Interested in knowing whether your scientific reports are being used in real-world practice?

In the 'Altmetrics for grey literature' pilot, the University Library is attempting to report and trace references to scientific reports (and other forms of grey literature) in the public domain.

01/29/2019 | 2:48 PM

We are doing so by using the Altmetric Explorer to find societal use of documents like the 'integrated health care standard for obesity management', co-written by Jutka Halberstadt. University Library Research Services innovation manager Maurice Vanderfeesten explains how this works and shares tips for making sure references to grey literature can be traced properly.

Making knowledge valorisation quantifiable
'When we say "public domain" here, it refers to policy reports from governmental and non-governmental organisations, along with news and social media. The purpose of the pilot is to shed light on societal interest in grey literature (reports, guidelines, standards) resulting from scientific research in order to measure valorisation.'

Journal title needed in order to trace report
'To make this possible, we first uploaded the PDFs of Halberstadt's reports into PURE and gave them a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) using Crossref. This turned out to be insufficiently effective, as Altmetric's text-mining algorithm needs a journal title in order to find a given report in plain text. Another obstacle to tracing references is that governmental and non-governmental organisations often fail to cite reports in the proper fashion.'

Decide which websites you want to search
'It's also important, before you start, to think about which societal and governmental organisations might use your work. This is because, while Altmetric automatically searches the websites of a great many organisations, the list is far from exhaustive. It scans, for instance, but not the website which in our case is relevant for the health care standard. We can then instruct Altmetric to search the websites that are relevant for your products.’

Citable publication with a DOI
'Our preliminary conclusion is that, in order for this kind of report to be traceable with Altmetric, it must be published as a citable product immediately upon release. This is what's known as 'born-digital content', and entails publishing the products in the RIO journal (an open science journal) or Zenodo (a research material repository) or via a preprint server, so that you are issued a DOI. You can then list this DOI on your project website, register your work in PURE and make it available to organisations that wish to cite your work in policy memos. It's important, though, to inform these organisations of the proper way to include a citation. We are currently exploring whether it's also possible to publish grey literature in PURE, so that you immediately get a DOI for the full text of the work that you upload to the VU Research Portal.

4 tips for making grey literature citable and traceable
- Digital birthplace: Make sure your born-digital content has a Digital Object Identifier at the time of publication. You can do this by publishing your work in the RIO journal, Zenodo or a preprint server.
- Metadata: Ensure all basic metadata is consistent: the title of your work, author's name, year of publication and the name of the ‘birthplace’ where you have published your document (e.g Zenodo) title of the journal (which is the birthplace of your born-digital material).
- References: Make sure that when public parties refer to your work, they always include its DOI. Ask them to list the title of your work, author's name and title of the journal consistently as well.
- Registration and tracking alerts: If you do all the above, your work will be traceable in the public domain. You can set a tracking alert in Altmetric Explorer, after which you will be sent an email whenever your report is mentioned in the public domain. Before this is possible, however, you must first register the report and its DOI in PURE (the VU Research Portal).

Want to learn more about quantifying societal interest?
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