Impactstory Advisor of the Month: Megan O’Donnell (August 2014)

We’re pleased to announce the August Impactstory Advisor of the Month, Megan O’Donnell!


As a Scholarly Communication Librarian at Iowa State University, Megan’s a campus expert on altmetrics and Open Science. Since joining the Advisors program, Megan has educated other campus librarians on altmetrics and Impactstory, and is currently hard at work planning an “intro to altmetrics” faculty workshop for the Fall semester.

We recently chatted with Megan about her job as a Scholarly Communication Librarian, how Impactstory benefits her scholarly activities, and how the new Impactstory subscription model has affected her outreach efforts.

Why did you initially decide to join Impactstory?

I’m still a new librarian in many ways. I just passed my 1 year anniversary as a full-time librarian this spring and my coauthors and I are finishing up what will be my first peer-reviewed work. Impactstory appealed to me because it was a way to showcase and track the work I have been doing outside of traditional publications. Without Impactstory I would never have known that one of my slideshows is considered “highly viewed” and continues to be viewed every week.

Why did you decide to become an Advisor?

A coworker suggested it to me. At first I was uncertain and I found myself thinking “But my profile is so empty! I haven’t ‘published’ anything yet! This won’t work.” In the end I decided that it was an important thing to do as a campus advocate for open access and altmetrics. There are many people who will be in the same position as me, wondering if Impactstory is worth it when they have so little to showcase. All I can say is that I can’t wait to fill my Impactstory profile up.

How have you been spreading the word about Impactstory in your first two months as an Advisor?

There’s not a lot of activity on campus during the summer. Most of our students are gone and many researchers and faculty are away on vacation, field work, or attending conferences so the majority of my time has been spent planning for an altmetrics workshop for fall. The one thing I did do this summer was to set up the chair of one of my departments with a profile. Impactstory provided a nice way to way to start a conversation about faculty and department work that tends to be left out by traditional metrics (such as the materials that her department produces for ISU’s extension program). I don’t think she’s completely convinced about the value of altmetrics, but she was open to creating an account to see what it could do and now she’s aware that there are other tools and measurements.

Once I got my Advisor package I visited other librarians in my department. We have a mix of faculty and academic professionals but everyone, no matter their rank, wanted one of the “I am more than my H-Index” stickers. I ran out within a week. The slogan speaks to everyone: no one wants to be judged solely on their citation numbers.

How has Impactstory’s new subscription model impacted your work as an Advisor?

A couple of my coworkers asked me about the change since I’m an Advisor. I spent a lot of time thinking about this and how it changed my feelings about Impactstory. After the initial knee-jerk reaction to having something “taken away”, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s an acceptable change. The Paperpile blog post has already outlined many of the possible benefits, so I won’t repeat them here. The bottom line is I feel that I can recommend Impactstory because there’s nothing else like it.

Tell us about the workshops you’re planning on Impactstory for the Fall semester.

Iowa State University only began to having conversations around open access with the launch of our institutional repository, Digital Repository @ Iowa State University, in 2012. While the University Library has been very proactive in providing support with helping faculty prepare for promotion and tenure cases, much of it has revolved around those dreaded numbers: citations, Journal Impact Factor and the H-Index. The workshop I am designing will be an introduction to altmetrics with hands-on activities. It will likely end with having all participants create a trial Impactstory account that way they get an altmetrics experience tailored just for them.

What’s the best part about your work as a Scholarly Communication Librarian for the Iowa State University?

There are huge opportunities on this campus. If you’ve looked at my profile you’ll see that most of my recent work has been on data management planning. That really took off. We got support from the Office of the Vice President of Research, which is also sponsoring a panel discussion planned for Open Access Week, and from other campus units. Everyone is excited about the future of scholarly communications at Iowa State.

What advice would you give other librarians who want to do outreach on altmetrics to their colleagues and faculty?

I think it’s important to frame discussion about altmetrics as part of a larger picture. For example, NSF research grant proposals are judged on something called “broader impacts” which, in brief is “the potential of the proposed activity to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes” (NSF Proposal Preparation Instructions). Altmetrics could give us some insight into if a grant has met its broader impact goals. How many views did the grant funded video receive? Was it picked up by a news outlet? Does anyone listen to the podcast? These types of activities are not captured any other way but they are important. Altmetrics can show the reach of research beyond the academy which is becoming increasingly important as research dollars are spread thinner and thinner.

Thanks, Megan!

As a token of our appreciation for Megan’s hard work, we’re sending her an Impactstory t-shirt of her choice from our Zazzle store.

Megan is just one part of a growing community of Impactstory Advisors. Want to join the ranks of some of the Web’s most cutting-edge researchers and librarians? Apply to be an Advisor today!

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