As the popular, award-winning, 2010 film “The Social Network” reminded us, the past decade has made online social networks ubiquitous. Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, FourSquare, and Twitter have become embedded in our lives as a way to connect us with friends, families, colleagues, and others with common interests.

These popular sites enable and encourage people to connect based on common interests and experiences, ranging from kindergarten affiliations to volunteer and recreational activities to workplace projects. While these platforms often “suggest” potential connections, usually based on a computer-based algorithm, participants typically initiate and manage the relationships themselves.

Academic researchers have additional options for social networking, and these are based not merely on common affiliations but also on their own research interests, as expressed in the citations for journal papers, conference proceedings, and other documents that they have written, cited, or “friended”. At Tufts, numerous faculty and staff use cloud-based citation platforms to share their ideas and communicate their research.

Many of these tools assume voluntary citation-based networking. With RefWorks, a popular cloud-based citation manager provided by the Tufts Libraries to all students, faculty, and staff, users can create shared “folders” of references on a specific topic and then invite others to view the folders’ contents, comment on the references, and download or print them in one of many “output” styles, such as APA, Chicago, MLA, or the hundreds of standards specified by scholarly journals. Similar functionality is available to users of other citation managers such as EndNoteWebMendeley, and Zotero. Scholarly publishers and institutions also provide citation-based interactions; examples include Connotea The Nature Publishing Group; Bibsonomy from the Knowledge and Data Engineering Group of the University of Kassel, Germany; and CiteULite, sponsored by Springer Science+Business Media. While many of these tools are used by researchers in all disciplines, others, such as BioMed Experts driven by Elsevier’s Collexis technology, focus on particular research areas. In Trunk, Tufts’ new online collaboration and learning environment, groups can import references from these tools into a site page as a resource and then invite others to comment on them.

Citation managers such as those described above are voluntary, based on researchers’ willingness to participate and share their citations. But many publishers have created platforms where citation-based networks are automatically generated on the basis of references common to authors’ bibliographies. In Researcher ID, an author profile database from Thomson Reuters, the web platform automatically generates diagrams and Google Maps displaying citation-based relationships. The Researcher ID profile for newly inaugurated Tufts President Anthony P. Monaco, a renowned researcher in biochemistry and molecular biology, generates interactive maps with pushpins that reveal a citation-based network stretching from Australia to Tanzania. SpringerLink provides a similar feature for its authors with Authormapper. Both tools feature aspects of citations, such as publication dates, formats, and subjects, in various visualization formats, all drawn from basic citation information.


From Researcher ID: Map view of President Monaco’s citation based network

The exact impact of these citation-driven networks on their participants’ careers or lives has yet to be determined. Time will tell if they affect research methods and outcomes, publishing choices, or career decisions. But these networks turn scholarly references – often considered a dry and static print-based information tool – into a dynamic, often graphically based tool for inspiring and tracking research and shaping scholarly communications.

Karen A. Vagts, Engineering/Business/Mathematics Research Librarian and Citation Tools Instruction Coordinator, Tisch Library

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