June 8, 2015 | Matthew Johnson, Editor of Global Discourse

Altmetric, social media, and impact


Altmetric data has now been added to Taylor & Francis Online and Cogent OA, enhancing the article metrics currently available on both journal platforms. Added to all journal articles published since January 2012, Altmetric data will offer users a more complete picture of how people are engaging with research articles from Taylor & Francis Group, whether via traditional or social media, blogs or online reference managers. Matthew Johnson, Editor of Global Discourse tells us how he is using these metrics.

From Matthew Johnson, Editor of Global Discourse

Developing a relatively new journal is difficult for a range of reasons. Fostering a steady flow of submissions and a sufficiently broad readership are related tasks dependent on establishing credibility and authority. In an age of social media and the impact agenda, there are new and distinct means of establishing those qualities. Previously, it was often the case that the value of a publication lay in its being, in some way, esoteric and accessible only to the finest minds. Now, authors can emerge with credibility by virtue of the fact that they are read widely and do inform non-academic forums. This is often dismissed as not really being in the spirit of academia – “just good journalism,” is one esteemed emeritus professor’s account of prominent young international relations scholars. However, there is a strong case to suggest that academia should contribute to society’s understanding of the world and I think that we should mourn lightly any loss of esotericism for the sake of esotericism. As journal editors, the changing climate should be seen as an opportunity to contribute in this way, not least since doing so these days accumulates credibility and authority.

In developing Global Discourse, we have always sought to achieve engagement between author, reviewer, and reader, through our discursive publishing model of articles and replies and book review symposia, between disciplines and between academics and non-academics. Having the Taylor & Francis platform, using social media to publicize our material and carefully selecting papers for time-limited free access, has ensured that that engagement is now more successful than it was when the journal was independent and open access.

Tweets announcing the publication of papers made a serious difference, especially where the author was a Twitter user and could retweet the tweet, radically increasing and, in some cases, multiplying several times the number of downloads within a matter of days. In one case, an article that had been downloaded 300 times over the course of several months was suddenly downloaded over 900 times in a couple of weeks. In another, effective timing of publication on a topic of public interest, combined with publicity through social media, ensured that an article that was only added to an issue at the last minute helped to change and shape the nature of the debate beyond academia. It is through this expanded readership and associated impact that the journal has developed credibility and authority.

Understanding this basis for credibility and authority enables editors to think much more effectively about the development of their journals. Altmetric offers an opportunity for editors to be much more precise and focused in their efforts. Tracing impact in social media enables editors to think more clearly about publicity, but it also helps us to identify topics to target in terms of special issues and solicited submissions. This does not mean that editorial decisions should be determined by impact concerns, but there are ways in which editorial strategy can be sensitive and reach out to the readership without compromising the broader commitments of the journals. These can only be understood fully through the sort of detailed, focused data provided through the new system. Although caution should be exercised and it should be assumed that no strategy guarantees success, tailoring the shape of content in light of that data increases the chances of accumulating credibility and authority in ways that were unimaginable in the past. This is an opportunity to be explored.

Published: June 8, 2015 | Author: Matthew Johnson, Editor of Global Discourse | Category: Front page, Managing my journal, News and ideas, Taylor & Francis Online | Tagged with: