This thread is interesting and relates to work I've been involved in in
Evidence, Impact, Metrics .
Over the past few years I've published several surveys on use of online
services, typically by Russell Group Universities, including use of
Facebook   and Twitter  as well as surveys of links to Russell
Group Unis  and links to social media sites from Russell Group
university home pages .
As might be expected, when usage is growing, the institutions concerned
tend to regard this as evidence of adoption of appropriate solutions and
implementation of best practices. However when usage is decreasing, as
illustrated in a post which asked "Are University Web Sites in Decline?"
 the survey methodology must be flawed!
In order to try and have a more detached view of the evidence and the
subsequent processes of interpretting the evidence which may lead to
policy decisions as part of the JISC-funded Observatory project we have
been adopting more systematic processes for the stages of (1) gathering
information; (2) making sense of the evidence and (3) informing policy
and practice. Stage 1 include documenting the paradata  - the
information about the survey tools and approaches, which can help to
ensure findings are comparable and reproducible. The processes for
making sense of the data are to open up the discussions about the
findings, survey methodology and speculations for the reasons for the
findings in an open forum (as you are doing here on this list). That
will then lead to stage 3, which will be how should the open discussions
inform policy and practice.
Clearly usage statistics of electronic resources is very importance. I'm
wondering more rigorous and systematic approaches to these stages might
1 Final Reports from UKOLNís Evidence, Impact, Metrics Work, 21 Dec 2011,
2 Use of Facebook by Russell Group Universities, 18 Jan 2011,
3 Is It Time To Ditch Facebook, When Thereís Half a Million Fans Across
Russell Group Universities?, 26 Sept 2011.,
4 Institutional Use of Twitter by Russell Group Universities, 14 Jan 2011,
5 Analysis of Incoming Links to Russell Group University Home Pages, 1
6 Links to Social Media Sites on Russell Group University Home Pages, 18
8 Are University Web Sites in Decline?, 20 Oct 2011,
9 Paradata for Online Surveys, 29 Nov 2011,
UKOLN, University of Bath, Bath, UK, BA2 7AY
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