UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

How Researchers Can Use Inbound Linking Strategies to Enhance Access to Their Papers

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 2 March 2012

The Value of Inbound Links to Resources

Via Smartr, the iPod Touch app I use to read articles which have been posted by Twitter followers, this morning I came across a link provided by a tweet which described an Inbound linking strategy to get to the top listing on google fast. The post described how the author, a web manager at Florida International University:

… developed  a strategy I would make inbound links to the FIU President’s Council site from places I can control a few of these places include FIU News,Alumni AssociationFIU A to Z index, blogs that have comments open, etc.  and on all those I make links using the words FIU President’s Council that link directly to the sites homepage.

The importance of providing links to a resource in order to maximise access to the resource is well understood – particularly, it seems, by spammers.  But how could such well-established techniques be used in an ethical way by researchers?

The answer, it seems to me, is quite simple. Researchers do have access to a wide range of web services which can legitimately provide links to their research publications.   This is an approach I have been using for several years. A summary of the numbers of publications which are listed in the services I use is given in the following Table.

Service My Account Summary
Microsoft Academic Search My details 39*
Google Scholar Citations My details  82
Researcher ID My details 10
Scopus My details  23
Academia.edu My details  50
Researchgate My details 110
Mendeley My details  23

*  The Microsoft Academic Search automatically includes papers from people with the same name.  These need to be manually excluded and there is a delay before updates are validated.  The service currently lists 286 papers, including many from medical researchers of the same name.  However only 39 papers have been claimed as authored by me.

It should also be noted that a number of the services provide links to the research papers (which in my case and normally hosted on the University of Bath institutional repository) although other services only provide the metadata.

Evidence of Enhanced Access

There is a cost to registering for such services and uploading details of one’s papers. However in practice I have found that it does not take a significant amount of time to upload relevant information and the services can provide useful information, such as helping to visualise one’s professional network and, as illustrated (taken from Mendeley) growth in  the number of citations, downloads, followers, etc.

But although individual  may or may not find such information of interest or value, there remains a question as to whether there is any tangible evidence of growth in downloads due to a policy of enhancing the numbers of links to such resources.

A possible answer to that question may be found form an analysis of the download statistics for items stored on Opus, the University of Bath institutional repository.

In order to make comparisons an image is shown of the top 20 most downloaded items provided by staff at UKOLN.

From this list we can see that I am a co-author of 15 of the top 20 items.

There may be several explanations for this:

Quality of the papers: Although two of my papers are the highest ranked papers which have been published at the W4A conference series I am quite happy to say that I am convinced that my colleagues have produced papers of much greater research value.

Social media optimisation: The paper on  Library 2.0: balancing the risks and benefits to maximise the dividends is the second most downloaded single paper from the University of Bath repository. The popularity of this paper was due to the large numbers of downloads shortly after the availability of the paper had been announced on this blog.  Although I am convinced that use of social media can also enhance access to peer-reviewed papers, several of the other popular papers in the above list were published between 2004 and 2007, before Twitter and before I was making significant use of the blog.

To conclude, I believe that adding information about one’s research publications to services such as Academia.edu, ResearchGate, Microsoft Academic Search and Google Scholar citations can increase the visibility of the papers to Google, as well as to users of the services, which may then lead to increased numbers of downloads, citations and take-up of the ideas described in the papers.

Do you agree?

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8 Responses to “How Researchers Can Use Inbound Linking Strategies to Enhance Access to Their Papers”

  1. [...] Brian Kelly at UK Web Focus (a blog about higher ed web issues in the UK). The posts was titled  How Researchers Can Use Inbound Linking Strategies to Enhance Access to Their Papers it shows some inbound linking results they have used to get more access to academic [...]

  2. [...] How Researchers Can Use Inbound Linking Strategies to Enhance Access to Their Papers [...]

  3. Thank you for this, Brian,

    Here in Oxford I have asked academics, researchers and scientists why they do not publicise their research papers more widely. The answers usually boil down to ‘that’s not how we do things’ and I am always left wondering ‘why not?’

    Why would anyone want to hide important research from people who might be able to use it or add to it?
    Why assume that your particular Ivory tower does not need to be in contact with the bigger world?
    Why do you think that the next generation of academics will be bound by your world view?

    I shall be pointing academics to your list of ‘scholarly’ webservices from now on. Academics and scientists often complain that information available on the internet does not reflect evidence-based research. The way to fix this is to contribute legitimate reseach findings and make sure the material is both visible and searchable.

    Wendy Stone
    Communications Specialist
    Bright Digital

    • Many thanks for your comments.

      Jenny Delasalle (see her Libresearch blog at the University of Warwick) and I are currently finalising a paper to be submitted to the IR12 conference which builds on the ideas described recently on our two blogs and seeks to provide evidence on how use of social media services can enhance access to research outputs.

      I like the way you have changed the focus of the discussion, by asking “Why would you not engage in exploiting technological developments in order to raise awareness of, with intention of embedding the ideas, research activities?” – especially in light of emerging evidence of the value of such approaches.

      Perhaps the answers are “We’ve never done it that way before” or even We disseminate our research by jetting off to international conferences in exotic locations“! I hope not – and I wish you well in your endeavours in changing attitudes in Oxford.

      BTW there may be other evidence-based posts published on this blog which will be relevant, particularly those which profile use of various services across Russell Group universities. See the blog’s Evidence category for more information.

  4. [...] Facebook ApplicationHow Higher Education Uses Social Media [Infographic]: US and UK ComparisonsHow Researchers Can Use Inbound Linking Strategies to Enhance Access to Their PapersASBOs, Linked Data and Open [...]

  5. [...] addressed linking strategies in the context of research papers in a post in which I described How Researchers Can Use Inbound Linking Strategies to Enhance Access to Their Papers. In brief I suggested that in light of the popularity of LinkedIn, for which there seem to be over [...]

  6. [...] blog post entitled “How Researchers Can Use Inbound Linking Strategies to Enhance Access to Their Papers” published on 2 March 2012  described a Inbound linking strategy to get to the top listing on [...]

  7. [...] wrote a blog post that summarises the paper and another about the poster session. Jenny has blogged further thoughts [...]

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