2016: Story Time?

In his memoir of the 2011 revolution in Egypt, Wael Ghonim starts us off with a vivid story. He immediately holds our attention as he tells us of the way he was captured by two guards from State Security: “They had forced my shirt up to cover my head so I could not see, and my belt was tied firmly over the shirt, around my head… The most difficult thing about the slaps and kicks was their element of surprise” Hooked, I continued.

Ghonim’s account of his early development was rich – actively turning down private high school for a public education in an all-boys school, he grappled by day with an “overtly testosterone filled environment” and then spent hours in the online world by night, so much so that it would sometimes be detrimental to his schoolwork. He would develop his computer passion further though, leading him to a career in technology startups.

As opposition to the oppressive regime mounted in the shadows, Ghonim leveraged his knowledge. His blood boiling from the gruesome murder of a young boy,  Khaled Said, by police, Ghonim set to work publicising the atrocity via a dedicated Facebook page. Worried that the page’s original title (“Khaled’s murder will not go unpunished, you dogs of the regime”) would not engage the mainstream, he tried instead “We are all Khaled Said” with great success. The page gained popularity quickly, and is credited as being instrumental in mobilising the populace against a backdrop of silence in the traditional media.

While the struggle for democracy in Egypt is far from over, even the events of 2011 – however shortlived – are remarkable given the consequences at the time for individuals who spoke up.

In the last week I have had the privilege of attending two excellent talks on story telling for social justice. Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich last week introduced me to the importance of addressing the target audience correctly. For example, to mobilise your base supporters, you might use a character more directly affected by a social justice problem, such as a young girl shot by police, on the subject of police brutality. For a more mainstream audience, our efforts might be better served by presenting, for example, a reporter (who is less directly affected by the brutality) who takes the reader on a journey of discovery of police brutality. Ghonim’s decision to change the Facebook page name was another example of knowing his audience.

Jesse Littlewood, of common cause, also told our class at the Harvard Kennedy School that simply telling stories isn’t enough. Instead, he advocates a persistent effort to gather and curate stories from our users. That way, when crisis strikes, we should already have a bank of stories to delve into to support our cause.

As a complete novice, the focus on an anecdotal story comes as a refreshing summons to somebody who has, to date, written exclusively for an academic audience. While we must of course be stringent about our use of data in pursuit of the truth, we must also focus on conveying our message to the public effectively. Stories, well told, are a largely untapped force for good in public health, which is itself a discipline devoted to social justice. What’s more, stories might help the public to understand what public health is, in the first place. A group at Boston University arranged a panel to do just that, in March of this year.

In summary, I think we need a concerted effort within our discipline to a) curate stories from the communities we represent (all the while respecting the ownership of the story by individuals and communities), b) encourage the sharing of these stories for the purpose of advancing the highest attainable standard of health for all and c) telling these stories in the right place, to the right audience, at the right time.

 

 

 

 

Influencing Behaviour

We make decisions every day. Some, like choosing what to eat for breakfast, seem trivial. Indeed we are often unaware that we are even making them. To others, like choosing a medical treatment, deciding whether to apply for a job, or electing a president, we afford much greater deliberation. We are normally aware of making those decisions, yet we may not be aware of the forces at play to influence our decision, both internal and external. In light of the recent US Presidential Election, I want to know if there are lessons in decision making for Public Health.

Persuasion is all around us when it comes to politics, and it comes as part of a framework. When we switch on the television, we are likely to see a member of the political establishment trying to convince us their way is best, with ubiquitous masquerading of normative ideas as facts. If we wait it out to see the subsequent analysis by political correspondents or open a newspaper or read an online article from an established news organization, our view is further shaped by those institutions, along with their own bias. The third part of the framework, the blogosphere, has come into play in a powerful way since the start of the millennium. These three entities are referred to by Daou as “The Triangle,” which are able, as a whole, to more successfully capture our attention and create a greater impact.

John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign demonstrated a huge disconnect between the Washington political establishment and “the netroots.”  Attempting to learn from this, both the Clinton and Obama campaigns for the Democratic primaries in 2008 tried to bridge the gap. While Clinton’s team attempted to make the language of her texts and emails to supporters cosy and familiar, Obama kept a more formal approach but allowed supporters to form their own sub-networks, exponentially increasing the power of the network.

At face value, the attributed winning strategy seems highly noteworthy. And yet, somehow I’m not convinced. Is it evidence based enough? Where among any of this is the hint that the relationships we are seeing are because of causation rather than just association ?

There is an answer in the world of online persuasion, which satisfies the part of me that is grounded in making evidence-based decisions. As Sasha Issenberg describes in her book “The Victory Lab,” online entities are able to collect data on what their users do, and this gives us an opportunity to really experiment. Dan Siroker employed an experimental approach as part of the 2008 Obama campaign, adjusting elements of the campaign website like the sign-up box or the displayed content. The different website appearances were shown randomly to different users, and as such they were able infer causation in a much greater way than comparing observations of events of the past. In public health and indeed all the biological sciences, we see experimental data as being superior to observational data when we can ethically and practically obtain it.

But what about the choice of content? We can broadly divide this into positive and negative. Political campaigns tend to devote the lion’s share to negative advertizing: in 2012, Barack Obama designated 85% of his $404 million TV advertising campaign on negative ads, while Mitt Romney spent 91% of his slightly larger $492 million [link] on negative ads.

This is not just because the campaigns prefer a mud-slinging match, but rather because of the way our brains are wired. As a whole, humans are much more susceptible to negative information. This is evident on a very basic level, with greater event-related brain potentials (essentially a measure of brain electrical activity) in response to negative images. Roy Baumeister and colleagues describe how this also affects our behaviour, from the way we provide and receive feedback at work, to the likelihood of our relationships to succeed. On the latter, the authors show that positive interactions must outweigh negative ones by a ratio of five to one if a relationship is to succeed. It is not a coincidence that the proportion of advertising budget spent on negative advertizing, as referenced above, mirrors this ratio.

This is called our negativity bias.

Icek Ajzen’s Theory of Planned Behaviour says that, while the most important determinant of our behaviour is our intention to perform the behaviour, impulses and habits can get in the way and prevent us from making the jump from plan to action. Political campaign managers are all too aware of this and it is this that sets two distinct processes in securing votes – the first is persuading the voter, the second is getting them to the voting booth, the so called “Get Out The Vote” effort.

Nobel prize-winner Daniel Kahneman writes in “Thinking, Fast and Slow” that this is due to our dual processing in achieving our planned behaviours: on the one hand we have our rational process which is slow, effortful and rule-governed, while on the other we have our intuition, comparatively quick, effortless, yet vulnerable to emotion. Behaviours formed from intuition are often less healthy, like choosing chocolate cake over fruit salad when we are stressed. A growing body of work in public health shows that we may be able to exploit intuitive thinking for better health, however.

External cues such as packaging and container size can powerfully impact the amount people eat. A 2001 experiment provided participants with free popcorn at the movies, either medium or large. The catch was that the popcorn was five days old and tasted like styrofoam packing. Despite this, on returning their buckets at the end of the movie, those who had the large bucket had consumed 55% more popcorn than those with the medium sized bucket. (The taste was actually so bad, that many participants asked for their money back, forgetting the popcorn was free).

Similar effects were seen in a randomized trial assessing the efficacy of a simple portion control plate for obese patients with Type 2 diabetes. While participants were free to eat what they chose, 16.9% with the plate lost more than 5% body weight, compared to only 4.9% of those who continued as normal.

As we realize these effects more and more, the subsequent challenge will be to effect policy change. There are many who regard such attempts to change health behaviours as paternalistic. I argue they are, rather, Nudges. Nobody is forced to do or give up a particular behaviour, yet we might bring about real change. After all, we face an onslaught of nudges from our surroundings – in the form of advertising, and indeed other forms of persuasion – all the time.

“It Could Not Happen Here.” Newspapers: why were they so slow to respond to the Digital Age?

 

At the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 there were about 56,000 full-time journalists in the US. Last year that number was just 33,000. This is but one of the drastic changes seen in journalism and the media in the modern era. These changes are important for us as consumers of media, but they also provide leadership lessons that may be generalized across many disciplines.

Since at least the dawn of the 2008 financial crisis, it has not been business as usual in the media industry, especially for newspapers. Journalism has moved largely from the realm of a specialist institution into the hands of amateur bloggers and other less traditional forms of writing, who publish almost exclusively online and almost exclusively for free.

This has happened because of a perfect storm comprising:

  • Reduced revenue, mostly because of advertising losses. The relative proportion of advertising online, as opposed to newspapers and magazines, has increased enormously. The cost per user reached online (cost-per-click) is drastically lower and there is the opportunity to very carefully target the audience.
  • Reduced production and distribution cost for online – less traditional – media. This is not only because of a near-absent cost of materials, but is also largely thanks to members of the public now having the tools to do what they had wanted to do before: produce material for free. Newspapers might have seen this coming if they had more closely followed the formation of new internet media like Wikipedia, which is open to anybody to contribute, and yet – to the surprise of many traditionalists – it produces relatively accurate content, because of  Linus’ Law: “with enough eyes, all bugs are shallow,” relying on the group to be able to find errors and fix them.

This new state of play presents new challenges. Nicco Mele in a recent podcast stresses the importance of holding the reader’s attention and an emerging need to place even more emphasis on local media production. Indeed, the lack of profitability of traditional media has hit regional media the hardest, creating a vacuum of journalists able to hold local power accountable.

Clay Shirky in a 2009 blog post described this shakeup as a revolution. He says: The old stuff is broken faster than the new stuff is put in place,” likening the current revolution with another that took place over 500 years ago, at the advent of the printing press. The pivotal 15th-century invention provided new opportunities, but it also tore apart social norms along the lines of who should have access to printed materials, what should be printed, among other pertinent social questions of the time.

What does our modern revolution – the progression to digital media – hold for the future?

There are those who would argue that the traditional news organization is dead. Dean Starkman refers to this school of thought as the Future of News (FON) consensus. They herald the movement from the old-fashioned hierarchical relationship of reporter and reader to the modern, more level playing field, where there is a division of labor among equals. Their view is that the production of media will become more of a conversation between members of a community, than a one way message from reporter to reader.

Part of the FON camp’s outlook is that the old institutions must wither. I do feel, however, that this is unfairly harsh on the old institutions. Shirky is somebody classically seen as belonging to the FON camp, and yet he himself admits that we really do not know what is going to happen to institutions, we can only perhaps say what the core functions of journalism are. I would argue instead that the institution may find a way to prosper, but it will be because they have found the right way to provide excellent journalism, in particular public interest journalism, in a way that meets the norms of our new world.

If we are to assume that our news organizations have some future, in an undecided form, then which leadership lessons might they want to learn from our voyage so far into the world of digital media?

The first lesson would be to stimulate a spirited debate on their prevailing business model. Many companies failed to do this at the advent of the digital era. With the rise of online media, their products began to be distributed for free in violation of copyright. Shirky recounts how they sought to apply an existing framework to the problem: making their software less easy to replicate online and by suing copyright violators to make an example of them. Their efforts would be in vain, because they were banking on having the ability to limit online media sharing. As this became inevitable, the pitfall in their plan was exposed.

Moreover, we must also use this as an opportunity to scrutinize organizational culture. As the New York Times struggled to succeed in the digital era, a small part of this might have been attributable to a lack of technical literacy. Far more endemic, however, was a lack of situational awareness. While customers diversified the source of their reading material, the Times’ seemed blissfully unaware of their impending upheaval, and continued to assess their writers on how many times they made the front page. Across disciplines, situational awareness holds the key to navigating through a difficult period. We hear that in the newspaper industry, even those who did raise concerns about the reality of the situation were shunned aside.

Professor Aidan Halligan, who was an inspirational mentor to me before his untimely death, summed up beautifully the imperative of situational awareness. “The most chilling words to hear in any organization?” he would ask. “It could not happen here.”

Health Equity: An Evaluation of a Wikipedia Entry

This week I’ve chosen to evaluate the Wikipedia entry “Health Equity,” a subject area of great personal and professional interest. Below, I will assess the article through a framework of six domains: comprehensiveness, sourcing, neutrality, readability, formatting and illustrations. To give a brief overview, the article’s strong points are in breadth of information and overall quality of sourcing. Its weaknesses are predominantly in depth and contextual insight.

Comprehensiveness

 

The article makes a good effort to cover a broad range of the different variables that are known to demonstrate inequity in health outcomes, covering race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, age and at least an attempt at socioeconomic status, among others. What it fails to show in more than skeletal nature are the mechanisms of how these lead to inequitable outcomes. In fact, following the common misconception from the general public and even many within the medical profession, the article focuses almost exclusively on healthcare provision as the source of health disparities, rather than the wider determinants of health (Eg housing, sanitation, security, education and healthcare). A conceptual framework for the determinants of health is given by the WHO here. This is not to say that healthcare is not important, but that it is part of a complex tapestry of factors influencing our health. A good example is that of Rose and colleagues, who in their seminal work – the Whitehall study – showed there to be vast differences in health outcomes between different professions in the UK civil service, despite the fact that all of these professional groups had access to free healthcare under the British National Health Service.

Second, with further regard to the depth of the article, there is room for improvement. An example is seen Under “Ethnic and Racial disparities,” where there is one sentence at the end of the section dedicated to the role of slavery impacting on African American health in the US. While an in-depth account of slavery is beyond the scope of the  Wikipedia article, the crucial mechanism that is crying out for explanation here is the generational effect of health inequity, where disadvantaged groups are likely to pass on health disadvantages to their children. The author might have focused on the higher rate of premature births and thus lower birth weights among African American women, which carries considerable health risks for the newborn in later life, who in turn is more likely to give birth prematurely, in a cyclical fashion unless disrupted.

Third, the contextual insight is lacking in several places; the use of study findings is presented in a way that does not show a basic understanding of epidemiology. For example, the finding that “African American men were 30% more likely than white men to die from heart disease” does not specify a time period (5-year, 10-year etc) or the measure used to calculate this (cumulative incidence, incidence rate etc).These measures should be specified to demonstrate better contextual insight.  Taking off points for Sourcing (below), the reference for this particular statement was not found after searching with both Google and Harvard Library.

Sourcing

One the whole there are 107 references cited, with some additional resources provided. On the whole, the sources are from scientific journals, with a smaller proportion of books and several key publications from Intergovernmental Organizations like the WHO. I would say the authors should be commended for the number and source type, which are appropriate for a public health article, and abide by Wikipedia’s principle of Notability, in that the knowledge provided by the article is verifiable. The impact factor of the journals cited is variable, but this is to be expected with a list of references of greater than 100.

Neutrality

On a superficial level, the article successfully draws on examples from multiple locations throughout the globe to ensure that its application does not lie solely in, for example, the United States.

On a deeper level, the article does make a number of assumptions with regard to the intrinsic value of health equity. Coming from this background, it is easy to forget that this may not be obvious to every reader. Indeed, the value of health equity may even hold more weight if it is accompanied by an ethical discussion.  To this end, a discourse in the different egalitarian perspectives in ethics would be warranted, such as those put forward by luck egalitarians. To discuss further whether health – in particular health equity -should be given special status, the authors might draw on Norman Daniels’ theory of social justice.

Readability

Apart from several long paragraphs, the article is easy to read with a good variability in sentence length and structure. Generally, the use of headings also aids the flow of the reading. Specialist terminology is, in many cases, explained.

Formatting

Referring to the Wikipedia Manual of Style, the article contains an introductory lead section and the article is divided into headings, though more could be made of sub-headings. For example, the paragraph “Socioeconomic Status” uses only one subheading “Education,” whereas income and social capital as two other markers are described above without their own subheadings. There is no overuse of unexplained abbreviations.

Illustrations

While the article contains only one diagram – depicting the density of physicians per 100,000 population for each country – it might be an inappropriate use of resources to require more illustrative content for its own sake. I would argue, however, that for many of the variables giving rise to health inequity, further illustration would be beneficial. A simple graph depicting, for example, the infant mortality rate (number of deaths of infants under 1 year old per 1000 live births) for different racial groups would help to convey important information quickly to the reader.

 

 

Social networks: a powerful agent for cohesion when used wisely

We all know somebody who laments the rise of social media, often purporting that it erodes social cohesion. There is, however, a sizeable body of evidence to suggest that this is not the case, as long as we’re wise about what we see, where it’s coming from and where we fit in.
In their book “Connected,” Christakis and Fowler argue that the “hyperconnected” world made by possible by technology is, in fact, helping us to realize our natural instinct to connect with other humans. They note a 2011 national survey showing that 80% of internet users participate in a group or voluntary association compared to only 56% of non-users. While it is difficult to say that being online causes better social cohesion without a more rigorous study design, a growing body of similar evidence at least provides the basis of a strong association.
Supporting the above is the observation that, in many cases, our behavior online is closely related to what we do offline. In Netville, a Toronto suburb, residents who were better connected with other residents online came together more frequently as a community and successfully protested defects in the construction of their homes. The relationship between online and offline behavior can even be seen in unforeseen areas. In 2005, an infectious outbreak in the online game World of Warcraft went much further than the developers had planned because of the way players interacted with each other. The episode required a complete reboot of the game’s servers and provided lessons for real world outbreaks as reported in Lancet Infectious Diseases. In reverse, it seems our online behavior also influences our real-world interactions. A research group at my alma mater – University College London – showed that a virtual reality experience in the form of an avatar can help to reduce self-criticism and increase self-compassion and feelings of contentment.
With this interdependence, it would seem all the more important to analyze what we are seeing online and, crucially, what – or who – is influencing this. Cue the entry of the Filter Bubble.
Many of us are familiar with the idea that our Facebook feeds are tailored to what Facebook’s algorithm thinks we want to see, even if we aren’t comfortable with the idea. This process extends into our Google searches and beyond, and has come to be known as The Filter Bubble. In his TED talk, Eli Pariser warns us that its unrestrained and uninvited use will lead to a less balanced diet of information, and ultimately a degradation of democracy by failing to provide us with alternative points of view.
Accepting there’s some gravity to the idea of a Filter Bubble, it’s important to consider how profound its effects may be. As humans, we are incredibly vulnerable to being swayed by external opinion. In the 1950s, the Asch experiment demonstrated that a majority group can influence us to knowingly choose the wrong answer to a simple problem. This effect is seen in all industries, and is at the heart of why organizational change is so difficult. Indeed, awareness of how we might be swayed is a cornerstone of many leadership development programs, including those I’ve benefitted from.
There are, of course, those who dispute the significance of the Filter Bubble. Jonathan Cray provides a thorough critique; one study of 250 million users found that most of what we share online is likely to come from our weaker ties and acquaintances, who are less likely to share our political or other beliefs. The size of such a study is worth mentioning in itself and minimizes the effect of random error on the results.
Beyond the Bubble, whose effects are largely due to algorithmic code, the control of the infrastructure supporting the internet has the potential to affect what we experience online without our knowledge or consent. The principle of Network Neutrality implies that Internet Service Providers (eg Comcast and Verizon in the US / BT and Virgin Media in the UK) should treat all internet traffic equally, but not everybody agrees. Proponents argue that Network Neutrality ensures equal access for new innovation, but opponents argue that the principle – and supporting legislature – disincentivize the Providers from investing in new, high speed infrastructure.
Regardless of any potential dangers of the Filter Bubble or a lack of Network Neutrality, online social networks are set to play an increasingly important part in our lives. Social Network Analysis (SNA), as described by Rheingold, gives us some tools to increase our awareness of how we fit in. We can assess our links to other individuals not only by the strength of our ties, but also how central we are within a network; having high “centrality” implies that somebody is good at bridging the gap between differing parts of a network. This is, within many industries, seen to convey a particular advantage.
The flipside of centrality brings us back to look at Infectious Disease, though this time there are a great many examples in the real world to demonstrate this. Focusing on a study from a 2015 outbreak in South Korea of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), there were 186 patients affected in a 3 month period. By investigating the epidemiology of the outbreak, the authors showed that one man, named “Patient 14” was linked to 82 other cases of MERS-CoV, or nearly 45% of the total cases seen in the outbreak, earning him the title of “superspreader.” His centrality to other patients in location and time allowed him to spread the disease to many more people than would typically be expected.
Social networks have great potential to further enhance social cohesion, through the interplay between our online and offline behaviors. But to navigate the digital world, it would be wise to have a keen awareness of the ways in which information is filtered before it reaches us, and the centrality of our position within our social networks.

PubMed 2.0? Lessons for scientific literature in the digital age.

Radical growth is afoot in the world of scientific literature. From 1950-2000 there was a steady increase in the article publication rate, but far more striking is the growth since 2000 (see Featured Image, which shows the MEDLINE-indexed articles per year 1950-2010). To develop a conceptual framework for the opportunities and costs presented by this, we would do well to turn to some examples from established literature on media in the digital age.

Digital technology, in particular social media, has changed the way we operate.  Clay Shirky [1],  describes how this is happening. The suggested framework can be described as ascending up a ladder, with increasing complexity and difficulty, but also greater potential outcome with each step.

Step 1: Information sharing

In the early 2000s, devotees of Brooklyn’s Coney Island Mermaid Parade used Flickr to achieve a far larger forum for photo sharing than was ever previously possible. By previous communication standards, the event organiser would’ve probably had to hire individual photographers, and each photograph would have put forward to traditional media outlets, competing with many other newsworthy features for attention. The organiser may also have then advertised the following year. At each step of this process toward the sharing of information, transaction cost is incurred. Flickr provided a means to dramatically reduce this cost, and so, allowed for a previously unprecedented forum for sharing for this event.

Flickr demonstrates one aspect of Web 2.0 (a term referring to web-based applications with a certain set of characteristics described by O’Reilly [2]) in that it provides a service – rather than packaged software – and this service includes cost-effective scalability.

Step 2 and 3: Cooperation and Collaborative Production

In the 15th-century, the invention of the printing press changed not only the speed of producing written documents, but it also brought about the imminent demise of the Scribe. A similar process unfolds today in the shift from traditional media to user-as-contributor media sources. While diversifying the number of potential sources for the reader, the discerning feature of this change is the transfer of capability from professional to non-professional.

Web 2.0 shows us that even within the digital age, the process of collaborative production has been enhanced. Newpedia – a precursor to Wikipedia – failed to gain traction because it required seven stages of editorial process before publication. Wikipedia by contrast (“Wiki” means “quick” in Hawaiian) has been successful thanks to its “radical display of trust” in allowing users to instantly contribute, exemplifying a key feature of a web 2.0 company: “trusting users as co-developers.”

Step 4: Collective Action

The above concepts can be extended when a group comes together to take decisive action. A notable example from the book is the newfound ability of parishioners within the Catholic Church to put a stop to sexual abuse from priests. What set successful and failed attempts to bring perpetrators to justice was the ability to form groups within parishes, to disseminate information easily and to develop links between parishes. This progress was achieved by the reduced transaction cost of communicating.

The church did not see that that the prior role of the media had actually been taken over by the parishioners, and that it would now be impossible, despite their attempts, to stop interaction between parishes. This highlights the importance of allowing groups to organise themselves and can be seen by the capability of Web2.0 applications like Facebook.

How does this relate to some other digital concepts?

Metcalfe’s Law:
The value of a network is [nonexponentially] proportional to the square of the number of users in the system.

Reed’s Law:
The value of a network is exponentially related to the ability to form groups within the network.

User generated content changed the role of the reader from audience to community member. It is this shift which aptly reflects why Reed’s Law has an exponential relationship to utility of group size, while Metcalfe’s Law has a much less dramatic effect. The ability to form groups within a network could here be likened to forming a community, insofar as forming a group increases the likelihood to contribute.

What does this mean for the scientific literature?

The growth of available literature warrants a critique of the applicability of the current peer-review system to (i) its production and (ii) how it is accessed.

The gold standard of scientific publication has been the peer review, whereby a few experts are chosen to critically review potential publications. The advantage of such an approach is the ability to filter worthy from unworthy, thereby setting a professional standard. While Shirky even goes so far as to set the likes of medicine on a pedestal – where we wouldn’t tolerate any lowering in standards – it is indeed worth considering if this will become practically possible. At the very least, it would seem necessary that the privilege of peer reviewer be extended to a greater proportion of those in scientific professions, a process which may be resisted by those under the influence of narcissistic bias.

Gathering momentum in the scientific community is the concept of Open Access: research characterised by a lack of any toll on access, and sometimes a lack of restrictions on usage. There are also lower costs to securing a publication in an Open Access journal. The idea represents a reduction in the transaction cost of sharing and collaboratively producing scientific literature. Proponents of the status quo institutions say that they are becoming even more necessary as it is becoming harder to sift the good from the mediocre [3].

Priem and colleagues [4] open our eyes to a solution: “altmetrics”. The term refers to search tools that are able to cope with the increasing volume of data by changing the nature of the search. Instead of the traditional focus on citations as primary marker of impact, altmetrics incorporates more diverse measures, like breaking articles down into their composite parts and incorporating the contributions from the blogosphere, where a great deal of scientific conversation happens. What’s more, they may even provide a means to crowdsource peer-review.

The wider scientific community would benefit from a thoughtful discussion about the role of new technologies in the production of and access to the literature.

References

[1] Shirky, C. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. Penguin 2008. ISBN 978-1-59420-153-0
[2] O’Reilly, T. What is Web 2.0? http://oreil.ly/2crtXnp
[3] Van Noorden, R. Open Access: The True Cost of Science Publishing. Nature 495,426–429 (28 March 2013) doi:10.1038/495426a http://go.nature.com/2cnFynl
[4] J. Priem, D. Taraborelli, P. Groth, C. Neylon (2010), Altmetrics: A manifesto, 26 October 2010. http://altmetrics.org/manifesto  http://bit.ly/2cS4DfD