Scholarly Communications Lab

The ScholCommLab is an interdisciplinary team of researchers based in Vancouver and Ottawa interested in all aspects of scholarly communication. It is co-directed by Dr. Juan Pablo Alperin, an assistant professor in SFU’s Publishing Program and an associate researcher with the Public Knowledge Project, and Stefanie Haustein, an assistant professor at the School of Information Studies at the University of Ottawa. Using a combination of computational techniques, innovative methods, and traditional qualitative methods, the lab explores a wide range of questions about how knowledge is produced, disseminated, and used. 

A few of the lab’s recent projects include:

  • As the communication of research increasingly takes place on social media and other online platforms, there is enormous potential to capture and analyze digital traces left by scholars. This offers, for the first time, the opportunity to study at large scale—using both quantitative and qualitative methods—the processes of knowledge dissemination and co-creation between academia and the public. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the altmetrics project asks: What is the nature and extent of societal impact of research that can be observed through the public’s engagement with research in the digital sphere?
  • One of the key components of workplace advancement at the university level are the review, promotion, and tenure (RPT) packets that are typically submitted every other year by early career faculty. These guidelines and forms are considered to be of highest importance, as they allow faculty to demonstrate the value and impact of their work to the university and the broader scientific community. The importance of RPT guidelines and forms makes them a natural place to effect change towards an opening of access to research (something both Canada and the US have been pushing for through federal policies and laws). While we believe changes in RPT guidelines and forms may lead to broader interest and adoption of open access principles across academia, the reality is that very little is known about current RPT practices. This two-part research project seeks to examine the RPT process in the US and Canada in ways that can directly inform actions likely to translate into behavioural change and to a greater opening of research.
  • New platforms such as blogs, snapchat, and YouTube are rapidly transforming the world’s media landscape—as well as the way in which we share, consume, and engage with scholarly work. The ScholCommLab is investigating these new developments in science communication, asking such questions as: Who is sharing science in today’s digital world, and how do they identify themselves? What strategies are most effective for communicating research in a crowded media landscape? How might the public contribute to the way in which science news is shared, portrayed, and understood?
  • Although interest in Open Access (OA) to scholarly literature is growing, relatively little is known about the prevalence, characteristics, and implications of this emerging body of work. Does openness affect citation impact? What percentage of scholarly literature is currently OA, and has this changed in recent years? How have digital advances changed the nature of scholarly publishing? The ScholCommLab is investigating these questions and more in a series of large-scale, collaborative projects.