Teaching and Learning in a Net-Centric World

The Publish or Perish Book

Well, after surviving end of term marking, coupled with two online keynotes and a real f2F one at Canadian MoodelMoot I’ve finally found some time to skim through two books that arrived on my desk that I want to share with you.

Product DetailsThe first is The Publish or Perish Book (P 0r P) by Anne-Wil Harzing. Harzing is one my heroes because she created and released  PorP Open Access program that uses Google Scholar to evaluate journals, articles, and authors based upon the number of citations of the work, collection or journal in other scholarly works. Citation indexes have always been the best numerical standard by which scholarship is measured (the second being reputation, but that is fickle, hard to measure with any reliability, and subject to gender, culture and national bias).  The leading metric is the ISI impact factor which is now owned  by Thomson media. I have long whined and complained that the ISI ratings are not very accurate for social sciences and in emergent disciplines like distance  education primarily because the Thomson databases simply do not index most of the leading journals and of course ignore books altogether. Secondly, though the journal I edit, IRRODL -has finally made it to Thomson’s World of Science,  Social Science Citation Index (after 6 years of requesting review), I still contend this commercial publisher, has a bias against open access publications. So I like Google Scholar as it’s scholarly index is much broader and may actually favour Open Access Journals, over those who publish only in paper or refuse to allow index spiders at the articles. However, Google Scholar by itself is not that easy to use and only gives you raw data (the number of citations). Thus the need for PorP!

Herzogs’ tool selects articles by more than author, allowing find tuned control over discipline, type of publication, journal, multiple spellings and a host of other search enhancements. Secondly, it does secondary analysis of the data calculating citations per article/per year and generating a variety of metrics like H, G, Hc, Hi, Hi Norm, e-index and a bunch of other ‘Factors” that only a librarian could come to love. These alphabet scores calculate the citations divided by things like number of years, authors, length of time the author has published and more. So I’ve used Publish or Perish to compare IRRODL to other publications, as an ego booster (or as often deflater) by punching in my own name and as a tool when I’m asked to evaluate another academic for promotion or tenure.

So if the tool is free you might ask why you should spend $47.21 (Can) buying the book. While I’ll confess that I just got Athabasca University library to order it and I am the first to check it out!. But it is well worth the read for anyone who needs a deeper understanding of citations, lit reviews, scholar or journal evaluation and much more. Herzog goes into some detail on both the problems and the value of citation indexes and most importantly engages the debate on the value of Google Scholar as compared to its subscription service competitors. She produces some very interesting data comparing PorP results with ISO and Scorpius scores and the H factors generated by each.  There is small differences across disciplines and the comparison is really confined to established disciplines and  especially those in the natural sciences, because the lack of coverage of the subscription indexes. However, she convincingly shows that there is very high correlations between the various indicies and argues that the supposed weaknesses of Google Scholar (self-citations are included, some non-scholarly works and books are included ) are really not a major a problem and in some cases add validity to the results.

A second reason for getting the book, is that though I’ve been using PorP for years, I leaned some neat new tricks. For instance I didn’t know that you could get combined citations on all the chapters of edited books – Of course my unconstrained ego couldn’t resist seeing what impact the two editions of the Theory and Practice of Online Learning that I edited have had on the scholarly community. I wasn’t disappointed. The first, 2004 edition garnered 695 citations from the 16 chapters or 86.8 citations per year.  Mohamed Ally’s chapter on the “Foundations of Educational Theory” garnered the most with 268 citations, while my “Teaching in Online Learning Context ” followed behind with 154. (see diagram below). The 2008 2nd Edition has, to date, had 275 citations of 13 chapters with 55 citations per year. My own chapter on Theory of Online Learning was most cited with 207 of those citations- which is a bit odd given that it got almost no citations in 2004.  Anyways it was nice to see the quantitative results of the impact of these two editions.

PorP closeup

In summary, I felt good being able to support Harzing by purchasing the book (well, as I noted above,  getting the library to purchase it!). I’d recommendnd it to anyone with a scholarly and numeric bent and especially to students at Athabasca -who can borrow it for free -when (and if) I return it!.

But for everyone else, do download the program and have some fun with it. However be warned that a nice glass of scotch is sometimes necessary – either for savouring self induced feelings of smugness or for drowning one’s sorrows over the incapacity for others to recognize  true genius!!

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