Social Software and Research Dissemination: E-Speed is Useful

Jon Gresham
[email protected]

Fast and wide dissemination of research promotes successful discussion, debate and dialogue. This paper describes internet -facilitated discussion on ethno-religious research as one component of a communication plan. International organizations asked me to keep them informed on my research when I began a pilot study in Iraq after the 2003 war ended. I began a “wiki” (an open co-authoring forum, and collaboration tool) as a public place to post concept pieces and research-in-progress reports and to organize internet links and resources. The wiki rapidly became a no-cost discussion arena for scholars, practitioners, and the public about social and political systems. This collaboration became global, with often more than one hundred daily readers! Research application is important, and there is no substitute for multi-disciplinary live discussion, archiving online the facts and opinions for future reference, with print versions supplemental instead of primary. While this style of e-review and e-reporting will not take the honoured place of print publishing, it certainly should be considered for rapidly disseminating research in progress, exploring theoretical challenges, and providing resources for practitioners.


We write to be read. We send our writings to others in hope that they will read and make some use of them. We write because our job security depends on our production of peer-reviewed articles or printed books per year. We write to persuade others to support our cause or to change the ways that others do things. This article is about writing and sharing our ideas with others but doing it with action, with active readers, and with immediate and massive circulation around the globe. This is about an active communication plan to help you build greater readership for your work, that is simple and unpretentious.

Overview of written communication with a purpose

We write to share with others what we have enjoyed learning; to introduce others to our work; to demonstrate our expertise;1to add to our credibility, security, and significance; and to persuade others to join our cause. We do this both as we summarize what else is written on a subject and as we contribute to knowledge beyond what others have written.

Even for practitioners and non-academics, publishing is increasingly seen as part of professional and career development, demonstrating growth in gathering information, repackaging it, and then communicating it in an appropriate way to those who need it. Those with greater skill in communication have more opportunities to be rewarded for their expertise, and communicating through the peer-review screening system is a primary route to tenure and security for academics and scientists.2

Publishers have similar interests, and express them with statements such as: “Our main aim as a company is to make a genuine contribution to academic research and teaching and to professional practice through our publishing. We know that this means we must provide the best possible author services…We will make a conscious effort to raise your profile and influence in the communities we serve.” Blackwell Publishers say they do this through author relationship development, readership expansion, and brand (reputation for quality publications).3

The above thoughts can be summarized into the single word: Impact. Publishing makes me feel I’ve done something useful because there are more readers of my work, and I can measure my value and importance in the number of times my work is quoted by others in their own publications. The journal impact factor measures how many times an average article is quoted in other articles. The presence of article contents on the internet has a direct relationship to citation frequency.4, 5, 6

How to build a better strategy for impact

In order to be quoted more and to gain more impact, I must focus on others, not on myself. I must clearly address:

Who exactly is my audience?

  • Who needs or could use my expertise and information?
  • How can they access my expertise and information?
  • Who can pay for my expertise and how?
  • Who should not pay, but use my expertise as my contribution to their success?
  • How do I balance my desire to share freely with others with my desire to be recognised and be quoted by others?

What combinations of delivery are best for which users?

  • How and when can they go to my work (Pull)?
  • How can I send it to them only when they need it (Push)?

How can I understand and address my users’ need(s) for my expertise?

  • What precise content do they need?
  • What forms of presentation, style, and design will be easiest for them to use?
  • What are the cost limits for them?
  • What delivery speed and access times do they need?
  • How could frequent updates to the content make it more valuable to users?
  • How can I provide expertise in adequate time to an adequate number of users?
  • How can I thoroughly test my assumptions on these questions for truth and bias?
  • How can I prove that my answers to these questions are reliable?

For a detailed explanation on how to test usability, see Observing the User Experience: A Practitioners’ Guide to User Research by Mike Kuniavsky.7

How do I compare print and electronic publishing options?

My primary goal in publishing is to increase use of my expertise and information. There are several criteria to help assess potential impact.

Circulation of refereed journals:

Current estimates of academic publications include “Print + Open Archive” with 24,000 journals and 2.5 million print articles/year, “Refereed + publications with academic interest” with more than 43,000 items with 34,000 available online8 and “Open Access Refereed” with 1642 journals and 75456 articles estimated 7/2005.9 Print publishing means traditional print-based or published print with electronic journal combinations; Online publishing includes both Open Access (internet access available when posted) and Open Archive (internet access after a certain time period to protect publisher rights).10

There are more than 24,000 peer-reviewed journals, with 2.5 million new articles published in 2004, 1642 Open Access Journals, JSTOR lists 2,885,235 articles online; EBSCO/EJS reported 12,171 journals online (15 July 2005), with a few journals reporting actual number of readers per journal copy.

Rate of citation multiplication (authors being cited by others)

Another factor is that print-based system charges subscribers for all costs, with taxpayers (in many cases) paying for readers and libraries to purchase the subscriptions or library borrowing costs (average of US$27.83 per article borrowed)14 for reader benefit, and with contributing authors paying little towards the costs of their own self-advancement.

Author and article citation figures are published by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI)15 and GoogleScholar.16 Another approach presents a survey of journal readership17 defined by “who reads my journal article” based on reader surveys, not on citation indexes.

One factor that slows down citation of your article is the time delay before appearing in publication. Clifford Larkins describes three types of waiting periods that authors must expect: 1) the Initial Review Period during which reviewers read and critique the manuscript, (average of two to four months to decide if the article is appropriate and to give an initial review), 2) the Final Review Period (if the manuscript is accepted) during which the author must make any revisions suggested by the reviewers, and 3) the In-Press Period during which the publisher prepares the final copy for publication.18

The British Journal of Sociology states that four months is a usual time period for authors to know if their article has been accepted.19 In other journals, two months considered a short review time and four months is considered a short publication time20.

For example, there is a strong predictive factor between article downloads and citation impact.21 Two years has been a standard reference point for citation counting.22 T. Brody and S. Harnad found that article downloads in the first six months after an article was put into a pre-print online archive predicted the total number of citations during the peak citation timeframe for similar articles.

For example, most citations for physics articles occur within the ten years after publication; downloads in the first six months after appearing in an online archive predict the citations for the first two years–the measuring point for citation impact. Compare citation figures found at Science Citation Index23 and then consider the presentation by one journal of their submission and readership showing three readers per print journal copy, and 600,000 journal internet page views per month.24 In the pure online journals (not print-journal subsidized) authors and funding organizations may pay author self-advancement costs of peer-review and dissemination, with readers paying little.

Peter Suber calculated an average of 28 downloads per article from subscription-only Elsevier ScienceDirect in 2003, but from the open access BioMedCentral it was 2,500.25, 26

John Kelly, editor of European Quality, estimates 200 readers per online journal, 200,000 hits per month and 12,000 visitor downloads per month.27

For main online database reference points, JSTOR.ORG listed 512 Journals online, 18 million pages (15 July 2005), OMEGA reports more than 8000 titles online, and EJS/Ebsco 12,171 reported journals online (15 July 2005)

Electronic dissemination

There are four types of distribution through the World Wide Web (www), which can be combined to reach different audiences.

Controlled with static web pages.

Display or referencing of articles with limited flexibility for rapid change or updating of content. Traditionally, this includes websites maintained by webmasters, with limited options for authors to change the contents or appearance of pages.

Self-archiving of articles in author-controlled pages, or in institutional archives.

Examples of self-archiving repositories include (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition UK), ( Cornell University USA ), ( University of Southhampton UK ), and ( Joint Information Systems Committee UK ).29

Content that is controlled and can be pushed to readers using a maillist

Using push technology, users can be kept up-to-date by email and web delivery systems with the latest information and developments in their field of interest or specialisation.30 For example, Push/SDI Tools automatically alerts members of one scholarly community to new literature on the web.31

Content can be moderated and/or non-controlled using wiki-style open web content.

Wiki pages are edited with a normal web browser. On, page layout and editing are available through the built-in tools, shown below.

Other Online Factors

Speed of dissemination and citation multiplication is a significant difference. Some journals still required article submission on paper by post, while digital documents can move around the world in seconds. Time is valuable; do not wait for paper-only journal submissions!

With print-based peer-reviewed journals, the time from original submission of an article until subscribers can access that article averages about two years. Open Access peer-review journals often publish within four months. For my work, rapid publishing was more valuable than degree of prestige gained through attempting a high-level print publication.

Author-paid or subscriber-paid: Who pays the costs of peer review and distribution? Author-pay charges range from Springer’s $3,000 US per article, Public Library of Science $1,500 US per article, and BioMedCentral $525 US per article.33 To encourage Open Access author-pays publication, there are grants available for some author-paid publishing ( ).

Metadata and Dynamic content linking: What other data and sources in the world relate to this topic? How often does your information change? Would readers gain extra benefit if your article constantly was updated to new sites or online statistical reports? What other web presentations would support or oppose my viewpoints, and where else might readers go for additional resources? The more you share links with others, the more they will help point readers to your site. In this case, giving credit to others gives you greater visibility and impact.

Graphics. Are there non-text items that might make this article more understandable?

Security & anonymity. With online publication, you must become visible. How much can you afford to be anonymous and unknown? Are you willing to accept a bit more spam email in return for providing greater service to your readers? Would writing under a pseudonym give you both protection and freedom? Would you produce more if you and your colleagues had a secure online site for collaboration?

Peer-to-peer sharing of ideas and information. How might your communication and research grow if your colleagues and collaborators were able to easily write together online or exchange files while you were talking by telephone or chat. The more your work circulates, the greater visibility you will have.

Collaboration in virtual workgroup with out geographical or budget limitations. How might you work differently if you could collaborate across any time and distance, securely and privately, with no additional expense?

-Pooled networks for rapid generation of data collection: How might your impact change if you had no limits to: analysis and dissemination of information; secure communications and collaboration; locked to non-authorized participants or observers; large readership immediately without time or budget constraints; simultaneous peer review for large number of reputable electronic plus print journals; and innumerable combinations of passive and pushed delivery?

Case study of using a wiki for both academic and practical goals

How I began using a wiki.

In the summer of 2003 I began analyzing social systems data on Iraq and wanted a quick way to present the findings, along with support documents and links to other important data. Given the urgency of putting my findings into field personnel’s hands, I did not want to wait three months until a first article was ready to submit for refereeing and then wait another six months before the article would appear in a journal. I also did not want to spend an inordinate amount of time rewriting my findings into different styles and forms before submitting them to other publications.

I needed to present plain text information and wanted to spend no time on programming in html code or contracting with a web designer for a long project.

An article on digital scholarly electronic publishing referenced wiki use for online collaboration and introduced me to a wiki “farm” operated by Kenneth Tyler at

Seedwiki met my requirements: free account to test the system, easy and fast to set up, excellent technical support, and easy access by Windows and Macintosh browsers without needing any extra software. Wikis facilitated working together to manage project documents, write books, design movies, develop games, solve problems, and share hobbies.

Samples of other wikis

One of the factors influencing me to use seedwiki was the large selection of wikis at Seedwiki currently hosts eleven thousand wikis and is growing at about fifteen percent per year.

How the original idea grew and expanded

I began the wiki with a simple narrative of my data collection process and then began adding links to other sources of scientific research, news, interpretations of the news, and reviews of books and articles related to civil society.

As I wrote more and more, the wiki became my blog and a storage place for links that related to many interests. On request from both scholars and practitioners, I added other pages and sister-wiki sites for Iran and Cyprus. These were later integrated as daughter pages of, and I am moving all non-Iraq content to this root area so that all daughter pages can easily access it.

Seeking maximum usability, I often use several web-testing sites that offer free advice on optimizing websites. A few are: http://www., and at They evaluate the ability for search engines to find my site, the overall flow and design of my wiki, and the internal coding of my site that allows users the best possible experience navigating through my pages.

Starting a wiki

To begin, go to, and click on “Start an Account.” Enter an email address and password for the new account. The wiki account is now created. Click on the “Start a new Wiki” or “Start a new Blog” buttons at the top of the page, give it a name, and you are ready to begin writing onto your webpage, as below.


Search engines easily found my wiki because of the words “Iraq” and “civil society.” Because of the high worldwide interest in post-Saddam Iraq, there were often more than 100 visitors per day, with a high of 350 visitors during the Iraq elections. From these visitors, there were often emails to me with attached documents, adding to my own understanding of the social systems of the Middle East. Several journalists who wanted more information and contacts in Iraq contacted me, and I was invited to several conferences and workshops that gave me opportunity to share what I was learning.

The CivilSociety group of pages continues to grow, with new pages and sections being added regularly. This forum gives me a network of colleagues who offer comments and who work with me on developing new projects.

With a wiki, I do not need programmers to add my new content onto the web. I use my web browser to go to the pages and then easily add and edit very quickly and easily. Visitors to my site can add documents, links, and even whole new pages. As moderator, it is my responsibility to acknowledge contributions and to reformat and reorganize contributions to better fit into a logical framework.

The wiki helped me communicate. I was able to very quickly get hundreds of readers of my work, from serious academics to junior fieldwork practitioners. I was able to very easily keep adding to the online content as my research progressed and to keep adding distribution networks through replies to my occasional email reminders of new content.

Finally, writing directly onto a web page gave me enthusiasm by providing me with immediate feedback and satisfaction that my work was counting for something good–identifying barriers to civil society in Iraq. Fast.


(1) Franklin, Donald (2004) “Why Publish Online”

(2) Journal of Environmental Health Research (2003) “Why Publish?”

(3) Olivieri, Rene, “Why Publish with Blackwell?” seen 21/7/2005 at

(4) Pistotti, C, Gabutti G, Klersy C, (2001) ”Impact Factor and Electronic Versions of Biomedical Scientific Journals”. Haematologica, Oct;86 (10):1015-20.

(5) Youngen, Gregory K. (1998) “Citation Patterns to Traditional and Electronic Preprints in the Published Literature.” College & Research Libraries 59 (September): 448-456.

(6) De Groote, Sandra L, Shultz, Mary, Doranski, Marceline (2005) “Online journals’ impact on the citation patterns of medical faculty”, J Med Libr Assoc. April; 93(2): 223–228.

(7) Kuniavsky, Mike (2003) Observing the User Experience: A Practitioners’ Guide to User, Morgan Kaufmann: San Francisco.

(8) Tenopir , Carol (2004), “Online Scholarly Journals: How Many?” seen 21/7/2005 at; See also for current statistics on print and e-journals–190,000 active periodicals, 39,000 e-journal, and 4,000 e-journal only.

(9) Roes, Hans “Electronic Journals: a survey of the literature and the Net” seen 21/7/2005 at

(10) Society for Scholarly Publishing, “Open Access Definitions” seen 21/7/2005 at

(11) Van Orsdel, Lee C, Born, Kathleen, “Choosing Sides–Periodical Price Survey 2005” (2005) seen 21/7/2005 at

(12) United Kingdom Parliament Select Committee on Science and Technology Tenth Report, “Cost of Journal Provision” (2004) seen 21/7/2005 at

(13) White, Sonya and Creaser, Claire (2004) “Scholarly Journal Prices: Selected Trends and Comparisons” seen 21/7/2005 at

(14) Jackson, Mary E. (2003) “Assessing ILL/DD Services Study: Initial Observations”, ARLBIMONTHLYREP, Oct./Dec., p. 22.

(15) ISI Web of Knowledge

(16) GoogleScholar

(17) Siggelkow, Nicolaj (2001) “Who reads my paper anyways? A survey of journal readership and repution” [This is a large .pdf file!)

(18) Larkins, Clifford (1998) “Peer Review Time-Lines for Journals” seen 21/7/2005 at

(19) British Journal of Sociology, “Notes to Contributors” British Journal of Sociology, Volume: 56, Issue: 1 (March 01, 2005), pp: 165.

(20) Ellsworth, Mary, “”Minutes of Executive Council Meeting March 30,2001” seen 21/7/2005 at

(21) Brody, T. and Harnad, S. (2005) “Earlier Web Usage Statistics as Predictors of Later Citation Impact” [MS Word Document] seen 21/7/2005 at

(22) Whitehouse, G.H. “Citation rates and impact factors: should they matter?” seen 21/7/2005 at

(23) ISI Web of Knowledge (Access to ISI is reported as free to developing world under support of WHO and FAO).

(24) Health Affairs “About the Journal” seen 21/7/2005 at

(25) Suber, Peter “Open Access News: Friday, September 05, 2003” seen 21/7/2005 at – a106276332667919229.

(26) Kelly, John, (2005) Personal communications, 19 July.

(27) Tenopir, Carol (2004) “Medical Faculty’s Use of Print and Electronic Journals: Changes over Time and in Comparison with Scientists.” Journal of the Medical Library Association 92, no. 2 (2004): 233-241, seen 19/7/2005 at

(28) LISU (2004) “Scholarly Journal Prices: Selected Trends and Comparisons”. LISU Occasional Paper No. 34. 2004. LISU: Leicestershire. Seen 21/7/2005 at

(29) Self-archiving repositories include:,,, and Many universities maintain archives for their own faculties.

(30) Monash University Library “Directions for the Future” seen21/7/2005 at

(31) Health Sciences Center Library of Stony Brook University “Push/SDI Tools” seen 21/7/2005 at

(32) Open Society Institute “Grants for Open Access Journals” seen 21/7/2005 at

(33) Morrison, Heather (2004) “Imaginary Journal of High-End Chemistry” seen 21/7/2005 at

Resources and References

Directory of Open Access journals

Citations indexes to find out who is quoted


2005 Periodical Price Survey” 11 Reveals price increases of 8 to 94% per year ( 2004), with an average price of GBP356 among 5,946 journals surveyed 12, 13.

Electronic communications tools overview (RSS, blogs, wikis)

Promotion of readership and search engine listings

Building a website

Samples of wikis

Quickiwiki, Swiki, Twiki, Zwiki and the Plone Wars Wiki as a PIM and Collaborative Content Tool by David Mattison the fastest-growing encyclopedia on the internet

History of wikis and general overview

“Wiki for Information Sciences”

Yi-Tan is a Seedwiki wiki that is the collaborative web presence of a consulting firm focused on futurism and strategic new technologies. It includes not only wiki pages but a collaborative blog based on Seedwiki.

Wikifish is the collaborative home of Auburn University’s School of Architecture. At last count, the wiki contained upwards of 2500 pages. On April 29, 2005, the site noted that “232355 distinct IP addresses have hit WikiFish in the last 30 days.”

Wikeo is, according to the Latin-American students who created it, “the first collaborative news portal in Puerto Rico.” The site, started less than two months ago, already features over fifty pages. The front page alone has had more than 150 edits. The site shows extensive page formatting, illustrating some of the flexibility Seedwiki offers users.

Bridge, new media innovation: Industry and media schools work together to create new interactive media tools and develop strategies and tools for continuous innovation and creative entrepreneurism. This wiki is information-rich and a good example of quickly making a project into a sharable online website.

Demos provides open communication for a London consulting firm. Notice the close visual integration with the firm’s blog and corporate sites (links at the wiki). This site has had extensive work on its style sheet. Seedwiki allows extensive customization of visual design, menus, functionality, and more.

Wildlife Central is an artists collaborative – a network of film makers for conservation in India, established to follow up a Richard Brock workshop organized by the British Council, Kolkata.

Victoria Free School, “an exciting new school in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, which offers free courses, lectures, and workshops to the general public.”

Mandated Self-Archiving

Research Councils UK (RCUK) proposed mandating self-archiving of all professional articles supported by RCUK-funded research, and the National Institutes of Health USA recommends or requires self-archiving of NIH-funded journal articles at the Public Library of Medicine. These requirements are contested by some scholars and publishers (Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Approximately 85% of Institute for Scientific Information (ISI)-indexed articles in 2003 had permission granted by publishers for self-archiving, in those journals which were not considered OpenAccess

Internet Dissemination and Citation Impact

If you are unclear about the causal connection between internet access, self-archiving, and citation impact, see,, and and, Antelman, Kristin. “Do Open-Access Articles Have a Greater Research Impact?” College & Research Libraries 65, no. 5 (2004): 372-382.

Publication, copyright and ownership issues

Dr Ann Monotti noted that academics value the right to publish, the right to recognition, personal financial reward and the right to make changes

Tools for Assessing Principles of Scholarly Communication

Scholarly Communications Toolkit

BBC Radio4 report: “Publish or Be Damned”

Electronic Publishing Resources by the Society for Scholarly Publishing – Electronic Publishing resources and Initiatives

Electronic Journals and Scholarly Communication: A Citation and Reference Study

Draft Version of Original wikipage for

© Electronic Journal of Sociology