ScienceOnline'09 - interview with Kevin Emamy

The series of interviews with some of the participants of the 2008 Science Blogging Conference was quite popular, so I decided to do the same thing again this year, posting interviews with some of the people who attended ScienceOnline'09 back in January.

Today, I asked Kevin Emamy from CiteULike to answer a few questions.

Hi, Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Tell us more about CiteULike - what is it, how does it work, where did you get the idea to develop it?

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CiteULike is a quick and simple way to save references where one finds them (online), a highly effective social filter of academic literature, and (relative to the alternatives) a pure triumph of function and performance over form. It's also unashamedly a pure web application, for all the right reasons.

What's interesting about it is the social discovery you can generate by the simple act of keeping your references public on a web page.

If you find another user's library that interests you, you can browse it like a good independent bookshop. The point is to help you discover research. The papers saved by people who share your interests are remarkable. It's wonderful to peek through the pipes and spy on other peoples' bookshelves like this.

Today we took the first step towards automating this process somewhat by launching article recommendations. Your library is compared to all the other libraries on CiteULike and a list of recommended articles is produced. It's a type of collaborative filter. We have worked with Toine Bogers on this. I believe this is the first time this has been done live in production for journal papers.

What is pretty unique about the CiteULike dataset is that we now have about 5 years worth of data created by users posting papers, one by one, as they find them. That's one of the things that makes the recommendations so effective (we hope).

[Watch this brief video for a demo of Recommendations on CiteULike - BZ]

What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?

Helping people find the good stuff in the garbage dump. A social filter says that as everyone is building up their own map of the the dump, why not share those maps?

It is exciting for us that PLoS are using social bookmarking data as part of their article level metrics project. You can go from the number of bookmarks on a PLoS article page straight through to the users whose bookmarks are being counted. It's all open for anyone to see.

How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook?

I am an active lurker. I don't neccessarily want to jump in with my own agenda, but my colleagues answer direct questions about CiteULike anywhere they find them, FriendFeed and Twitter being the most active outside of our own forums.

For me they all boil down to social discovery. Search is the best answer for finding something specific. If you want to find something interesting to read, it's blogs, Twitter, delicious and CiteULike all the way. Many of these often point back to articles in journals etc., but the filter of other people finding stuff worth posting helps me find interesting stuff everyday, in places I'd never look. That's another advantage of having everything online, You can share what you find elsewhere.

When and how did you discover science blogs?

From ScienceOnline09.

What are some of your favourites?

A blog Around the Clock, of course.

What do you want to do/be when (and if ever) you grow up?

That's kind of you, but it's too late for me.

It was so nice to meet you and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.


See the 2008 interview series and 2009 series for more.

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