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AJ Cann

If THE is to be believed, it may not make much difference: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=407041

Kelly Page

In reading this I kept thinking about two key methods in which digital space is ranked/evaluated ... SEO/SEM and how one can design their digital space to maximise SEO/SEM. However at the end of the day it is how much utility the user/audience sees in the digital space that will drive reach/traffic etc.

Interesting problems, but let's compare your list of problems in evaluating 'academic digital connectedness' to the current RAE/REF system.

1) A deadly attractor: Isn't this a good thing? Being a Professor of distance ed and at the leading institution for distance education ... so you should get a higher ranking, especially in a contextual evaluation of relevance.

2. An echo chamber effect: How does this differ from academics who all research the same field citing each other because their work is relevant and contributory! And then, are involved in the same peer-review networks for that said area of research? So I don't see a problem with cross-linking to relevant sites! I think relevance is key. If I am a leading professor of distance education and fellow scholars in your area are not linking to you, I'd ask why? Competitive rivalry perhaps, lack of perceived utility or perhaps a lack of awareness...??

3. Bias in initial setup: I totally agree with you here that initial framing will influence the outputs. So the parameters for judgement sampling need to be made clear. Which parameters and why? However, this doesn't much differ from how we evaluate journals for inclusion in the journal ranking's list (e.g., distribution, geographic scope etc) or academics i the RAE. The sampling design just needs to be made very clear, as with any research.

4. Search term: This activity of being narrow in scope doesn't differ from how sub-panels in the RAE are established or journal list devised. Yes it is very siloed, which is why if you work in media and publish in IT the RAE sub-panel struggle to evaluate your contribution. So as you suggest, perhaps a list of search terms devised, ranked and agreed by a community (and not just the academic community) central to the field would be more robust.

5. Popularity (or perhaps reach is better term): Perhaps here we can discuss the evidence of strong-tie and weak-tie sources in the network. In the peer-review system citations denote the popularity of a published work (or sales of books). So perhaps number of 'relevant' outbound/inbound links (behavioural measures) and key word/name citation (usefulness measure) would both be important here to assess 'reach' of impact.

I'll have a think about others measures that we use to evaluate the marketing effectiveness of the digital space, however agree ... that a metric is only a partial solution ... but in the least, it should be considered for inclusion for the REF - for peer-review.

Impact is not just about being an editor of a journal, giving a public talk or being recognised by the academic community as a leading scholar ... increasingly academic institutions are being called to to show the social contribution of their research outputs and how they engage with their many public spaces ... the digital space is a very important space!

Ignoring academic activities in the digital space discourages connectedness with a wider social network within which academia is embedded! Be it with students, colleagues or society at large.


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Impact is not just about being an editor of a journal, giving a public talk or being recognised by the academic community as a leading scholar ...

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