Once upon a time, books were stored in libraries and bookstores, read by lenders and purchasers and the insights from them observed and retold or else contested and discussed.

The evolution of the internet has resulted in digitisation of many scholarly tomes, but also further obscured what we know about the influence of monographs – written studies on specialised topics which are frequently produced by university researchers.

We can count citations for many monographs, but know relatively little about who is reading them, how often they are read or discussed, and what impact they have.

Alkim Ozaygen has recently submitted his PhD thesis examining new approaches to measuring the influence of Open Access monographs. He recently collaborated with other members of the COKI team on a paper examining ways of using social media data to better understand how Open Access Monographs are used.

“Digital traces of online interactions relating to scholarly books have the potential to shed light on how people use, discuss, and share monographs, as well as the role that individuals, institutions and platforms play in this process,” the team noted in the paper.

Published in HAL and presented at the recent online ElPub2020 conference, the paper outlined the results from analysis of altmetrics – metrics relating to social media references to publications – in relation to monographs.

“The impact of publications needs to be better understood and social media appears to be one useful measure which can demonstrate how widely a paper has been read and discussed,” Mr Ozaygen said.

“We examined a relatively small sample of references in detail and found that 28 entries on the bookmarking and reference manager platform Mendeley had been made for 20 titles.

“Most of these bookmarks were by graduate students, followed by undergraduate students.”

Mr Ozaygen said the COKI study provided a solid foundation for further work in this area.

“Further analysis across a broader sample would be required to get a deeper understanding of the journey of an Open Access monograph, from the moment it is published until it becomes more widely known and cited by researchers around the world. This early research shows there is considerable potential to unlock more insights,” Mr Ozaygen said.

“At a time when universities are under great scrutiny and their role in society is being discussed, it is really important to find ways to measure how research is having an impact – or alternatively how some research is being read very little.

“The COKI project’s database and expertise have helped crack open a window into a new approach to measurement, which can work in conjunction with other metrics to provide insights into how a university engages with the community – and who is listening in.”