Live from San Francisco, part 1: SF DORA

Image from Jack Dorsey, @Jack
Image from Jack Dorsey, @Jack

This week I am in the wonderful (full disclosure, I’m from there & biased) city of San Francisco to attend the Society for Scholarly Publishing conference. If you’ve ever read anything from the Scholarly Kitchen blog – this is those folks, which is why I’m particularly excited to be in attendance.

I’ll be blogging from the conference, but as I wait for the keynote speaker Tim O’Reilly tonight, to kick off the San Francisco/publishing themed posts, I’m including something that came up recently = on the MEDLIB-L listserv: San Francisco’s Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA).

Although initiated at a December 2012 meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology, the declaration is supposed to be a “worldwide initiative covering all scholarly disciplines”. In actuality, it is a “set of recommendations” to improve the “way in which the output of scientific research is evaluated.”

I was instantly intrigued by this premise, since I’d just heard Jason Priem talk about the hot-button topic at MLA this year: altmetrics, or alternative metrics: different ways to measure impact. In his presentation (the full slide deck is available here),  he spoke about the scientific journal as the cutting edge of scholarly communication tools – in the 17th century. With the proliferation of the web and social media that facilitates peer group connections, he made a convincing point that we need more and different information on impacts than we are getting from peer review and traditional publishing. We should see who our work is reaching, and via what channels – such as on our blogs and Twitter streams. There are many tools to facilitate that (although they are by no means perfect yet) and one explicitly mentioned was his collaboration in creating – which lets you pull in your various digital content (presentations on SlideShare; articles in Mendeley, Tweets linking to papers, papers in PubMed, etc.) and generate a report of impressions, shares, emails, etc.


DORA targets the journal impact factor, pointing out that, “as calculated by Thomson Reuters, was originally created as a tool to help librarians identify journals to purchase, not as a measure of the scientific quality of research in an article.”  DORA then includes 18 recommendations, but themes that run across them include:

  • the need to eliminate the use of journal-based metrics, such as Journal Impact Factors, in funding, appointment, and promotion considerations;
  • the need to assess research on its own merits rather than on the basis of the journal in which the research is published; and
  • the need to capitalize on the opportunities provided by online publication (such as relaxing unnecessary limits on the number of words, figures, and references in articles, and exploring new indicators of significance and impact).

Did I mention the DORA is something you can sign? Read the declaration, voice your thoughts; then if so inclined, join luminary signatures such as Bruce Alberts and diverse organizations such as the Public Library of Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation.

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