they open it up to everyone.

1. I went to:

2. I logged into my Google account and then followed their 4 step process of claiming my citation profile. Here are the steps:

3. Step 1 was creating the Google scholar Profile – this entailed putting in my name, title, institution email address. (sorry no screen shot).

4. Step 2 is to import “Your articles.” The system automatically shows me what it found and then I went in to “claim” which articles were mine. Once I click the “This is mine” button next to every article that is mine, the button changes to “Remove” (if I want to change my mind). A few notes here:

a. The Google search found my articles in PubMed, and also some patent applications, but I know I had one article that isn’t it PubMed and this one was not found.

b. It was easy for me to claim my articles as I only had 3 items. For people with hundreds of articles to claim, I’m not sure how easy they make it to claim your work.

5. Step 3 is to configure your updates for Google scholar

6. Step 4 – Go to view your profile, which is private by default. Change this to public if you want others to find it (and if you want to create a link to it from your UCSF Profile)

Clicking on a specific article gets you to:

7. If you’ve made your Google Scholar Profile public, you can grab this Google URL and easily create a link to citation metrics in your UCSF Profile. Log in to UCSF Profiles and edit the Websites associated with your profile. See a screenshot of mine below, or view it live.

We’ve got some other ideas on how this work can intersect with UCSF Profiles and our work with research networking tools … in more robust ways than this. But in less than 10 minutes, I was able to do the above.

Industry embraces the semantic web! Just like us, only different….

Google, Bing!, and Yahoo announced an initiative on June 2, 2011 to create, a web site that will promote standard ways of adding machine readable (semantic) data to all of our web pages.  As a validation of the semantic web, this is great news.

However, they are supporting a different format for exposing semantic data than what we use in biomedical informatics, so what does that mean for our way of doing things?  More specifically, we have become proponents of RDFa as the “serialization format” for exposing our semantic data. RDFa is how VIVO exposes semantic data, it’s how the future versions (and current Harvard version) of Profiles will expose semantic data, and it’s intrinsically tied to our support of machine readable ontologies such as vivo and foaf. will support a different serialization format known as “microdata”.  Some are seeing this as the possible death of RDFa:  Others are not sure if it is a threat or opportunity:  At least one person thinks this is actually good for RDFa:  The creators are aware of the controversy they have created with their support of microdata versus RDFa, and they do a good job of explaining their decisions here:

The general consensus seems to be that RDFa is in many ways a more complete solution for semantic expression than microdata, but RDFa is difficult and intimidating for developers to grasp and therefore suffers from adoption outside of certain niche fields (such as BioMed2.0). We don’t mind handling the difficulty of RDFa because our field has already forced us to deal with the challenges of sharing large complex data sets and to wrap our heads around ontologies and other semantic concepts.

One way to interpret this would be to say that what we are doing with the semantic web in BioMed is great, and that we should continue down our path while industry takes a baby step into the semantic web with the more-pragmatic if less-complete microdata approach.  At the surface, this would seem like a fine solution.  The problem is: now we have industry and BioMed on different paths.  For those people (like us at UCSF) who want to combine the best technical solutions from industry with the best technical solutions of academia and research, this can be a problem.

In particular at UCSF we want to combine our “academic” BioMed semantic web solutions with the “industry” OpenSocial specification to create something that is a better way to publish and share data rich applications than either one of those technologies can support by themselves today.  In pursuing this we’re already seeing issues with bridging RDFa into the JSON centric world of OpenSocial.  Mapping RDFa to JSON is a tough problem to solve, and a number of solutions have been proposed (search RDFa and JSON) without any clear winner.  However with microdata, going from semantic web to JSON/OpenSocial might not be as hard.  Given industries favor of pragmatism over elegance, and the recognition that JSON is THE dominant data exchange method on the web today, this would hardly be surprising.  So…., for some of us this “support of the semantic web & simultaneous challenge to RDFa” may be good news after all!

Now we just need to deal with the very real problem of getting VIVO, Profiles and the rest of our BioMed2.0 systems to produce microdata as well as RDFa.  And why not?  Supporting one format, even by mandate, does not mean you shouldn’t support another.  If you want to share data and ideas, which we say we want to do, then the more the merrier.