The Canadian War on Science: The #Altmetrics impact of a science policy blog post

On May 20th, 2013 I published my most popular post ever. It was The Canadian War on Science: A long, unexaggerated, devastating chronological indictment. In it, I chronicled at some considerable length the various anti-science measures by the current Canadian Conservative government. The chronological aspect was particularly interesting as you could see the ramping up since the 2011 election where the Conservatives won a majority government after two consecutive minority Conservative governments. The post is my most popular by an of magnitude, with around 10 times more page views that the next most popular over a similar time frame. It is two orders of magnitude more popular that an average popular post, which is in the upper 100s.

I've updated the original post three times, with separate posts for new items twice, here and here.

I've done an altmetrics post before where I brought together what I'd discovered about that War on Science post's impact.

This is what I had to say about the rationale for tracking the impact of that original post, which still holds true.

As an exercise in alt-metrics, I thought I would share some of the reactions and impact this post has generated. It’s certainly been a bit of a ride for me. I have to admit to being very pleased with the reaction. So much so, it’s gotten me to think more deeply about this slightly unhinged chronological listing thing that I do and perhaps it’s relationship to higher principles in librarianship. Maybe it’s a thing. More on this in the weeks and months to come as I further process and think about this particular activity and how it manifests in my practice of librarianship.

But perhaps the most compelling reason to do this post is very simple. To demonstrate that a blog post can raise awareness, that it can have some kind of impact in the real world, that it can be a lightning rod for participation and a space to pool the collective intelligence of the wider community to increase everyone’s knowledge.

I've also posted a bit about what the post means in the real world, how it's used and perhaps some information literacy implications of my extended project on Canadian science policy.

This new post you are reading now brings the altmetrics data about that post up to date. The main reason I'm doing so is that I'm giving a presentation about altmetrics on January 29th, 2015 at the Ontario Library Association Super Conference on altmetrics using my War on Science post as a case study.

Here's the session description:

802F Altmetrics in Action: Documenting Cuts to Federal Government Science: An Altmetrics Case Study

The gold standard for measuring scholarly impact is journal article citations. In the online environment we can expand both the conception of scholarly output and how we measure their impact. Blog posts, downloads, page views, comments on blogs, Twitter or Reddit or Stumpleupon mentions, Facebook likes, Television, radio or newspaper interviews, online engagement from political leaders, speaking invitations: all are non-traditional measures of scholarly impact. This session will use a case study to explore the pros & cons of the new Altmetrics movement, taking a blog post documenting recent cuts in federal government science and analysing the various kinds of impact it has had beyond academia.

  1. Understand what Altmetrics are
  2. Understand what some pros and cons are of using Altmetrics to measure research impact
  3. Ways that academic librarians can use altmetrics to engage their campus communities.

I'll post the slides here on the blog after the conference, probably next week.

I have an altmetrics reading list that I've compiled for the presentation here.


The metrics that follow are as at January 27, 2015. I've included a few based on the impact of a post I did on the crisis at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans where I thought it was a bit hard to tease apart the impact of that post from the original post.

I will also note that I personally haven't mentioned my post on any media sites or discussion forums nor have I encouraged anyone to do so on my behalf. No self citation is involved.


Various Measures (Twitter, Facebook, etc)

Most of these measures are likely undercounted as not everything shows up in track backs, stats programs or Google searches. For mentions in comments sections or discussion forums this is doubly the case and for those I haven't been explicitly paying attention as long to catch them as they happen.

  • Mentions on about 387 Facebook pages, ie. Occupy Calgary.
  • 71,429 page views (using Google Analytics)
  • 106 links/mentions from blogs, website, etc(see below)
  • 9 Mentions in Books, Reports, Scholarly Articles and Presentations
  • 22 Total or Partial Reposting of List
  • 19 Mentions in Comments of Blog or Media Site
  • 19 Mentions in Discussion Forums, Chats, etc
  • 210 comments or trackbacks on the blog post itself
  • 15,000 (approx) Facebook likes
  • 2913 (approx) Twitter mentions
  • 199 Google+ +1's (likely undercounted. Prev post had higher number (255))


Blog or Website Link


Mentions in Books, Reports, Scholarly Articles and Presentations


Total or Partial Reposting of List (Most neither by permission nor attribution)


Mentions in Comments of Blog or Media Site (Permalinks to individual comments are not always available or particularly reliable)


Mentions in Discussion Forums, Chats, etc. (Very partial) (Various such as Reddit, Metafilter, etc.)

  • May 2013. The Canadian Government's War On Science / Slashdot
  • May 2013. The Canadian War on Science: A long, unexaggerated, devastating chronological indictment / Reddit
  • May 2013. The Canadian War on Science: A long, unexaggerated, devastating chronological indictment / Reddit
  • May 2013. The Canadian War on Science: A long, unexaggerated, devastating chronological indictment / Reddit
  • May 2013. The Canadian War on Science: A long, unexaggerated, devastating chronological indictment / Newsana
  • May 2013.
  • Jun 2013. This is what USA “Free Market” principles look like / Center for Inquiry forum
  • Jul 2013. Canadian Government War on Science / forum
  • Jan 2014. Harper's War on Science Gets Uglier / Metafilter
  • Jan 2014. Neil Young Facebook page
  • Jan 2014. Le Ministre de l'au-delà / Straight Dope forum
  • Jan 2014. William Gibson message board
  • Jan 2014. Is the Harper Government actually waging a war on science / Reddit
  • Feb 2014. Tar Sands Toxins with Keystone XL Link Underestimated... / Reddit
  • Feb 2014. What is the most embarrassing fact about your country ? / Reddit
  • Feb 2014. Is there some who is hated by the general public in your country / your country's no 1 public enemy ? (crime, cabinet) / City-Data forum
  • Apr 2014. Harper removing North Pacific Humpback whales from list of ‘threatened’ species because of pipeline. / Reddit
  • Apr 2014. Newly released federal documents show Tories have been thwarting scientists' efforts to keep Canadians informed on Arctic ice levels / Reddit
  • May 2014. America dumbs down / Reddit
  • Jun 2014. Calgary Puck forum
  • Jun 2014. Why does everyone on Reddit seem to hate the conservative party? / Reddit
  • Aug 2014. Canada and the governments war on Science / Reddit
  • Oct 2014. "Most scientists who work for the Canadian government are not adequately protected from political interference or assured of being able to speak freely and openly about their work" / Reddit
  • Oct 2014. Harper is "flirting with fascism" with "nefarious scheme": CTV Don Martin / Reddit
  • Oct 2014. Government exploits attacks on military to push security agenda, Greenwald says / Reddit
  • Oct 2014. Above Top Secret Forum
  • Nov 2014. The Chill in Canada's Climate Science: A CJFE Live Chat / Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
  • Dec 2014. Canadian government continues valiant fight in the war against science / Metafilter
  • Jan 2015. Stephen Harper continues to make Canada into an international environmental pariah / Reddit
  • Jan 2015. Calgary Puck forum


    Miscellaneous Links



    Real World Impacts (Contacts with politicians, published media interviews, media backgrounder interviews, invitations to speak, invitations to participate)


    Government of Canada Domains that Read Post (Estimates based on Google Analytics sample)



    Top referrer websites (Estimates based on Google Analytics sample)

    • Facebook: 36.07%
    • Direct: 22.17%
    • Slashdot: 17.23%
    • Twitter: 7.30%
    • Boing Boing: 5.80%
    • StumbleUpon: 4.72%
    • Google: 1.88%
    • Reddit: 1.40%
    • Slate: 1.05%
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