Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Is the Thomson Reuters Data Citation Index Worth Paying For?

Greetings from the Hancock Learning Commons at the Australian National University in Canberra, where I am attending a presentation on the Thomson Reuters Data Citation Index. This attempts to add data to the traditional papers and books which academics get credit for producing. Thomson Reuters' offering was released a few weeks ago and ANU has been trying it out. Initially there were 2 million records in 69 repositories, including the Australian Data Archive (ADA). About half the current contents are from the USA, 42% from Europe. About half is from the life sciences.

What was not clear to me is what benefit the academic and research community gain by using Thomson Reuters' service. Presumably Thomson Reuters will charge money for use of their service. The information being indexed is almost all free open access material paid for by the public. It is not clear why academics should then pay Thomson Reuters for accessing free information.

The Australian Government funded Australian National Data Service the Australian Research Data Commons and similar free open access repositories are being linked up around the world.

If Thomson Reuters can add value to this, then the benefits they are offering need to be compared with what they propose to charge and a decision made if this investment is in the public interest.  It may not be a good use of public money for each university in Australia individually buy a subscription from Thomson Reuters.

Thomson Reuters collect up the metadata provided by repositories around the world and provide a global search facility to subscribers. The same service could be provided by others by harvesting this metadata.

The other service which is likely to be of more interest to academics, is that they harvest the citations of the datasets. Academics get hired and promoted partly on how many times their work is mentioned (cited) in published work. It is now possible to cite a dataset in the same way as publications, such as using APA. This will then increase the academics' citation ranking. If a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) is used, this makes the collection of the citations relatively easy.

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