I got a top cited article! What does that mean?!?

Yesterday the Research Excellence Framework results were published, and it was therefore a nice coincidence to be notified by Springer yesterday that my paper is one of the top cited papers in Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory of 2013/2014. You can see it on this picture:

jamt

I am really happy and grateful about this. However, it did make me wonder what it means in numbers to have a top cited article. The answer is rather sobering: not much! In this blog post I will have a little look around citation land, and share some take-home messages about citation and impact in archaeology with you. Read on until the end, and you might find a call for revolution in the academic publishing world! 🙂

The source mentioned is ISI/Thomson Reuters database, and luckily I can access their metrics through Web of Science. A quick search revealed this paper has 8 citations on Web of Science (all databases), see the figure below:

jamt2

That’s a sobering eyeopener! Especially considering one of these 8 citations is by a paper I wrote myself. This tells me quite a lot about the impact of the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, about the bit of archaeology that I am specialised in, and about that part of archaeologists’ citation behaviour represented by Web of Science.

Let’s start by that last one. Web of Science only indexes publications (mainly journals) with a long and consistent editorial board and publication history, focusing almost exclusively on English as the language of science. It defends this policy by stating the fact that the majority of all citations (about 60% or so) cite papers in a minority of journals (I believe about 20%, but don’t cite me on this). So there’s a clear tendency here to include high impact publications. Archaeology does not have many journals of high impact with a long tradition and a stable editorial history, whilst English is definitely NOT the only language of academic archaeology which is mainly due to the need to publish excavation reports in the local language. From my citation network analysis work I get the impression that less than half of all citations are included in Web of Science.

Why do I know that? Well let’s compare my 8 citation in Web of Science with how many this paper got according to Google Scholar:

jamt3So according to Google Scholar this paper was cited 16 times. Now Google Scholar does not care so much about the language or format of publication, so a much larger number of publications is indexed. But these citations also include those that are usually not included in any impact scores, such as citations mentioned on presentation slides or poster uploaded to the internet.

Take-home message number 1: check the citations to your paper on multiple citation databases before bragging about your impact (Web of Science, Google Scholar, Scopus).

What about the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory? It is not the highest rated journal in archaeology, but I do think it’s up there in the top ten or so. But the top ten of what? Journals are usually ranked by their impact factor, which is the measure introduced by the Institute for Scientific Information using the data you can access through Web of Science. It represents the average number of citations in the last few years per paper in a journal. Here some Impact Factor results of the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory:

jamt3

In 2013 ISI gave it an impact factor of 1.389 which ranked it 18th in Anthropology, just below Antiquity and just above American Antiquity. These rankings are published yearly by ISI as the Journal Citation Reports. But there are more measures than just the Impact Factor. Google Scholar uses the h5 index to rank journals in disciplines: “the h5 index is the h-index for articles published in the last 5 complete years. It is the largest number h such that h articles published in 2009-2013 have at least h citations each”. In the category of Archaeology the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory has an h5 index of 13 and ranks 15th: lower than American Antiquity and dwarfed by the scores of Journal of Archaeological Science (38) and Antiquity (21).

These measures of impact give you an idea of the number of citations on average a paper in a journal receives. This is not solely a result of a paper’s own merit or infamy. It should at least in part be seen as an effect of the journal itself being widely read, so papers published in well-known journals attract more citations because they adopt the visibility of the journal they are published in.

But citation practices differ greatly between disciplines. A quantitative measure of impact might therefore not be particularly relevant for all disciplines. For the humanities a more qualitative interpretation of impact is available: the European Reference Index for the Humanities. The site was down when I wrote this blog post, but the idea is simple. It gives a journal one of three ratings: of importance to a subdiscipline, of national importance for a discipline, of international importance for a discipline. But essentially this is just a low level classification based on a quantification of who publishes, cites, and reads each journal.

Take-home message number 2: impact is relative. Compare multiple measures as presented by multiple institutions. Visibility to your subdiscipline is more important than overall visibility/impact.

So my paper might not be cited by many, and it might not be published in the highest impact journal, but it is a piece of work I am pretty pleased with and it seems to reach the few people around the world who have the same niche interests I have. Having many citations according to ISI in my discipline really does not mean much. Way more impressive is the number of views and downloads this paper gets on sites like Academia.edu. We publish our work because we want to share it with those who are interested, and we want to provoke discussion with the final aim to advance human knowledge. Who cares about high citation counts? Just make sure your paper is out there, freely available, actively promote it, send it to those who might be interested in discussing it with you. That’s what you want, not a high impact factor. All these numbers, and especially the Research Excellence Framework, make us forget sometimes that it is science we are doing.

(PS: as a young academic I realize my own career will be enhanced by playing this numbers game. I am sure it will, for now. But I also think things are changing with resources like Academia.edu, which will hopefully push entities with empty prestige like Science and Nature off their pedestals. Scientific quality control is not guaranteed by prestigious publishers, and there are other models of publishing that allow us to debunk bullshit science and keep the good bits)

Hestia2 videos on Youtube

hestiaA while ago we at The Connected Past co-organised an event in Southampton called ‘Hestia2: exploring spatial networks through ancient source’. I published a review of the event on this blog before, read it here. We managed to record quite a few talks presented during this event. But this was not the only Hestia2 conference: there were four in total and most talks were recorded. You can now access all videos of the Hestia2 events on our Youtube channel. The topics of the videos are very diverse, with something on every aspect of Digital Classics represented. If you like this blog, then you WILL find something of interest in the Hestia2 Youtube channel 🙂

Click here for the Hestia2 Youtube channel.

More info on Hestia2.

MANIFESTO! for the study of ancient Mediterranean maritime networks

antiquity+

MANIFESTO! Somehow I feel like this word should always be written in capitals and accompanied by an exclamation mark. I feel the same about the word REVOLUTION! I recently co-authored a manifesto for the first time, but the feeling was less revolutionary than I thought it would be. In November 2013 I attended a meeting at the University of Toronto, hosted by Justin Leidwanger and Carl Knappett. The meeting aimed to discuss network approaches to the study of maritime connectivity in the ancient Mediterranean. It brought together a group of archaeologists, historians and physicists working either in the Mediterranean or experienced with network approaches to the study of the past. An edited volume collecting all papers presented at this meeting is being prepared. But the key findings of our discussions were recently published in Antiquity+ as ‘A manifesto for the study of ancient Mediterranean maritime networks‘.

The manifesto has a very clear focus on the past phenomena that fall under the rather generic term ‘maritime connectivity’. A useful but simplifying definition of this term would be: ways in which people, places, and things separated by water were related. The manifesto makes methodological and theoretical suggestions that can be assembled into a research framework that will allow us to better understand past maritime connectivity. It is important to stress again that connectivity and past networks are referred to and treated in the manifesto as past phenomena, as things that actually happened or existed in the past. Although the authors see potential for approaches that conceptualise and formalise past connectivity as network concepts and data, it is not our main aim to understand these concepts and data. We hope to better understand the past social phenomena we are interested in, and we argue that network methods and theories offer some potential to help us do so. Two quotes from the manifesto (which raise discussion points I am particularly passionate about) should suffice to illustrate this focus: “formulating explicitly social questions should necessarily precede examination of spatial networks” and there is a “need to review critically our assumptions concerning the social function of maritime connectivity and the actors involved in these networks”.

The manifesto concludes by stressing the virtue of multi-vocality: there is no need for a single homogeneous maritime network studies approach. I believe this is a cautious and constructive attitude, in particular in light of the novelty of applying network methods and theories in our disciplines. We really have not yet discovered the full potential of these approaches for our disciplines. Until we have, we need to think and do creatively! And most importantly, evaluate critically and constructively! MANIFESTO!

The full manifesto is available for free on the Antiquity website.

In this oneoff, extended Project Gallery article, the participants of a recent workshop jointly present a manifesto for the study of ancient Mediterranean maritime connectivity. Reviewing the advantages and perils of network modelling, they advance conceptual and methodological frameworks for the productive study of seaborne connectivity. They show how progressive research methods can overcome some of the problems encountered when working with uneven datasets spanning large geographical regions and long periods of time. The manifesto suggests research directions that could better inform our interpretations of human connections, both within and beyond the Mediterranean. All references to the authors’ workshop papers in the text denote their oral presentations at the ‘Networks of Maritime Connectivity in the Ancient Mediterranean’ workshop held at the University of Toronto in November 2013.

Linking ancient people, places, objects and texts

snapThe following round table discussion event (see below) might be of interest to readers of this blog (it is definitely of interest to me!). I believe it will give us an insight into the direction the SNAP:DRGN project (which I blogged about earlier) is heading, and possibly an opportunity to contribute to their brainwave. Although the project focuses on linked open data, networks are definitely among their research interests, and the relation between network science and linked open data can always do with some more discussion. New technologies have a place in our workflows, we just need to find it! Linked open data and networks often accompany each other in project descriptions, but the usefulness of pairing them up beyond a metaphorical use of these new technologies needs more critical discussion. This round table might not necessarily be the place this needs to happen, but we will find a suitable venue for this discussion at some point 🙂

Linking Ancient People, Places, Objects and Texts
a round table discussion
Gabriel Bodard (KCL), Daniel Pett (British Museum), Humphrey Southall (Portsmouth), Charlotte Tupman (KCL); with response by Eleanor Robson (UCL)

18:00, Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
Anatomy Museum, Strand Building 6th Floor
(http://www.kcl.ac.uk/campuslife/campuses/download/KBLevel6forweb.pdf)
King’s College London, Strand London WC2R 2LS

As classicists and ancient historians have become increasingly reliant on large online research tools over recent years, it has become ever more imperative to find ways of integrating those tools. Linked Open Data (LOD) has the potential to leverage both the connectivity, accessibility and universal standards of the Web, and the power, structure and semantics of relational data. This potential is being used by several scholars and projects in the area of ancient world and historical studies. The SNAP:DRGN project (snapdrgn.net) is using LOD to bring together many technically varied databases and authorities lists of ancient persons into a single virtual authority file; the Pleiades gazetteer and service projects such as Pelagios and PastPlace are creating open vocabularies for historical places and networks of references to them. Museums and other heritage institutions are at the forefront of work to encode semantic archaeological and material culture data, and projects such as Sharing Ancient Wisdoms (ancientwisdoms.ac.uk) and the Homer Multitext (homermultitext.org) are developing citation protocols and an ontology for relating texts with variants, translations and influences.

The panel will introduce some of these key projects and concepts, and then the audience will be invited to participate in open discussion of the issues and potentials of Linked Ancient World Data.

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