Tools for discovering high quality scholarly documents have improved. Academic search tools like Google Scholar build on pre-Internet library search techniques. ResearchGate and Academia.edu have facilitated content discovery. However, these services have not adequately kept pace with the proliferation of journals and articles.
Google Scholar, ResearchGate and Academia.edu enable users to receive email updates when scholars they follow publish articles. However, email clients are not designed for browsing news feeds. That is a task for which RSS apps and aggregation services were specifically designed. Naturally, researchers need access to scholarly RSS feeds via services and apps like Feedly, Feed Wrangler, Feedbin, and Reeder. Unfortunately, Google Scholar, ResearchGate and Academia.edu do not enable users to create RSS feeds for the content they serve.
Fortunately, many publishers of scholarly journals provide RSS feeds. For instance, I subscribe to the Behavioral and Brain Sciences feed. While such feeds are quite helpful, they are not enough. Interdisciplinary researchers (and that means most cognitive scientists who are true to the mission of cognitive science) read from too many journals to subscribe to all of them via RSS.
So, here are some user stories I would like Google Scholar, ResearchGate and Academia.edu to support.
I want to create RSS feeds for
- all the researchers I follow,
- all the researchers that I have cited in my papers,
- all the researchers that cite my work, and
- any search expression I can enter in Google scholar.
In How to be a modern scientist, Jeffrey Leek recommends using Twitter to discover relevant papers. However, while Twitter can be mined for this purpose, there’s a lot of very distracting noise on Twitter. (Compare Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport). Rather than directly mining Twitter, I would like Google Scholar et al to automate the process of mining tweeted peer-reviewed articles. I’d like to subscribe to feeds that extend the foregoing user stories. For instance, if someone I have cited several times in my own work tweets an article, there’s a relatively good chance I’d like to at least read its title. So, I’d like a feed of the articles tweeted by researchers I follow on Google Scholar (whether or not I follow them on Twitter). I would also like a feed of highly tweeted articles written by researchers that I follow. I’d also like to be able to combine existing Google scholar search criteria with Twitter parameters. This set of user stories could be extended to deal with people I follow on Google Plus.
Web of Science does allow users to add RSS feeds. (Tutorials at Cardiff and Colorado State (PDF)). However, the Web of Science interface is awful in general, and particularly awful for adding RSS feeds. Moreover, you’ll need to go through your institution’s proxy server — this is not compatible with the best RSS apps for Mac, Feedly and ReadKit.
Google Scholar, ResearchGate and Academia.edu might be resistant to RSS feeds because they would rather users access their web sites directly — email is a potent way to bring people back. (Compare Tristan Harris’s “How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds — from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist”). However, it likely seems to me that the company that provides a powerful RSS feature for scholars will draw researchers to their platforms.
LinkedIn currently has very little to offer with respect to discovering high caliber content. Maybe now that it has been purchased by Microsoft, it will provide better services for researchers.
Contact and comments
If you have scholarly RSS feature requests for these services, please feel free to comment below. And please let these service providers know that we need RSS feeds.
If you work for one of the services mentioned above and would like my opinion about improving them, please get in touch.
References and Related Readings
- Beaudoin, L. P. (2015), Cognitive Productivity: Using Knowledge to Become Profoundly Effective. BC: CogZest.
- Leek, J. (2016). How to be a modern scientist.
- Cann, A. J. (2012). Create your own Google Scholar RSS feed.
- Coers, R. (2014) Create an RSS feed for Google Scholar in seven easy steps. http://www.robcoers.nl/create-rss-feed-google-scholar-seven-easy-steps/
- Harris, T. (2016). How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds — from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist
- Newport, C. (2016). Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World..
- Shtenovych, V. (n.d.) Emails2Rss – Forward email notifications to RSS feed
- Shtenovych, V. (n.d.) Too many emails that are not communication messages.
- Stack Exchange. Convert Google Scholar alert into RSS feed.
Our next book will have a chapter on using RSS services and apps.
2016-12-02 A later post of mine on the subject after CUP pulled its RSS support. Cambridge University Press Pulled its RSS Feeds — Bloggers and Publishers, Please Help Your Readers