CIBER Research Projects

Harbingers 2

funded by The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation 2020

Harbingers 2 is a continuation of a world-wide project begun in 2015 — Harbingers was a longitudinal study of 'digital natives', young researchers who had yet to achieve established or tenured positions. Harbingers II takes this work forward in association with University of Tennessee and with funding from The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Once again we will be studying the work lives, prospects and scholarly communication behaviour and attitude of today’s novice researchers. However, the new study — Harbingers-2 — will do so with the express purpose of discovering how the pandemic will have impacted on the cohort that constitutes a most vulnerable generation of researchers.

Led by David Nicholas the international research team includes: Anthony Watkinson, Eti Herman, Jie Xu, Abrizah Abdullah, Blanca Rodríguez-Bravo, Chérifa Boukacem-Zeghmouri, and Marzena Świgoń.

ISSN 2024

ISSN International Centre 2019

CIBER is again working with the ISSN International Centre in Paris on a new five-year strategy for ISSN with an options appraisal for enhancements to the ISSN metadata record and new services such as identifier assignment. Workshops have been held in Paris and London with input from industry and other experts. CIBER have also delivered a substantial review of the shifting ground of scholarly journal publishing using its global contacts. The project is lead by John Akeroyd with input from Eti Herman, Anthony Watkinson and Dave Nicholas.

Digital Libraries in Asia

The British Council 2019

Opportunities for greater use of the British Council's digital library in Asia and Africa. The library has been in existence for just 2 years and has over 50,000 subscribers in India alone. CIBER will investigate the potential markets for the service in other parts of Asia and also in Iran and Zimbabwe using a mixture of survey techniques and interviews. There will also be stakeholder workshops for user needs gathering in Yangon and Harare. Led by John Akeroyd whose reports will be presented to the Council's Regional Directorate in June 2019.


Publishing Research Consortium 2015–2018

Are early career researchers the harbingers of change? Will digital natives who embarque on a career in research, carry the new information-seeking behaviour into the workplace with profound change to scholarly communication? Or will they, recognising their position as apprentices and reliant on guidance from mentors, be cautious and less adventurous than established colleagues? There is a complex of factors to consider here, a whole range of demographics and characteristics.

The Publishing Research Consortium has commissioned CIBER to carry out a world-wide, longitudinal study over three years of these 'digital natives' — researchers under 35 who have yet to achieve established or tenured positions.

The key question for all publishers is “on what basis do these researchers go about selecting the journal to which they submit?”. To answer that we will investigate the impact of open access publishing, social media and online networks on the process of reputation building. Does a change in the mechanisms of information seeking and use, citing, sharing, and collaborating presage a revaluation of the social capital of publishing and peer review?

Funded by The Publishing Research Consortium and led by David Nicholas the international research team includes: Anthony Watkinson, Eti Herman, Jie Xu, Abrizah Abdullah, Blanca Rodríguez-Bravo, Chérifa Boukacem-Zeghmouri, and Marzena Świgoń.

“Emerging Formats”

The British Library 2017

The extension of Legal Deposit in 2013, to include works in digital format, has changed the Library’s collecting and collection management. This research will provide the Library with an overview of UK publishing of works in three complex, emerging formats: books published as apps, works presented as structured data, and interactive narratives.

John Akeroyd, Nick Canty, Anthony Watkinson. Research to Support the British Library’s Work on “Emerging Formats” CIBER Research. March 2017

Knowledge for Healthcare

Health Education England 2016

An audit and review to improve the effect and value of library and knowledge services to the NHS. To include: Analysis to determine equitable funding and quality of service; Review the optimum funding model of Library and Knowledge Services for NHS England; Present alternatives and identify co-funding to support Knowledge for Healthcare.

  • Does the current model result in best use of resources?
  • What alternative models are there?
  • Which NHS bodies does HEE need to work with?
  • Which other non-NHS bodies does HEE need to work with?
  • What can be learned from existing data?
  • What is the relationship between funding and the NHS Library Quality Assurance Framework?

Market Review

ISSN International Centre 2015

Review of library management systems for the ISSN The ISSN International Centre based in Paris has commissioned CIBER to undertake a market review of systems and suppliers of library management systems. The wish to replace their ageing Virtua platform with a new system to meet the challenges of their new business model, the need for greater efficiencies in their workflows and the revised ISSN portal. There was a particular interest in open source. CIBER will review the market trends and submit a report and presentation to the governors.

A Serials Business

ISSN International Centre 2015

ISSN IC is an intergovernmental organisation supported by UNESCO, France and 87 other countries to create and manage the International Standard Serials Number (ISO 3297). ISSN IC creates and collects bibliographic data about print, online serials, and continuing resources worldwide.

Appointed by the ISSN International Centre in Paris, CIBER Research will examine the use of the ISSN and formulate a future strategy for the ISSN and the International Centre. This will put forward a new business plan tested by market research that ensures the viability of the core registry as it becomes available as Linked Open Data. The plan will present a three-year sales and marketing innovation strategy: pricing for new services, evaluating risks, and setting key performance indicators. It will identify critical success factors with regard to organisation, management, key staff, and distribution. It will also set out a detailed technical ICT development plan incorporating technology changes to support the new strategy.

Reputation Mechanisms

European Commission 2014

Analysis of emerging reputation mechanisms for scholars is a six-month study for The Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) in Seville, one of the European Commission's seven research institutes.

Traditionally, the scientific reputation of researchers is closely linked to successful publication in high-impact journals and the citations of those publications. Online, bibliometric indicators have developed as a mechanism for reputation. With new forms of working amid disruptive technologies do such conventional indicators reflect reputation and impact in the field of science?

The aim of this exploratory study is to outline future directions for research and practices in order to refine Digital Science 2.0 related policies and actions in Europe.

David Nicholas, Eti Herman, Hamid R. Jamali Emerging reputation mechanisms for scholars European Commission Joint Research Centre, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (Report EUR 27174 EN) 2015 [doi:10.2791/891948]

"articulate a vision"

Religious Society of Friends 2014

The Library of the Society of Friends was founded by the Yearly Meeting in 1673 with the expressed purpose of collecting materials published by and in opposition to Quakers. Woodbrooke was founded in 1903 as a residential college to provide opportunities for Quakers to study and to develop their faith and ministry. Now both institutions are asking how library and archive services can best be provided to support primary purposes with maximum effectiveness and accessibility to potential users? What relevant developments are taking place in the wider world of library and information services?

In July 2014 the Quakers awarded CIBER a consultancy to prepare a report that will help plan for the future of the libraries and archives at Friends House in London and Woodbrooke Study Centre in Birmingham.

p-medicine 2014

Medicine is currently undergoing a huge change by focusing on the integrated diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease in individual patients. Personalised medicine is, in theory, evidence-based delivery at the right time to the right patient resulting in measurable improvement and a reduction in health care costs [1, 2]. The challenge is to deliver the benefits of personalised medicine to each individual.

p-medicine is a project co-funded by the European Community to integrate data into Virtual Physiological Human (VPH) models and pave the way to treatments that match each patient and their cognitive personalities. is a free online platform for oncology professionals incorporating an open-access journal, news, video and education. It includes ecancermedicalscience, a journal with a “pay what you can afford” publishing model,, the world's largest collection of oncology videos, and a patient focused website launced in 2013.

In 2014 CIBER will be working with ecancer and ecancerpatient, one of the 19 partners in the p-medicine project, to evaluate their contribution.

Victorian Professions

University of Northumbria, University of Oxford. 2014–15

Victorian Professions is a prosopographical database sampled from the 1851 census. This dynamic collective biography of around 20,000 professional people in eight towns, their antecedents and descendants, is curated from a variety of sources, including public interaction with the project's own website.

In addition to data collection, the project will also review its methodology and usage: “who is fishing in our pond seriously and who is just inspecting the water”. CIBER Research will contribute web analytics advice, research, and also evaluate the suitability of Universal Analytics and Tag Manager for non-profit and scholarly usage studies. In particular how best to assess the contribution of the ever more important mobile and tablet user.

For over a decade CIBER have used a 'deep log' technique based on HTTP access logs. However we have, not without regret, come to the conclusion that in today's more complex online environment that is neither economical nor effective. There are limitations in all methods of analytics but we now incline to the view that much of what is required, at least in the first instance, may be obtained from Google Analytics. An important qualification is that this does need to be deployed with some sensitivity and skill. This is particularly the case in academic and cultural heritage contexts where the audience and purpose do not always sit well with goals and metrics intended for a web of advertising and e-commerce.

Beyond downloads

funded by Elsevier, 2014–16

Beyond downloads: sharing in the digital environment —by email, internal networks, cloud services, social networks— is now widespread. Working with COUNTER and a team from the University of Tennessee, CIBER will be developing altmetrics to measure this secondary sharing of digital content.


CIBER Research Ltd. 2011–2013

“Turnaways”— a study of scholars denied access from publisher platforms.

Are these really 'lost sales'? Are putative consumers also potential customers or 'just looking'?

Beware too broad a definition of the turnaway: not every bouncer is a turnaway even with an adjusted bounce rate; nor is every failed 'conversion' a turnaway. Just because content is found does not mean the finder would be willing to pay for it.

The visitors journey began with a search or list of references. For the user a journal article is at the tip of a fan-out not a funnel to conversion. And yet, many paths resolve to the same content; evidence of perseverance in pursuit of a key article or a broad search frustrated?

The subscription model assumes pre-payment, that traffic will be waved through at the toll-gate unhindered. It follows that pay-per-view tends to be an afterthought: the non-subscriber follows a pathway designed for in-library access until a pay-wall is encountered.

In some cases half of all attempts to access full-text content are turned away. But full-text accounts only 4% of all page-views, compare that to 60% abstracts, 25% journal home pages, TOC and RSS making up the rest. To judge the significance of 'turnaways' we have to consider the functionality, not just the revenue base of an online journal.

Usage Factor stage 3

COUNTER, 2012—

For stage 3 we are collecting data, testing stability, and the impact of gaming scenarios on a set of publisher data.

see Journal Usage Factor below for the earlier stage of this project

Usage, loyalty, and sharing

Europeana, co-funded by the European Union, 2012–2013

Analysing the impact of a new web platform with a focus on patterns of information seeking, interactivity, loyalty, and the significance of sharing objects in social media. Download our public Europeana reports


Centre Virtuel de la Connaissance sur l’Europe 2012–2013

Developing new, robust key performance indicators and associated logging and reporting procedures for the Centre Virtuel de la Connaissance sur l’Europe, an online Documentation Centre for European integration studies.

[polar chart of visitor numbers from report for]

We present here two contrasting proposals for a KPI.

The first, ‘the Pool’, based on an exploratory data analysis of log data, is quantitative. A pool has depth and breadth: a deep pool has a core of content that is in sustained use, in a broad pool a significant portion of the collection is active. A 'good' pool is not stagnant and does not dry out.

The second ‘Institutional Reach’ is qualitative. It envisages the identification of a core audience and a campaign to boost use by this target market.

Online research communities

Emerald, 2012

The opportunities and threats to publishers as a result of the rise of online research communities being built with the help of social media tools and platforms. A survey conducted by focus group, interview and online questionnaire.

Charleston Observatory III

Elsevier, Emerald, IOP Publishing, and RIN. 2011–2012

The third in a series of studies for the Charleston Observatory conference, Coming of Age? looked at strategic directions for digital repositories. The study notes the small scale of most institutional repositories, the variety of material held, the strong feeling among researchers that ‘gold’ open access will replace ‘green’ and, that within the repository movement itself, subject based repositories are better placed than institutional repositories to meet researchers' needs.

Journal Usage Factor


The idea of measuring research impact by means of citation rates was first mooted in 1955 in an article in Science. Not long after, ISI developed the Journal Impact Factor (JIF) and no one looked back. But JIF only models one specific behaviour by a relatively small group, offering a limited measure of ‘impact’ as generally understood. It says nothing about how journals reach out to a wider audience who make up the bulk of their readership.

CIBER was commissioned by UKSG and COUNTER to look at the feasibility of an alternative measure, the Journal Usage Factor, based on download statistics rather than citations. Our report explores the following questions:

  • How should the usage factor be calculated and presented?
  • What are the usage characteristics of different document types (original research articles, short communications, editorial material, etc.)
  • What are the usage decay rates of different document types and versions?
  • How stable is the usage factor over time: can it be used to generate meaningful league tables of journal use?
  • What is the relationship, if any, between the usage factor and measures of citation impact?
  • Could the usage factor be gamed by people or machines; are there digital signatures associated with such attempts to cheat the system?

Download CIBER's 45 page The journal usage factor: exploratory data analysis and COUNTER's 22 page results, recommendations and next steps.

Europeana Connect

EuropeanaConnect, funded European Commission, 2009–2011

EuropeanaConnect (May 2009–October 2011) developed components for Europeana —the European Digital Library— to provide integrated access to digital resources from museums, archives, and libraries of Europe.

CIBER provided analysis and evalution of users, usage, and information-seeking behaviour throughout the project. A copy of our final report together with additional material from our continuing partnership with Europeana see CIBER Research for Europeana.


The PEER Project, funded by European Commission, 2009–2012

Publishing and the Ecology of European Research (PEER) was a pioneering collaboration between publishers, repositories and the research community, in which at least 16,000 peer-reviewed manuscripts or 'e-prints' destined to become accepted journal articles were made available for archiving every year for three years. The aim was to understand the impacts that large-scale deposit of Stage II manuscripts have on usage patterns. What is the source and nature of usage of deposited manuscripts? What do the usage patterns reveal that is of strategic relevance to the research community, publishers and repositories?

Download the final public_report, and a presentation given to the Project Results Conference in May 2012

Gaps and barriers

RIN, JISC and PRC. 2010–2011

Access to scholarly content: gaps and barriers was based on an online survey of researchers and knowledge workers: which members of different communities in the UK can gain ready access to journal articles and conference proceedings?

Workforce Y

Fujitsu, 2010

The evolving Generation Y Workforce: implications for information technology and service provision - case study, 26 March 2010

Information, the elderly and health outcomes

Dunhill Trust, Royal College of Physicians, 2010–2011

‘Information, the elderly and health outcomes: case study preventing falls’ was part of a programme of home-based exercises delivered as part of routine care for frail elderly people by NHS therapists.

Growing Knowledge

JISC and British Library, 2010–2011

An evaluation of the ‘Growing Knowledge’ exhibition at the British Library which explored how digital technologies are changing research and how the BL and other national libraries could help? What are the new challenges they pose? What role should a research library play in the 21st century? Report on Growing Knowledge 2011-07-31

Research support services

RIN, with OCLC, 2009–2010

The provision and the use of information-related support services for researchers in four research-intensive universities in the UK: Leicester, University College London, Warwick and York.

Research support services in UK universities 16 November 2010

Library value and impact

funded by Research Libraries UK, 2010

Research to review and analyse the statistics etc, on the contribution libraries make to the satisfaction of the student experience.

Report, and at RLUK Demonstrating value: student satisfaction and library-provision

Economic challenges facing UK University Libraries

RIN, 2009–2010

A guide for senior institutional managers and policymakers on the challenges facing academic libraries in difficult financial times. The work is based on a series of focus group discussions with senior library managers.

Challenges for academic libraries in difficult economic times 18 March 2010

Charleston Observatory I

funded by Ebury and sponsored by The Charleston Conference, 2009

The Charleston Observatory study of impact of the credit crunch on libraries examines the changes that libraries are making in the context of the economic downturn: where budgets and resources are being focused and why and to determine what practical and positive things are being done.

The economic downturn and libraries December 2009

Digital Revolution

BBC Television, 2009–2010

The digital revolution televised experiments with young and older people to determine their different online behaviours.

Google Generation II 1 March 2010

library policy advocacy

Research Libraries UK, 2010

Development of a set of evidence-based advocacy materials for library policy makers in higher education

Houses of Parliament Intranet

UK Parliament, 2009

A study to determine how users are navigating to information on the Parliamentary Intranet

Changing attitudes and behaviours in the digital world and their implications for intellectual property

SABIP, 2009

UK Research Outputs and Percentage Presence: A Pilot Study

Research Information Network, October 2008

Monographs in the humanities

UCL, Faculty of Arts & Humanities, 2008

Behaviour of the scholarly researcher

Taylor & Francis, 2008

Evaluating the usage and impact of e-journals in the UK

Research Information Network, 2008–2010

E-journals: their use, value and impact takes an in-depth look at how researchers in the UK use electronic journals, the value they bring to universities and research institutions and the contribution they make to research productivity, quality and outcomes.

The Impact of Open Access Journal Publishing (Phase III)

Oxford University Press, 2007–2008

Biomedical Information Marketplace

British Library, 2007

The Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future (Google Generation)

British Library and JISC, 2007


Emerald and Wiley Publishers; 2006–2007

Determining the impact of open access publishing on use and users

Oxford University Press; 2005–2007

Authors as users

Elsevier; 2005–2006

Linking demographic and attitudinal data obtained from Elsevier authors with their usage of ScienceDirect

New journal publishing models: the 2005 CIBER survey of journal author behaviour and attitudes

Publishers Association and STM, 2005

Deep Log Analysis of Institute of Physics journals

IoPP; 2005–2006

Maximizing Library Investments in Digital Collections Through Better Data Gathering and Analysis (MaxData)

US Institute of Museum and Library Services; 2005–2007

The Virtual Scholar


The Virtual Scholar programme uses analysis of digital libraries, scholarly communication and bibliometricsto explore the changing world of academic information supply and use of journals and monographs. Providing evidence from both user and supply perspectives to support a balanced discussion of some strategic issues. It provides the publishing industry with much of its strategic research in areas such as the digital transition, new business models, social and policy angles (e.g. academic freedom), open access, repositories, the development of robust methodologies and metrics, creative writing, book history, impact of literary prizes, and changes in book retailing.

Digital Health

Department of Health 2002–2005

A project which examined health information using researchers and practitioners in information science, computer science, health, journalism and electronic publishing. The study looked at the take-up of health information delivery through new communication technologies and identified barriers that might constrain their development. A significant inovation was the use of transaction logging to obtain a documented record of user behaviour.

Nicholas D, Huntington P, Jamali HR. Digital Health Information for the Consumer — evidence and policy implications. Ashgate, 2007

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