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Are Scientists Averse to Using Web 2.0 Tools? Case Study 1

March 17, 2010

This seems a rather tantalizing question with a number of blog posts discussing this topic at length, hence taking up a good amount of my reading time (as one example see a recent post). Since I found none of these blog posts to have an objective analysis, I decided to do a case study (actually two) myself. For the first case study I choose Alzheimer Research Forum.

The Alzheimer Research Forum (ARF) is a dynamic scientific community dedicated to understanding Alzheimer disease and related disorders. ARF has implemented an online metajournal, Papers of the Week, built around a database of citations retrieved nightly from PubMed. On an average about 150 citations are posted each week with links to the PubMedAbstracts of basic and clinical research articles on Alzheimer’s disease and related fields. Readers can comment on citations and view related citations, news, discussion forums and databases.

Activity analysis 1: I sampled the data for a single month, Jan 2010, and found 144 instances of interactivity (see figure) – these are Recommendations (R) and Comments (C).

All the recommendations are for the published articles whereas the comments are of 4 types – comments on papers (blue), on news (including news on papers; red), on live discussions (green) and on site polls. A user analysis showed that all this activity was carried out by 49 members with 33 contributing a single activity and on the other extreme one single individual was responsible for 38 activities. None of these are staff writers or staff members. (There were instances of group of coauthors contributing to the activity but for simplicity I counted such groups as a single user).

users activity
33 1
9 2
1 3
1 8
1 9
2 11
1 13
1 38

Activity analysis 2: Of the 7484 papers appeared on the site in 2009, the number of papers showing commenting activity (as of now) is 747. This means 10% of the published articles in the entire field of Alzheimer research received commenting from this web site and that is a very significant number considering the fact that social media is a two-way conversation which ensure that your actions are providing value.

Conclusion: Scientists do NOT appear to be averse to using web 2.0 tools when publishers facilitate by building resources.

Action items: Build resources, build resources and build resources.

I will post the second case study soon.

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