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Wednesday, July 29 • 13:31 - 15:00
"Altmetrics in Academe: Bottom up or Policy Driven?"

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Authors: Laurie Bonnici and Heidi Julien

Background: Research querying the attitudes of administrators of Library and Information Science (LIS) programs indicates that altmetrics, which are new methods of gauging scholarly impact, appear to be gaining some ground in the field. However, official tenure and promotion policies and practices remain relatively traditional both at the unit and broader university level. Conservative academic culture, often driven by tenured faculty committee efforts, may provide one explanation for delaying what appears to be the inevitable incorporation of altmetrics into tenure and promotion decisions. Typical diffusion of an innovation occurs at the action level. Thus, junior faculty may be engaging with altmetrics data in the documentation and quantification of research activities as these tools have become mainstream. 

Objective: This paper reports on an ongoing study of altmetrics in academe, which started with a survey of Deans, Directors, and Chairs of LIS programs (Julien & Bonnici, 2013), followed by an analysis of social media profiles of representative faculty members in the field (Bonnici & Julien, 2014). A subsequent phase analyzed official tenure and promotion policies at institutions hosting LIS programs, as well as practices used to analyze impact for tenure and promotion purposes (Julien & Bonnici, 2014). These studies of the use of altmetrics in LIS tenure and promotion practices provided a well-rounded picture for one discipline within academe. The current phase expands the scope of the study to the broader academic community. 

Methods: Faculty and doctoral students across a wide range of institutions and disciplines are being surveyed for their attitudes about the use of altmetrics to support promotion and tenure processes. Analyses of the data involve within- and between- discipline, as well as within- and between- group approaches. Interpretation of the data seeks to determine if: 
1.The attitudes of faculty and doctoral students on measuring scholarly impact align; and, 
2.The inclusion of altmetrics data will be voluntary or driven by policy. 

Analysis seeks to determine if LIS leads academe in favourable consideration of altmetrics data to measure scholarly productivity. 
Results: Initial results suggest that faculty may be open to considering altmetrics in the promotion review process. Attitudes garnered from doctoral students may provide perspective on the diffusion process in the application of altmetrics in the measurement of scholarly productivity. Data collection is ongoing and results will be presented at the conference. Although preliminary investigation indicates some consideration of altmetrics in the faculty review process in LIS, the expertise of the discipline may place LIS scholars at the forefront of diffusion of scholarly productivity measurement and subsequent policy development in the academy.  

Future Work: The authors speculate that the culture of a younger generation of scholars, who embrace social media applications broadly, may impact the culture of the academy across disciplines. Time, as a variable as well as a concept in Diffusion of Innovation Theory, will frame the next step of research. Pre-tenure faculty and faculty seeking promotion to full professor will be interviewed to determine the impact of time on engagement in altmetrics strategies to promote research. 

Julien, H., & Bonnici, L. (2013). Sooner or later? The diffusion and adoption of social media metrics to measure scholarly productivity in LIS faculty. Presented at the 2013 International Conference on Social Media and Society, Halifax, NS, Canada, September 14-15. 

Bonnici, L., & Julien, H. (2014). Altmetrics: An entrepreneurial approach to assessing impact on scholarship and professional practice. Presented at the annual conference of the Association for Library and Information Science Education, Philadelphia, January 21-24. 

Julien, H., & Bonnici, L. (2014). Altmetrics in Library and Information Science: Trickle or Tsunami?” Presented at the 2014 International Conference on Social Media and Society, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, September 27-28. 


Laurie Bonnici

Associate Professor, The University of Alabama
University of Alabama, United States
avatar for Heidi Julien

Heidi Julien

Chair and Professor, University at Buffalo
digital literacy, information behavior, higher education

Wednesday July 29, 2015 13:31 - 15:00
(7th Floor) Room TRS1-129 (Ted Rogers School of Management) 55 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON M5G 2C3

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