Faerthen Felix of Sagehen Creek Field Station has developed a list of excellent strategies for hunting down publications that reserve users haven’t reported to managers. Her methods are a great way to track papers, books, articles, book chapters, etc. that weren’t reported to you but by rights should count toward your reserve’s publications figures.
There are a number of traditional metrics for gauging field station success, including the numbers of user days, university classes, researchers, post-docs, etc. UCNRS’ Reserve Asset Management System (RAMS) helps immensely with tracking many of these metrics. Getting field station managers to agree on definitions is a much harder task.
But every field station struggles with reporting one of the most important traditional metrics: research publications resulting from station use. These publications often come many years after the researcher’s stay at the station(s), and it’s just far too easy for them to forget to give credit, or even to send a notification of publication to the manager.
Here are some strategies and thoughts that have worked to root out (and even generate) publication references for Sagehen Creek Field Station:
1. Ask your researchers
Mention in your orientations that you expect researchers to credit the reserve in their papers and provide you with bibliographic references to their work output resulting from station use.
Sometimes this even works (but often they will thank the manager and forget to mention the reserve).
Many researchers visit once and never again, but others come back for years. Check in with them at the beginning of each field season to see if they have anything new you should know about.
2. Use the new UCNRS DOIs
Soon, you will be able to provide your researchers with UCNRS digital object identifiers (DOIs) for your station to be used in their publications and datasets to provide credit to the station. This will make things more trackable in the future.
3. Use Google Scholar (scholar.google.com)
Google Scholar is a search engine for academic publications, including journal papers, conference papers, theses, and books. You can scour around in there manually, of course, but it’s easier to set keyword alerts and get an e-mail whenever something pops up.
Definitely set an alert for your reserve’s name, but consider additional alerts for keywords unique to your station, like the manager’s name, and any uniquely-named geological features (i.e. ‘Mason Fen’; ‘Sagehen Creek’; ‘Carpenter Ridge’, ‘Truckee Fault Zone’, ‘Lapilli tuff breccia’, etc.). You may consider setting alerts for individual researchers or programs, but be aware that you will have to sort through their entire output to see if anything relates to your reserve.
4. Unlock your datasets
Providing ongoing environmental monitoring is a huge, expensive and difficult task that is useful to just about everyone who visits your station, but no one will ever, ever credit you for it.
If you are contributing to, or storing your data in central repositories like…
· Western Region Climate Center (meteorology),
· Hydrology Benchmark Network (stream flow and chemistry),
· National Atmospheric Deposition Program (atmospheric deposition and/or mercury deposition),
· NutNet (meadow nutrients),
· Ameriflux Network (eddy co-variance),
· GLORIA (alpine ecology),
…that data is being used by researchers who will never even know about your contribution, much less credit you for it.
You may want to troll through these repositories’ bibliographic references every few years to see which of their publication credits include your data.
That can be a little tricky to tease out, but if a paper references, say, weather data from your region taken from that repository, it’s reasonable to assume that they are using your contribution. You can contact them and ask for clarification.
Things get trickier at larger scales, where multiple repositories are combined into big environmental and atmospheric models like PRISM, MODEX, RHESSys, etc. In this case, it is good to know what data went into that model, so that you can claim publication credits for your contribution.
This is actually a conversation that UCNRS should probably have as a group. It may be that we can identify and investigate major modelling efforts together so everyone doesn’t have to, or bundle our UCNRS data for these repositories, or discuss with them other ways to make our contributions more transparent.
5. Look to your collections
With the advent of isotopic and genetic analysis and the resulting taxonomic churning, old museum specimens are being used in new studies all the time now. If your station has a history of museum contributions, then these specimens are an extension of your reserve. Work with those museums to tease out any papers that you should be getting credit for.
This is a good reason to get your small teaching and research collections digitized, too. Just making your specimens discoverable is a huge step that will yield new publications. You don’t even have to image everything right now: just make an account and upload a simple spreadsheet of your specimen label data to a Symbiota portal. Then you can just take and send a snapshot whenever you get a request from Lithuania or Lappland.
Symbiota is a software platform that people have used to build collection portals like the North American Network of Small Herbaria (NANSH) for herbarium vouchers, Consortium of Small Vertebrate Collections (CSVColl) for mammals and birds, Invert-E-Base for insects. Even the Consortium of California Herbaria (CCH) is switching to Symbiota.
If you have really specialized collections, there are portals just for butterflies (LepNet), bryophytes (CNABH), Panamanian tropical ecology (STRI), and many more.
Symbiota software is user-friendly: it’s relatively easy to use once you get the hang of it, and there is tons of documentation and tutorial material out there. These portals tie into iDigBio, so you don’t have to report to multiple databases. And it’s completely free of charge, unlike most museum collection software.
Remember that collections can be virtual now, too. Do you have a Citizen Science program on E-bird, iNaturalist or another platform? That data is used in research publications, too. Track it down.
6. Harness social media
Using social media strategically keeps you visible and on people’s minds, reminding them that you helped with their research. It also helps you track what your visitors are up to in the default world beyond your reserve.
Share exciting publications and encourage others to share what they hear about with you. Follow your researchers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram—wherever they are active. I promise you they won’t forget to post about their latest publication there. Share their content to spread it more widely and make them think of you warmly.
7. Work with computer scientists
We talk about data issues with researchers we meet, including the difficulty of tracking data provenance. One such conversation resulted in a significant paper on data watermarking, and a productive research project on field sensor deployments.
You never know—your problems are someone else’s opportunities!
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The last thing I will say is that publication references and other traditional metrics are not enough anymore. We need to think outside the box about how we create and demonstrate the value of our reserves, and how we can be relevant to a broader audience. Our survival depends on that.
Any other suggestions? Please share in the comment section.
— Faerthen Felix, UC Berkeley – Sagehen Creek Field Station