Altmetrics are usually viewed as indicators of online engagement and attention. However, if we take the field of political science as an example, Gustav Meibauer, Kieran Full, Audrey Alejandro and Gokhan Tsiflikli use altmetrics to analyze the dynamics of knowledge production in a given area. Having found that altmetrics show a highly hierarchical and gender-based distribution of attention to political science work, they wonder how and why these metrics can be used responsibly.
The production, exchange and dissemination of academic knowledge takes place through constantly diversifying and monitored digital channels. This is widely considered benefit, as he works to democratize research and evaluation. Digital interchange has changed the environment in which disciplinary debate emerges and propagates, creating opportunities for greater transparency, political participation, greater recognition, and the ability to work in real time. crowdsourced peer review.
Altmetrics (alternative metrics) are indicators of digital attention, the purpose of which is to measure such online interactions. They are typically a collection of metrics, including interactions (such as clicks, views, and downloads), capture (such as bookmarks, saves, and favorites), mentions (such as posts, comments, reviews, and attributions), and social media. reactions (like likes, shares, and tweets) in addition to being quoted and ranked. They may correlate with traditional ways of measuring research, such as citations or references. However, despite their growing use in research evaluation or allocation of fundingAltmetrics have received minimal attention outside of the field of scientometrics.
This is interesting, as altmetrics can be a useful mirror of the dynamics of disciplinary knowledge production. In this regard, within the recent training, we used altmetrics to explore the dynamics of unequal knowledge production in political science. We focus on gender*, which allows us to build on research that examines how gender hierarchies emerge and reproduce in the discipline, for example by focusing on professional presence And performance women, publication And quote practices and pedagogy And education. We also wanted to explore what exactly altmetrics do, To And For discipline when it comes to the gender dynamics of knowledge production? To answer this question, we built and analyzed new dataset combining information about the author-field and Altmetric.com attention scores for all articles published in the top 65 peer-reviewed political science journals between 2013 and 2019.
Gender dynamics in altmetric scores
We found that these altmetric scores are broadly similar to known gender differences in publishing and citation practices. The median scores are highest on average for materials created by mixed gender (30.54). All-female studies receive the lowest scores on average (19.23) compared to all-male studies (24.49). Thus, publications authored by women receive, on average, 27% less points than publications authored by men.
The scores also increase over time. Although some publications may have the same scores, the relative weight or importance of those scores compared to others correlates closely with the novelty factor. Older subjects tend to have lower GPAs, mainly due to changing online attention levels and the growing use of academic social media. Although Twitter was launched in 2006, “academic Twitter” as a tool for scientific networking, distribution and outreach has really started gain momentum around 2013. Overall, we find that AAS is in line with Twitter’s network dynamics, where female political scientists fewer subscribers on average, while network sharing tends to be privileged research authored by a man.
Rice. 1: Gender distribution of altmetric measures of attention by year of publication
Male authorship from academic “superstars” to zero marks
A closer look reveals that these patterns are shaped by the overwhelming presence of high-profile male disciplinary “superstars” whose research attracts disproportionate online attention and viral exchanges. The “viral hits” of political science research continue to be dominated by men, with 67 of the top 100 publications in the field written exclusively by men.
Rice. 2. Top 20 political science attention altmetrics (2019), highlighted by author gender: the greener it is, the more male authors; the redder, the more female authorship
At the same time, male authors also dominate research that receives little to no attention on the Internet (null-scoring publications), which is more important than one might think. If we average outliers, posts written by women actually tend to score higher than their male counterparts.
Figure 3: Altmetric distribution of attention score “0”
High scores for research written by men can replicate the enormous impact that seniority can have in disciplinary and broader political networks. The situation characteristic of the profession, especially at higher levels, which remains relatively homogeneous And slowly changing. Although women outperform men in university admissions and political science degrees up to the Ph.D. level, academic careers move up the ladder to full professorship. continues to tolerate and their experience of working with disciplinary spaces differs significantly from that of their male counterparts. While the slowly changing field is confirmed by Twitter’s increasingly diverse academic landscape (for example, with networks such as #WomenAlsoKnowThings), virality in online research also continues to elude women.
Measurements that reflect male academic “superstar” or success through “virality” can help reinforce a research environment (whether through funding, opportunities, career advancement, etc.) that continues to favor elite male scholarship. For example, extremes and outliers can contribute to better memory and attention. That “academic superstars” (whether on Twitter or in university departments) are more likely to be male may thus reinforce the implicit belief that top scientists are the best choice a department or funding agency can make, even if they do not represent discipline. generally.
Measures of quality or inequality?
Bibliometric indicators non-neutral toolsbut capable of influencing and creating norms, behaviors and practices. They influence how quality, innovative and cutting-edge research is valued and what is rewarded as such. The use of performance indicators in research management shows how measurements can give rise to disciplinary inequality. These figures then becomeanxiety engines” that promote certain standards of quality and responsibility. If simply taken for granted, altmetrics can contribute to this disparity.
What should political scientists (and academia in general) do with this information? One way could be to “pay it forward” by supporting women and young scientists in navigating digital academia and networking, as well as raising awareness of the gender dynamics of online research sharing. The other way is to completely abandon the use of altmetrics, instead working on other rewards for intellectual work and the creation of more supportive online communities. And yet, altmetrics remain attractive tools that are likely to remain. Therefore, we feel it is imperative that professional associations, universities and departments develop formal guidelines on what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate use of indicators. Similar to pedagogical initiatives to address gender bias in science, we encourage scientists to critically reflect on how altmetrics and social sharing impact their own research experience and to inform future scientists about the gender dynamics inherent in digital science. In this sense, if used critically and contextually, as we have sought to do in this study, altmetrics can be used as indicators of academic inequality. Metrics that can be used to prompt change and new ways of thinking about disciplinary power structures in general.
This post is based on an article by the authors, Alternative metrics, traditional problems? Assessment of gender dynamics in altmetrics of political sciencepublished in European Policy Science.
*For coding purposes, we use the term “gender” rather than “gender” to refer to categories of male/female authorship because it allows us to build associations with gender roles and norms in academia. We understand that this may seem problematic because it negates the inclusion of non-binary categories and may lead to an erroneous sex/gender assignment.
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