UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

How I Learnt That “Google Scholar Has New Updates”

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 Aug 2012

“Google Scholar Has New Updates For You”

Yesterday while visiting Google Scholar I noticed an alert which informed me that there were 10 new notifications for me (see image but note that as I have viewed the updates the alert which was displayed in the top right is no longer shown).

I’d not seen this alert before so I followed the link and discovered a set of recommended papers based on my citations. The second recommended paper in this list seemed particularly interesting: a paper on How Well Do Ontario Library Web Sites Meet New Accessibility Requirements?

I viewed the paper (available in PDF and HTML formats) and found that a recent accessibility audit of Library web sites in Ontario and found that, despite legal requirements for web sites to conform with WCAG 2.0 guidelines “an average of 14.75 accessibility problems were found per web page“.

Back in 2002 I published An Accessibility Analysis of UK University Entry Points which found that only 3 University home pages out of 163 conformed with WCAG 1.0 AA guidelines. Two years later a follow-up survey was published which reported that 9 out of 161 home pages conformed with WCAG 10. AA guidelines. Since I was well aware of the importance University Web managers placed on addressing Web accessibility issues, especially since the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA) accessibility legislation was enacted in 2002, I regarded this as evidence of the limitations of WCAG guidelines. Around this time our first peer-reviewed paper on Web accessibility, Developing A Holistic Approach For E-Learning Accessibility, was published. In 2005 a paper on Forcing Standardization or Accommodating Diversity? A Framework for Applying the WCAG in the Real World documented the limitations of WCAG guidelines and the WAI model. A series of accessibility papers followed with the most recent paper, A Challenge to Web Accessibility Metrics and Guidelines: Putting People and Processes First, describing how:

This paper argues that web accessibility is not an intrinsic characteristic of a digital resource but is determined by complex political, social and other contextual factors, as well as technical aspects which are the focus of WAI standardisation activities. It can therefore be inappropriate to develop legislation or focus on metrics only associated with properties of the resource.

It was therefore disheartening to read the paper on Ontario Library Web sites concluding:

Since none of the library web sites examined in this study currently conform to WCAG 2.0, many changes will need to be made before sites can meet the new legal requirements for accessibility. Web accessibility guidelines and standards will need to be incorporated and integrated into the vocabulary, thinking, and processes of web content creators to successfully achieve WCAG 2.0 conformance. Complying with new web accessibility standards will involve a significant change in web development processes.

However the good news is that Google Scholar Updates correctly identified a paper of interest to me.

Learning More About Google Scholar Updates

This morning I spotted a tweet from Glyn Moody which stated:

Moody’s Microblog Daily Digest 120809 – yesterday’s tweets as a single Web page

Since I know that Glyn uses his Twitter account to post links to resources which are likely to be of interest to me (especially related to a variety of open practices) followed the link to Glyn’s most recent tweets. There I spotted a timely tweet:

Wow – Google Scholar “Updates” a big step forward in sifting through the scientific literature – nice

This provided a link to a blog post by Jonathan Eisen, Professor at UC Davis who described his reaction when encountering this new service from Google:

Wow. Completely awesome if it works well. So, well, let’s see if it works well. For me the system recommends the following

Jonathan Eisen went on to share his experiences in identifying the value of the recommendations. After concluding that the first recommendation was of little interest, like me he then looked at another suggestion:

paper number 2 seems a bit closer to my heart: REGEN: Ancestral Genome Reconstruction for Bacteria. And bonus – it is freely available. And so, well, I read over it. And it is definitely related to what I do and I probably would not have seen it without this notification. Cool.


From a post entitled Scholar Updates: Making New Connections posted on the Google Scholar blog it seems that this new service was only released two days ago, on Wednesday 8 August. The post describes how:

We analyze your articles (as identified in your Scholar profile), scan the entire web looking for new articles relevant to your research, and then show you the most relevant articles when you visit Scholar. We determine relevance using a statistical model that incorporates what your work is about, the citation graph between articles, the fact that interests can change over time, and the authors you work with and cite. You don’t need to configure updates or enter any queries. We’ll notify you about new updates by displaying a preview on the homepage and highlighting a bell icon on search results pages.

I therefore seems that researchers can gain value by ensuring that they have a Google Scholar account containing information about their research publications which Google’s sophisticated search algorithms can use to suggest other relevant papers. It’s therefore interesting to note that last week’s Survey of Use of Researcher Profiling Services Across the 24 Russell Group Universities reported that 5,115 users at Russell Group universities have claimed a Google Scholar account, ranging from 77 at the University of Exeter to 580 at UCL.

In addition to the value of Google Scholar Updates it also occurred to me how valuable the links to resources provided by Glyn Moody in his tweets could me, if they were more easily accessed that the daily updates posted on his blog.

Aaron Tay is another person I follow who also provided valuable links to resources using his Twitter account. Back in February 2012 in a post entitled My Trusted Social Librarian I described how I had set up a Twitter list containing just @aarontay. I used this list with the Smartr app to view the content of links which Aaron tweeted. However Smartr is no longer available. In addition such access to Aaron’s links required every individual user to install Smartr or a similar app. Wouldn’t it be useful if there could be a web-based aggregation providing a summary of links which a Twitter user has tweeted? As I described last week, this is what RebelMouse provides. Even better, Aaron also uses RebelMouse. And, as can be seen, 19 hours ago Aaron also tweeted a link to the blog post about the Google Scholar Updates:

RT @figshare: Wow – Google Scholar “Updates” a big step forward in sifting through the scientific literature: by @p …

To conclude, if you use your Twitter account for sharing links, consider using a service such as RebelMouse to make it easier for others to see the content of the links you’ve shared.

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]


One Response to “How I Learnt That “Google Scholar Has New Updates””

  1. […] start to appear within a few days.  It’s free and easy to set up, which is evident by the 5,115 users at Russell Group universities who have already claimed their […]

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