OA research stories: Rob Kitchin

On social media, smart cities and publishing Open Access

Rob Kitchin_portrait 2How can research be highlighted and shared after publication, especially when it is Open Access (OA) and available for anyone to read? In this latest research story, Rob Kitchin tells us about his work on smart cities, and how publishing through a learned society journal helped to extend the reach of his research.

Knowing and governing cities through urban indicators, city benchmarking and real-time dashboards” published in Regional Studies, Regional Science.
Published OA in January 2015
Downloads: 13,468*
Altmetric score: 206*

“…critically examined city management initiatives…”

The core focus of our research is how software-enabled technologies and urban big data are changing how cities are understood and governed. The paper published in Regional Studies, Regional Science critically examined city management initiatives that utilize urban indicators, city benchmarking and real-time dashboards, their strengths and weaknesses, and consequences of use.

“…get the work out early, give everyone access to read it…”

I have been publishing my work as OA, principally as pre-prints or via the university e-prints service, for a while. The idea has been to get the work out early, give everyone access to read it, and to hopefully get some feedback that could be used to refine the version that would eventually appear in a journal. I am now mandated by one of my research funders, the European Research Council, to publish all the papers derived from the project open access.

In the case of the Regional Studies, Regional Science paper, I was approached by the Regional Studies Association, who asked whether I would consider submitting a keynote presentation I’d just delivered at one of their conferences to Regional Studies, Regional Science. The two editors of Regional Studies, Regional Science (Alex Singleton and Alisdair Rae) were very supportive and decided to organize a small forum around the paper, inviting three commentators to respond to our argument.

“…every article I publish gets a little bit of exposure…”

Every article I publish gets a little bit of exposure through social media, with details shared through the project blog, Twitter and Facebook. We did the same for this one, posting details, an abstract, a picture of a dashboard, and links.

“…the fact that it was an anchor for a small forum also gave it a lift as well…”

To a large degree the article downloads have been driven by social media and reputation. I and my co-authors have a reasonably well established social media profiles via Twitter, Facebook and blogs, and likewise the Regional Studies Association and Regional Studies, Regional Science. We each shared the article a handful of times and it was retweeted quite extensively.

The article’s altmetric data shows it was mentioned in “317 tweets from 236 users, with an upper bound of 450,834 followers”. That helped to generate exposure and to place the article in the line of sight of people who would not normally browse Regional Studies, Regional Science. The initial exposure placed the article at the top of the ‘most downloaded’ list on the journal page, which attracted click-throughs and helpeded to sustain that position. It probably also helped that the article concerns a relatively hot academic topic at present – smart cities. Moreover, the fact that it was an anchor for a small forum also gave it a lift as well, I think, as it suggested that if it was worth having a discussion focused around it, it might be worth a read.



Rob Kitchin is a professor and ERC Advanced Investigator in the National Institute of Regional and Spatial Analysis at Maynooth University. He is currently a principal investigator on the Programmable City project, the Digital Repository of Ireland, the All-Island Research Observatory, and the Dublin Dashboard. He has published widely across the social sciences, including 24 books and over 160 articles and book chapters. He is the managing editor of the international journal, Dialogues in Human Geography, and was editor-in-chief of the 12 volume, International Encyclopedia of Human Geography. He was the 2013 recipient of the Royal Irish Academy’s ‘Gold Medal for the Social Sciences’ and received the Association of American Geographers ‘Meridian Book Award’ for the outstanding book in the discipline in 2011.

*Data recorded 14/7/2016