Thoughts from the Public Philosophy Network 2018 Conference

First, I’ve been away from my own blog for far too long. My apologies. Second, no more ‘Press This’?! Ugh. So, here is a LINK to the full program of PPN 2018.

Most of these thoughts were generated during the workshop run by Paul Thompson on day 1 on ‘Evaluating Public Philosophy as Academic Scholarship’. This issue is important for everyone who would like to see public philosophy succeed; but it is vitally important for those of us on the tenure track, since not being able to evaluate public philosophy as academic scholarship often means that it is reduced to a ‘service’ activity. Service, of course, is seen as even less important than teaching, which is often seen as less important than research. This hierarchy may be altered at small liberal arts colleges or others that put special emphasis on teaching. Generally speaking, though, one’s research rules in tenure decisions. I’ve never heard, or even heard of, any advice along the lines of ‘Do more teaching and publish less’ or ‘make sure you get on more committees or peer review more journal manuscripts’. Whereas ‘Just publish more’ is something I hear frequently.

So, it’s vitally important to be able to evaluate public philosophy as academic scholarship.

I want to add that, although many of these ideas were not my own and came from group discussion, I am solely responsible for the way I put them here. I may mess up, but no one else should be blamed for my mistakes. What follows isn’t quite the ‘Survival Guide’ that Michael O’Rourke suggested developing. Instead, it is a list of things I (and perhaps others) would like to see coming from PPN. (This may change what PPN is, of course. Can a network that meets once in while provide these things?)

We need:

  1. A statement on the value of public philosophy as academic scholarship. [EDIT: The expression of this need came up at the workshop, but no one there mentioned that such a statement already exists HERE from the APA.  Thanks to Jonathan Ellis and Kelly Parker for help in finding it! Apologies to APA for my ignorance.]
  2. A list of scholarly journals that are public philosophy friendly (i.e., where one can submit and publish work that includes public philosophy). The list would need to be curated so that new journals can be added and old ones removed when they fit or don’t fit the bill.
  3. A list of tools for making the case for the value of public philosophy. I have in mind things like altmetrics (see HERE or HERE or HERE), but it could also include building capacity among a set of potential peers who could serve as reviewers for public philosophy scholarship.
  4. Of course, developing a cohort of peers will mean developing a set of community standards for what counts as good public philosophy. I wouldn’t want that imposed from above (somewhere?) and think this will arise naturally if we are able to foster the development of the community.
  5. Some sort of infrastructure for networking. It’s supposedly a network, right? Is there anywhere people can post profiles?
  6. A repository of documents related to promotion and tenure in public philosophy. Katie Plaisance described how she developed a memorandum of understanding detailing the fact that her remarkably collaborative work deserved full credit as research, despite the fact that she works in a field that seems to value sole-authorship to the detriment of collaborative research. Katie was awesome and said she would share that document with me. But what if she (or everyone) who did smart and cool things like this to help guarantee their ability to do public philosophy had a central repository where all these documents could be posted for everyone to view and use? What if departments that have good criteria for promotion and tenure — criteria that allow for or even encourage public philosophy as scholarship — could post them on such a repository as resources for others?
  7. Leadership! Developing and maintaining these (and no doubt others I’ve missed) resources will require leadership, and maybe even money.

I’d be interested in thoughts on this list, including things you think should be added to it.

Modernising Research Monitoring in Europe | Center for the Science of Science & Innovation Policy

The tracking of the use of research has become central to the measurement of research impact. While historically this tracking has meant using citations to published papers, the results are old, biased, and inaccessible – and stakeholders need current data to make funding decisions. We can do much better. Today’s users of research interact with that research online. This leaves an unprecedented data trail that can provide detailed data on the attention that specific research outputs, institutions, or domains receive.

However, while the promise of real time information is tantalizing, the collection of this data is outstripping our knowledge of how best to use it, our understanding of its utility across differing research domains and our ability to address the privacy and confidentiality issues. This is particularly true in the field of Humanities and Social Sciences, which have historically been under represented in the collection of scientific corpora of citations, and which are now under represented by the tools and analysis approaches being developed to track the use and attention received by STM research outputs.

We will convene a meeting that combines a discussion of the state of the art in one way in which research impact can be measured – Article Level and Altmetrics – with a critical analysis of current gaps and identification of ways to address them in the context of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Modernising Research Monitoring in Europe | Center for the Science of Science & Innovation Policy.

Altmetric.com Tracking Mentions On Sina Weibo | STM Publishing

Wow.

We would like to announce that Altmetric have begun tracking mentions of academic articles on Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo, and the data will shortly be fully integrated into existing Altmetric tools.

The mentions collated will be visible to users via the Altmetric Explorer, a web-based application that allows users to browse the online mentions of any academic article, and, where appropriately licensed, via the article metrics data on publisher platforms.

Launched in 2009, Sina Weibo has become one of the largest social media sites in China, and is most often likened to Twitter. Integrating this data means that Altmetric users will now be able to see a much more global view of the attention an article has received. Altmetric is currently the only article level metrics provider to offer this data.

via Altmetric Begin Tracking Mentions Of Articles On Sina Weibo | STM Publishing.

Measuring the Impacts of Science | AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy

I’m looking forward to moderating a panel on day 1 of the AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy.

2:00 Current Issues in S&T Policy (Breakout Sessions) 
 
(A) Measuring the Impacts of Science   
• What are the policy relevant challenges, tools, and approaches to measuring the social impact of scientific research? • How can improved indicators capture change in science, technology, and innovation? • Are altmetrics the solution to measuring social impacts? 
  
Moderator: J. Britt Holbrook, Visiting Assistant Professor, School of Public Policy, Georgia Institute of Technology; and Member, AAAS Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility
 
Kaye Husbands Fealing, Professor, Center for Science, Technology and Environmental Policy, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota; Senior Study Director, National Academy of Sciences, Committee on National Statistics; and Member, AAAS Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy
 
Gil Omenn, Director, Center for Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics, University of Michigan
 
Mike Taylor, Research Specialist, Elsevier Labs

 

Feature: The REF – how was it for you? | Features | Times Higher Education

Feature: The REF – how was it for you? | Features | Times Higher Education.

How journals like Nature, Cell and Science are damaging science | Randy Schekman | Comment is free | The Guardian

These journals aggressively curate their brands, in ways more conducive to selling subscriptions than to stimulating the most important research. Like fashion designers who create limited-edition handbags or suits, they know scarcity stokes demand, so they artificially restrict the number of papers they accept. The exclusive brands are then marketed with a gimmick called \”impact factor\” – a score for each journal, measuring the number of times its papers are cited by subsequent research. Better papers, the theory goes, are cited more often, so better journals boast higher scores. Yet it is a deeply flawed measure, pursuing which has become an end in itself – and is as damaging to science as the bonus culture is to banking.

via How journals like Nature, Cell and Science are damaging science | Randy Schekman | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Thanks to my colleague Diana Hicks for pointing this out to me.

The last line of the quotation strikes me as the most interesting point, one that deserves further development. The steering effect of metrics is well known (Weingart 2005). There’s growing resistance to the Journal Impact Factor. Although the persuasive comparison between researchers and bankers is itself over the top, the last line suggests — at least to me — a better way to critique the reliance on the Journal Impact Factor, as well as other attempts to measure research. It’s a sort of reverse Kant with an Illichian flavor, which I will formulate as a principle here, provided that everyone promises to keep in mind my attitude toward principles.

Here is one formulation of the principle: Measure researchers only in ways that recognize them as autonomous agents, never merely as means to other ends.

Here is another: Never treat measures as ends in themselves.

Once measures, which are instruments to the core, take on a life of their own, we have crossed the line that Illich calls the second watershed. That the Journal Impact Factor has in fact crossed that line is the claim made in the quote, above, though not using Illich’s language. The question we should be asking is how researchers can manage measures, rather than how we can measure researchers in order to manage them.
_______________________________________________________

Peter Weingart. Impact of bibliometrics upon the science system: Inadvertent consequences? Scientometrics Vol. 62, No. 1 (2005) 117-131.

AIBS Public Programs — Faces of Biology

The contest was an opportunity for members of the scientific community to showcase the broader impacts of the biological sciences, including informing natural resources management, addressing climate change, and advancing foundational knowledge. The photos will be used to help the public and policymakers to better understand the value of biological research and education.

AIBS Public Programs.

What a difference a day makes: How social media is transforming scientific debate (with tweets) · deevybee · Storify

This is definitely worth a look, whether you’re into the idea of post-publication peer review or not.

What a difference a day makes: How social media is transforming scientific debate (with tweets) · deevybee · Storify.

Apparently NSF Grant Applicants Still Allergic To Broader Impacts

Pasco Phronesis

The Consortium of Social Science Associations held its Annual Colloquium on Social And Behavioral Sciences and Public Policy earlier this week.  Amongst the speakers was Acting National Science Foundation (NSF) Director Cora Marrett.* As part of her remarks, she addressed how the Foundation was implementing the Coburn Amendment, which added additional criteria to funding political science research projects through NSF.

The first batch of reviews subject to these new requirements tookplace in early 2013.  In addition to the usual criteria of intellectual merit and broader impacts, the reviewers looked at the ‘most meritorious’ proposals and examined how they contribute to economic development and/or national security.  For the reviews scheduled for early 2014, all three ‘criteria’ will be reviewed at once.

Since researchers don’t like to be told what to do, they aren’t happy.  But Marrett asserts through her remarks that this additional review will not really affect the…

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Me on the Web, According to ImpactStory.org and Altmetric.com

Impact Story is one of the two altmetrics tools that allow individual researchers to find out something about the social media buzz surrounding their activities; the other is Altmetric.com. Although other developers exist, I can’t seem to figure out how I, as an individual, can use their tools (I’m looking at you, Plum Analytics).

There are a few major differences between Impact Story and Altmetric.com from a user standpoint. First, Impact Story is not for profit, while Altmetric.com is a business. Second, Impact Story steers one to create a collection of products that together tell a story of one’s impact. Altmetric.com, on the other hand, steers one to generate figures for the impact of individual products. Third, Impact Story allows for a range of products, including those tagged with URLs as well as DOIs; Altmetric.com only works with DOIs. This means that Impact Story can gather info on things like blog posts, while Altmetric.com is focused on scholarly articles. Finally, and this is a big difference, Impact Story deemphasizes numbers, while Atlmetric.com assigns a number, the Altmetric score, to each product.

Here is my latest Impact Story.

Here is one of my products according to Altmetric; here’s another; and another.

It’s interesting to see how Impact Story and Altmetric differ, both in their approaches and in terms of what they find on the same products.

I think the implications of these tools are enormous. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts!