The Power of Analytics: Rethinking Promotion and Scholarship

SPOTLIGHT ON BRENDA LeFRANÇOIS, MEMORIAL UNIVERSITY

by Courtney Quirin

Brenda LeFrancois

With over 70 countries painted a different shade of blue, the Academia.edu analytics map of Memorial University Associate Professor, Brenda LeFrançois, is more than just a colorful picture. It’s an indication that people all over the world are repeatedly accessing her work, information so powerful that she believes it could reshape how scholarship is defined and the way academic reputations are built.

Buried within the document and country tabs of her Academia.edu analytics, LeFrançois has been unearthing new information she “would not otherwise be aware of” and sharing it with those who she believes will benefit from it the most— junior faculty moving up the academic chain.

“I highly recommend to all of the junior faculty I mentor to not only put up their Academia.edu profile, but to use these analytics— just print up the actual pages— and include them as supporting evidence in their tenure application,” says Le Francois.

According to LeFrançois, promotion to full professor at most North American universities requires having more than just a national reputation; applicants must also have an international one, which she thinks Academia.edu’s country analytics can help prove.

“Academia.edu’s analytics are hugely useful for purposes of promotion and tenure, because they can demonstrate to committees the extent to which you’re being read and being taken up around the world, and not just within the country that you’re living.”

Tracking trends in her document views since Academia.edu’s launch in 2008, LeFrançois has also been observing something even more powerful than country statistics, a trend that she believes could eventually change the way scholarship is understood within universities.

After discovering that one of her non peer-reviewed reports is being read much more than any of her articles in highly-rated peer-reviewed journals, LeFrançois began to question what actually constitutes scholarship. Should some kinds of work, like non peer-reviewed papers, be excluded as valid and useful? LeFrançois’s conclusion: No.

“When you’re applying for tenure and promotion, some universities say that you can’t even mention your non peer-reviewed work. That’s really problematic in the sense that this is the type of knowledge that is getting disseminated to everybody, not just to those people who can pay to get into the academic journals.”

Repeatedly accessed over the years, often by the same individuals over and over again, LeFrançois’s analytics have taught her that her non peer-reviewed work has served as a valuable reference to the public, an argument that she plans to bring to her committee when she eventually goes up for promotion.

“It gives me some evidence to suggest to the promotion and tenure committee that we shouldn’t actually be considering non peer-reviewed reports as secondary or unimportant.”

As LeFrançois pays closer and closer attention to her Academia.edu analytics, noticing what people are finding most useful across her broad body of work, she finds that, to a certain extent, her analytics have begun to steer her research in certain directions.

However, LeFrançois also attributes the evolution of her scholarship to Academia.edu’s news feed, which has allowed her to connect with academics in different countries and disciplines, discover interesting (and unexpected) theoretical and methodological crossovers, and keep track of the latest publications from academics of interest.

Now working across four different subject areas, Academia.edu has broadened LeFrançois’s vision of scholarship and scope of her work.

“My scholarship is becoming more and more transdisciplinary the more I’m using Academia.edu, because it’s giving me access to knowledge that I wouldn’t necessarily have. I guess it’s because I’m looking at it often too!” she laughs.

Academic Bio:
Cross appointed in the School of Social Work and the Division of Community Health and Humanities, Faculty of Medicine, at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Brenda LeFrançois’s work sits at the interface of childhood studies and “mad studies”, a new emerging field on the topic of “madness” and its reclamation through activism and an anti-oppressive understanding of being psychiatrized. Tagged under 15 different research interests on Academia.edu, LeFrançois’s has been publicizing her new book on madness, which is expected to come out in March 2013.

LeFrançois’s work can be viewed here.

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by Courtney Quirin, Science Writer

Comments Jan 28, 2013
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