Wednesday, July 25, 2007

New Metrics of scholarly authority

Did I mention we are suffering under summer's mandate to slow down and enjoy the view, here at IAG? I have spent the past three weeks in hectic report-writing and budget-reconciling land, but have emerged relatively unscathed now that both have been submitted to higher powers.

I have been attending to civic matters, and busy catching up on correspondence. One of which was a message from (gulp) more than two weeks ago about an interesting blog topic. I flagged it at the time and now am finally returning to it.

Andy suggested it from a Chronicle article about Web 2.0/3.0 methods of establishing relevance and authority. Here the draft list the author, Michael Jensen, presented that Andy circulated as brain food with commentary:
  • Prestige of the publisher (if any).
  • Prestige of peer prereviewers (if any).
  • Prestige of commenters and other participants.
  • Percentage of a document quoted in other documents.
  • Raw links to the document.
  • Valued links, in which the values of the linker and all his or her other links are also considered.
  • Obvious attention: discussions in blogspace, comments in posts, reclarification, and continued discussion.
  • Nature of the language in comments: positive, negative, interconnective, expanded, clarified, reinterpreted.
  • Quality of the context: What else is on the site that holds the document, and what's its authority status?
  • Percentage of phrases that are valued by a disciplinary community.
  • Quality of author's institutional affiliation(s).
  • Significance of author's other work.
  • Amount of author's participation in other valued projects, as commenter, editor, etc.
  • Reference network: the significance rating of all the texts the author has touched, viewed, read.
  • Length of time a document has existed.
  • Inclusion of a document in lists of "best of," in syllabi, indexes, and other human-selected distillations.
  • Types of tags assigned to it, the terms used, the authority of the taggers, the authority of the tagging system.

The items I noted in red are ones where social networking systems would play a fairly obvious role in establishing or enhancing authority under these systems. The things noted in green/italic are somewhat secondary qualifications; i.e., the other social-y stuff will contribute, over time, more and more to, for example, the "prestige of the commentors and participants." That is, if I don't do the other things, my prestige will go down. They are (again, over time) likely to become effects as opposed to causes.

So... from a library perspective, does this mean that:

A) There should be a way for libraries to catalog/reference/rate scholary authority in some way? If the "old way" was to provide access and metadata for materials that had been conferred with authority by being in certain publications or by certain authors... how do we provide discovery/delivery for stuff where the authority is vested in a much less central way? And...

B) Should libraries seek to influence this "new authority" in any way, or simply promote its effects and/or best-in-class systems. That is, should librarians seek (in an organized fashion, and/or more than other users) to impart authority on various materials? Or should the task be to provide access based on authority.

He's asking great questions. What do you think?

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