In the midst of the hustle bustle of the ever-popular ALPSP conference this year, Enago’s Tony O’Rourke (Strategic Alliances, Europe) had the opportunity to speak with Charlie Rapple, the co-founder and sales and marketing director of the rapidly expanding researcher tool Kudos. Charlie is also Associate Editor at Learned Publishing, the journal of Association of Learning and Professional Society Publishers, published in conjunction with the Society for Scholarly Publishing.
In this interview, Charlie discusses the need for services like Kudos and their value for early-stage researchers, as well as for experienced researchers in countries such as Japan, Korea, and China. She also explains how Kudos has immensely benefited researchers around the world and shares some of the highlights of Kudos’s performance. For Enago Academy, the opportunity to connect with Charlie and understand in depth the impact Kudos has had on academic publishing was particularly exciting.
In the first part of our interview, Charlie shares the idea behind Kudos and the impact it has had on researchers.
Tony: Can you explain the initial idea behind Kudos?
Charlie: A number of different themes seemed to come together when we set up Kudos. My co-founders and I had all been working in the scholarly communications industry and tackling a lot of the same issues. With much more research being published, researchers were facing challenges in making sure that their works were finding an audience, and also in trying to digest the growing amount of literature and keep up with important developments in their space.
We were also at a time when metrics were taking off in new ways. Digital publishing mechanisms had enabled metrics to be calculated at the article level, and there was a growing interest not only in article-level metrics such as downloads but also in alternative metrics that looked at the attention being paid to a work on social media, in government policy, on Wikipedia, and so on.
These different aspects of change in our community inspired us to think about how we could help researchers perform better against these metrics, ensure that their work was finding an audience, and ultimately attain the impact required to help them in their constant pursuit for funding. That last issue was a key—funding has become so much more competitive and more people are trying to get a piece of it. So, we wanted to help people ensure that they and their work were performing in a way that would enable them to stand out and help them gain more funding.
Tony: Is Kudos free for research communities? What are the primary benefits of using Kudos?
Charlie: Kudos is a free and very easy-to-use service that doesn’t require much effort. As specialists in marketing and product development, we wanted to create a simple service with a workflow that could cut out a lot of researchers’ concerns and focus on what would help to improve the performance of their research. And it has really worked. An independent study of our first couple of years’ worth of data showed that when researchers use Kudos to explain and share their work, they can achieve around 23% more downloads of their work, and of course downloads are the basis for any other kind of impact. Before you can get cited, or before there can be any online discussions of your work, people need to read it! Growing readership is the main thing we are trying to help people do.
Tony: What are the prerequisites before a researcher can start using Kudos?
Charlie: The system is currently built around CrossRef DOIs assigned by 5,000 publishers, including most of the journals where researchers will be sending their articles for publication. Having a CrossRef DOI is the only prerequisite, and for most people that will not be a problem. As soon as you have a CrossRef DOI, you can find your work in our system and go through our three simple steps to increase the article’s readership.
Tony: Can you give some examples of where Kudos has made a difference?
Charlie: On an aggregate level, the use of Kudos is correlated with 23% more downloads. We have received some fabulous stories of what that has actually meant for individuals. One case was of a geology researcher who had not published very much. I think this was the second paper that had come out of her PhD, and she had recently published it. She explained it on Kudos in a fantastic, simple, plain-language way that helped even a layperson like me to understand the nature of her research. Then she posted a series of three or four tweets about it. She has now achieved over 1,000 views of her work on Kudos, and this has really excited her. She has tweeted since then to say what a great insight this experience has given her into the fact that there are people out there reading her work, even at the early stage of her career. In fact, she said this was getting her excited about her research again, because she could tell that she had a wider audience out there rather than feeling a little bit alone in a vacuum with it.
In another instance, somebody was using a feature on Kudos that enables you to add links to related works. Normally, when other people publish after you, there is no way to connect their work to your publication. This researcher was trawling the web, looking for things to link to his own work in this way, and he discovered that somebody else was using his data and building on his work in a really interesting way that he hadn’t known about previously. So, the process of explaining and sharing his work via Kudos actually caused him to come across a new collaborator with whom he has gone on to do more work since then.
There are all sorts of interesting stories like these, and people are very excited and telling us about their successes and their positive experiences with the service.
Tony: Those sound like some pretty exciting benefits for researchers. What about other stakeholders like universities, journals, publishers, or funders?
Charlie: The amazing thing about what we are doing is that by encouraging researchers to share their explanations through a central system, we are building up a massive dataset that can then be interrogated and used by institutions, publishers, funders, societies, and anybody else with an interest in the success of that work. Moreover, any of these people can then collaborate through Kudos with the researcher in building up the impact of that work.
We work with 70 publishers, and they are doing all sorts of exciting things in terms of tapping into these plain-language explanations; reusing them on publisher websites to increase discoverability there; acknowledging and interacting with the researcher’s communications around their work; and helping to get those communications out to a broader audience.
It is a wonderful way to have everybody’s efforts in pursuit of this common goal all managed through a central system so people can build on each other’s efforts. Previously, publishers and institutions might have been doing press releases and other promotion separately before, now they can all work together and see whose effects are gaining traction. They can also look, at the publisher or institutional level, across all the authors or researchers that they are affiliated with to see which channels are proving to be most effective and who is having the most impact. They can start to understand a lot more, in an evidence-based way, about how best to communicate around research, and this can help to shape their own activities and ensure that they save time and do things in a more effective way. It also critically shapes the guidance that they give to researchers. They can do that analysis at a regional level as well, so they can look at what is working better for our authors in China or for those in Russia and provide different guidance based on location-based evidence. That’s much better than the previous situation in which people were experimenting with different communications but didn’t have the detailed insights or ways to connect the dots between communications activities and publications metrics, so it was very difficult to know what was actually working. Kudos solves that problem for everybody.
Tony: Where has Kudos established itself? Since we are both marketing professionals, I would be interested in knowing how you reach your target audiences.
Charlie: We are very much a global service. We now have over 100,000 researchers using the service, and I think that about 23% of those are in Asia, including 8% in India and 5% in China. Many audiences around the world recognize this common need to maximize the impact of their work. We have mostly reached them through our publisher partnerships. I mentioned that we are working with 70 publishers, and they are inviting all their authors at the point of publication—and often inviting authors of previously published content—to write explanations of and share their work. But we are also starting to target our campaigns directly at researchers as well. Now that we have good evidence of why the system is worth using and a little bit more brand visibility, we can start to engage directly with researchers.
We are running a fantastic campaign at the moment called Mobilize Research, designed to encourage researchers to embrace this idea of broadening their audience and to share their work via Kudos, or even just to tweet using the hashtag #mobilizeresearch. This has already proven to be very successful in increasing awareness and uptake of our service. We will be doing a lot more of this kind of work directly with researchers as well as continuing our work through publishers and institutions.
About Kudos: Kudos is a web-based service that helps researchers, institutions, and funders to maximize the visibility and impact of their published articles and research. It provides a platform for (a) assembling and creating information to help with search filtering, (b) information sharing to drive discovery, and (c) measuring and monitoring the effects of these activities. Visit their website for more details!
(This interview is a part of our interview series of connecting scholarly publishing experts and researchers.)
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