The Open Access Tracking Project (OATP) provides a unique resource. It distributes information about recent news items of interest from the perspective of the Open Access movement. Participants in the OATP tag new developments using Connotea. The OATP links include project feeds that contain all (and only) the items that participants have tagged with oa.new. One of the feeds is a Twitter feed, based on the version of the Connotea RSS feed showing the 50 most recent items.
Some influential news items are bookmarked in Connotea by more than one participant. One of the useful OATP mashups is a filtered version of the project feed, a “OATP 100 items no dups” feed of the 100 most recent news items, without duplicates.
Influential news items are also often found in multiple tweets, or have been retweeted, via Twitter. Another useful resource is Topsy, a “search engine powered by tweets“. Topsy provides way to assess the influence of news items that have been included in the OATP Twitter feed. One can simply use Topsy’s Advanced Search option to search within the Twitter user OATP. Such searches within the OATP Twitter feed can be restricted to the current day, or week, or month. The number of duplicate tweets (or retweets) about a news item can be used as a quantitative indicator of the influence of a particular news item. (It’s the URL of the news item that counts, not the exact text of the tweet). This indicator provides one kind of “article-level metric” (ALM) for that news item. (For an informative commentary about ALMs, see the OA article: Article-Level Metrics and the Evolution of Scientific Impact by Cameron Neylon and Shirley Wu, PLoS Biol 2009(Nov); 7(11): e1000242. [PubMed citation]).
An example of a very influential news item (well over 900 tweets, including the one from the OATP) during the week ending on July 24, 2010 was: BP buys up Gulf scientists for legal defense, roiling academic community | al.com. (See all of the Twitter trackbacks for this news item, via Topsy). The Connotea bookmark for this news item was tagged oa.industry, oa.new, oa.negative, oa.data by Peter Suber (Connotea user “petersuber“).
Efforts to keep up with recent news items involve three major aspects. Firstly, there must be ways for the news items to be discovered. Secondly, ways are needed to filter the discovered items so that those of particular interest to an individual user can be identified easily. Thirdly, the discovered items of interest must be accessible to the reader.
About discovery: The Open Access movement may be unique, from a scholarly perspective, in the extent to which credible items of interest are distributed across the entire Web. A wide variety of online sources provide relevant items. The participants in the OATP (especially, Peter Suber) have been extraordinarily diligent in their efforts to discover such items. Additional news items can be identified via these tags: #openaccess and #oa. There is much overlap between these latter results, because both of these hashtags are often used together. I’ve not yet found an easy way to assess the extent of overlap between news items identified by the #openaccess or #oa hashtags and those included in the OATP feeds. There’s a feed that combines the OATP results with those for #openaccess, but duplicates between the two have not been eliminated.
About filtering: The tags added to Connotea bookmarks can be used to filter news items obtained via the Connotea site. An example is provided by the results of a search for oa.canada. Unfortunately, the Connotea search engine tends to function slowly, especially when combinations of tags are sought. Searches via Topsy are more convenient, but Topsy does not recognize “oa.new” or “oa.canada” as hashtags, in the absence of a “#” symbol. My own experience so far has been that, thanks to the OATP, there’s less of a discovery deficit when seeking OA-related news items, and more of a filtration challenge. What are the most efficient ways to find those news items of greatest personal interest? They may not always be items that have a noteworthy number of Twitter trackbacks.
About access: there’s an advantage to the fact that credible news items of interest to the OA movement are widely distributed across the entire Web. Unlike articles in traditional toll-access academic journals, OA-related news items tend (not a surprise) to be publicly accessible, usually via Gratis OA. Perhaps the OA movement is in the process of providing an initial test of the conjecture that we are in the early stages of a growing movement to abandon traditional academic publishing? Or, perhaps more realistically, in the early stages of a growing movement to supplement traditional academic publishing with a variety of other approaches, all based on free and open services?