Measuring scholarly use of government information: An altmetrics analysis of federal statistics

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Publication date: July 2015Source:Government Information Quarterly, Volume 32, Issue 3
Author(s): Tara Das
PurposeThis paper examines how federal statistics is used in scholarly research via a new type of citation analysis that leverages the strengths of information aggregators, like Altmetric LLP, in looking for evidence of government information use beyond traditional citations/references. In this citation analysis, abstracts were examined.ResultsDrawing on a dataset containing articles aggregated via Altmetric Explorer, a querying interface provided by Altmetric LLP, content analysis was used to 1) determine the distribution of federal statistics incorporated in scholarly studies, and 2) qualitatively understand the particular ways in which studies incorporated federal statistics. It was found that the dominant source of federal statistics was the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), followed by the Census Bureau, and then the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Prevalent qualitative themes underlying the studies in this dataset included mortality and population studies, linked datasets, international studies, and critical studies (i.e. presenting alternative measures for federal statistics).ConclusionsWhen querying studies referencing one or more of the principal US statistical agencies in Altmetric Explorer, almost all studies in the final dataset cited these agencies because they had cited federal statistics. This finding need not have been the case however. A separate study on the use of federal statistics in scholarly research will compare altmetrics to traditional citation analysis.Preliminary results from Google Scholar, using traditional citations, found non-dataset publications to be the most frequently cited titles from NCHS and the Census Bureau.

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