Are ALMs/altmetrics propagating global inequality?

Are ALMs/altmetrics propagating global inequality?

Presentation given at the ALM Workshop in San Francisco, October 10-12, 2013

Altmetrics/Article Level Metrics (ALMs) may prove to be a disruptive force in today's scholarly communication landscpae, but scholars in the developing world have little hope of benefiting from their increased prevalence. Like with commerically-controlled citation indexes before them, ALM/altmetrics are highly biased towards those in the global North (both in uptake and in the resulting metrics). Yet, these biases are hardly ever acknowledged and even less frequently taken into consideration. As the ALM/altmerics movements consolidate around a group of stakeholders located exclusively in the global North, the rest of the world will once again be left behind and the rest of the world will be forced play catch-up in a race it has no hope of winning.

In a humble attempt to give scholars in the developing world a chance in this race, the Public Knowledge Project (PKP) is beginning to roll out an implementation of PLOS' ALM application focused on journals in the developing world. The service has the potential to reach thousands of journals using Open Journal Systems and, if successful, can encourage journal editors to stear their journals towards a broader public. The hope is that by starting at the same time as those in the North, and by becoming heavy users, scholars from developing countries will be able to take advantage of the potential ALM/altmetrics offer, as well as shape their development to suit their needs.

The future of scholarly communication needs to be inclusive of diverse local contexts and tailored to address national development goals, not just serve the scientific elite. As I present PKP's new ALM service and the challenges encountered, I challenge you to think outside of your own context and better understand the implications and needs of scholars in the developing world. And to think about how you can shape the future of scholarly communication to serve the development of higher education systems, to foster a research culture that is responsive to social needs, and to provide a platform to those that have traditionally been excluded from scholarly exchange.


Juan Pablo Alperin

October 11, 2013