This post on Research Impact & Scholarly Profiles was created by UC Berkeley Library Scholarly Communications Services, and is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License. It has been modified for inclusion on the UC OSC site by removing references to Berkeley-specific resources.
Why are we talking about impact?
Among other things, awareness of your scholarly impact can help you:
- Strengthen your case when applying for promotion or tenure
- Quantify return on research investment for grant renewals and progress reports
- Strengthen future funding requests by showing the value of your research
- Understand your audience and learn how to appeal to them
- Identify who is using your work and confirm that it is appropriately credited
- Identify collaborators within or outside of your subject area
- Manage your scholarly reputation
Measuring Your Impact
Measuring impact is not a perfect science, and there are many who argue against its implications altogether. Here, we just want to present information about the statistical measures that exist so that you can make informed decisions about how and whether to gauge your impact.
Often, measuring impact relies on metrics such as: article-level metrics, author-level metrics, journal or publisher metrics, and alt-metrics.
Article-level metrics quantify the reach and impact of published research. For this, we can look to various measures such as citation counts, field-weighted citation impact, or social networking readership statistics.
- e.g. Citation count: How many times has your article been cited? This can be difficult to assess and assign meaning to. How recent your article is obviously affects how many times it’s been cited. Additionally, the database or source of the statistic greatly impacts the count because the database needs to be able to scan a large number of possible places where your article could be cited—and not all databases have access to the same information in that regard.
- e.g. Field-weighted citation impact: Since it takes time for publications to accumulate citations, it is normal that the total number of citations for recent articles is lower. Moreover, citations in research from one field may accumulate faster than others because that field simply produces more publications. Therefore, instead of comparing absolute counts of citations you might want to consider another citation measure called field-weighted citation impact (also known as FWCI) that adjusts for these differences. Field-weighted citation impact divides the number of citations received by a publication by the average number of citations received by publications in the same field, of the same type, and published in the same year. The world average is indexed to a value of 1.00. Values above 1.00 indicate above-average citation impact, and values below 1.00 likewise indicate below-average citation impact. It’s a proprietary statistic, though, meaning you’d need access to Elsevier’s SciVal/SCOPUS product, which not all institutions subscribe to.
- e.g. Social Networking Site Readership: Another article-level metric is something like Mendeley Readership, which indicates the number of Mendeley users who have added a particular article into their personal library. This number be considered an early indicator of the impact a work has, and typically Mendeley readership counts correlate moderately with future citations.
Author-level metrics address an author’s productivity and diversity of reach. We can look to measures of overall scholarly output, journal count, journal category count, and H-index or H-graph.
- e.g. Journal count: Journal count indicates the diversity of an author’s publication portfolio: In how many of the distinct journals have this author’s publications appeared? This can be useful to show the excellence of authors who work across traditional disciplines and have a broad array of journals available in which to submit.
- e.g. Journal category count: Journal category count addresses in how many journal categories has someone published. This can be useful for tracking breadth/reach of scholarship, and inter-disciplinariness.
- e.g. H-index: H-index is an author-level metric that attempts to measure both the productivity and citation impact of the publications of a scientist or scholar. The definition of the index is that a scholar with an index of h has published h papers, each of which has been cited in other papers at least h times. It is believed that after 20 years of research, an h index of 20 is good, 40 is outstanding, 60 is truly exceptional.
- e.g. Scholarly output: Scholarly output demonstrates an author’s productivity: How many publications does this author have? This is a good metric for comparing authors who are similar, and at similar stages of career.
Journal or publisher metrics
Journal or publisher metrics address weights or prestige that particular publications are seen to carry. Some measures include:
- e.g. SCImago Journal & Country Rank: SCImago Journal & Country Rank can be considered the “average prestige per article,” and is based on the idea that not all citations of your work are the same. (In other words, your articles could be cited in publications of varying prestige.) Here, the subject field, quality, and reputation of the journals in which your publications are cited have a direct effect on the “value” of a citation.
- e.g. Impact per publication (IPP): IPP gives you a sense of the average number of citations that a publication published in the journal will likely receive. It measures the ratio of citations per article published in a journal. Unlike the standard impact factor, the IPP metric uses a three year citation window, widely considered to be the optimal time period to accurately measure citations in most subject fields.
- e.g. Source-normalized impact per paper: When normalized for the citations in the subject field, the raw Impact per Publication (IPP) becomes the Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP). SNIP measures contextual citation impact by weighting citations based on the total number of citations in a subject field. The impact of a single citation is given higher value in subject areas where citations are less likely, and vice versa.
Altmetrics account for “non-traditional” citations of your scholarly work. They address the fact that scholarly conversations have expanded beyond the peer-reviewed article. People are now Tweeting and blogging about your articles, for instance, and altmetrics accumulate these mentions. To find out how your work is being cited and used in these ways, learn more at Altmetric.com.
Monitoring Your Impact
There are numerous existing and emerging tools available to help you track your scholarly impact by enabling you to create a virtual scholarly profile in which you input and keep track of all your professional activities and publications.
When selecting one of these tools, it’s helpful to consider:
- What sources of information are your chosen tools “pulling from” or indexing? The greater number of sources that the tool can “read,” the more comprehensive your metrics will be.
- What is the business model of your tool? Is it for-profit and available with premium features for a fee, or is it a free platform available to all? For instance, Symplectic’s Elements and Elsevier’s Pure are licensed platforms that come often at substantial cost to an institution, whereas Impact Story, ORCID, and Google Scholar offer free profile services.
- Have you made a copy of your scholarly materials available also through your institutional repository? Many of the profiling tools are not geared toward actually preserving a copy of your work. So, to ensure that a copy of your work remains publicly available, it’s best to make sure you also deposit a copy in your institutional repository (in the case of UC, this is eScholarship.org).
With all that in mind, here are a few profiling tools from which you can choose:
From their site: “Impactstory is an open-source website that helps researchers explore and share the the online impact of their research.By helping researchers tell data-driven stories about their work, we’re helping to build a new scholarly reward system that values and encourages web-native scholarship. We’re funded by the National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.”
From their site: “ORCID provides an identifier for individuals to use with their name as they engage in research, scholarship, and innovation activities. We provide open tools that enable transparent and trustworthy connections between researchers, their contributions, and affiliations. We provide this service to help people find information and to simplify reporting and analysis.”
- Google Scholar Citations
From their site: “Google Scholar Citations provide a simple way for authors to keep track of citations to their articles. You can check who is citing your publications, graph citations over time, and compute several citation metrics. You can also make your profile public, so that it may appear in Google Scholar results when people search for your name…Best of all, it’s quick to set up and simple to maintain – even if you have written hundreds of articles, and even if your name is shared by several different scholars. You can add groups of related articles, not just one article at a time; and your citation metrics are computed and updated automatically as Google Scholar finds new citations to your work on the web. You can choose to have your list of articles updated automatically or review the updates yourself, or to manually update your articles at any time.”
From their site: “Share your publications,access millions more, and publish your data. Connect and collaborate with colleagues, peers, co-authors, and specialists in your field. Get stats and find out who’s been reading and citing your work.”
From their site: “Academia.edu is a platform for academics to share research papers. The company’s mission is to accelerate the world’s research. Academics use Academia.edu to share their research, monitor deep analytics around the impact of their research, and track the research of academics they follow.”
From their site: “LinkedIn operates the world’s largest professional network on the Internet with more than 500 million members in over 200 countries and territories.”
- Fee-based or proprietary profiling systems like Elements or Pure.These are software systems to help collect, understand, & showcase scholarly activities. These are not currently available at UC.
Increasing Your Impact
In general, we recommend three overarching strategies to increase your scholarly impact:
A. Get your work seen & cited
B. Promote your work & be social
C. Develop & execute a personal plan
We discuss each of these strategies with specifics below.
A. Get your work seen & cited
Publish pre-prints or post-prints in open access repositories.
Institutional or discipline-specific open access repositories (e.g. eScholarship.org for UC publications, BioArXiv, Humanities Commons, etc.) enable you to self-archive a copy of your work so that it is accessible for free by readers around the world. Morevoer, these repositories are indexed on Google so that your scholarship can easily be found. This is a terrific way to build readership and impact, while also contributing to progress and knowledge by making a version of your work available to all. To choose a repository that’s right for you, you can check the DOAR (Directory of Open Access Repositories).
As a UC faculty member, staff, or student, you are automatically authorized under the UC open access policies to post a pre-print copy of your scholarly articles (defined broadly) to the UC repository, eScholarship. You can also check the web tool Sherpa/ROMEO to determine whether there are other versions of your scholarship that your publisher has authorized for deposit.
Publish open access.
Open access is the free, immediate, online availability of scholarship. This means that when people publish a scholarly article in an open access journal, it is put online for anyone to access—without readers (or readers’ institutions) having to pay any fees or subscription charges for it (also known as “paywalls”).
Paywalls limit readership. The great value of publishing open access means that barriers between readers and scholarly publication are removed, making it easier for everyone to find, use, cite, and build upon knowledge and ideas. In this way, open access connects your scholarship to the world, and helps build your impact. Publishing open access is often a condition of research funding, so you should check your grants.
Open access publishers may ask for a fee to publish your scholarship open online in lieu of the fees they would ordinarily have collected from institutional memberships to the journal or publication. Research grant funding can sometimes be used to cover these fees; additionally, some UC campuses have open access publishing funds you can apply for.
There’s an open access place for all research outputs.
Your “final” publication—traditionally, an article, chapter, or scholarly monograph—is not the only thing readers desire to access and cite. You can publish your research data, code, software, presentations, working papers, and other supporting documents and documentation open access as well. In fact, in some cases, your funders might require it. Sharing these other research instruments not only advances knowledge and science, but also can help increase your impact and citation rates.
You can find the right open place for all your outputs. For instance, it’s possible to:
- Publish code on GitHub
- Publish data sets on FigShare or DASH
- Publish presentations on Slideshare
Publish several pieces on same topic.
If you’ve written a journal article, you can spread the word about it by supplementing it with a blog post or magazine article—thereby attracting greater attention from readers interested in your topic. What’s more, publishing your article open access to begin with also helps your work get discovered by journalists, making it easier for them to write their own supplemental magazine articles about your research, too.
Write for your audience & publish in sources they read.
Of course, many of us would like to be able publish in high impact journals or ones targeted to our audience. To find the best fit journals, it can be helpful to review the journal’s scope and submission criteria, and compare that to whom you believe your intended audience to be.
Use persistent identifiers to disambiguate you and your work from other authors.
There are more than 7 billion people in the world. If someone searches for your articles by your name, how can you be sure that they find yours and not someone else’s? How can you be sure that citations really reflect citations of your work and not someone else’s? Persistent identifiers—both for you and your publications—help disambiguate the chaos.
- ORCID: Much in the same way that a social security number uniquely identifies you, an ORCID “provides a persistent digital identifier that distinguishes you from every other researcher and, through integration in key research workflows such as manuscript and grant submission, supports automated linkages between you and your professional activities ensuring that your work is recognized.” Increasingly, publishers and funders ask for your ORCID upon article submission or application so that they can disambiguate you from other researchers, too. ORCIDs are free to create and doing so takes just moments. They also enable you to set up a personal web profile page where you can link all of your scholarship to your unique identifier—creating a profile that is uniquely yours.
- Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs): A DOI is a type of persistent identifier used to uniquely identify digital objects like scholarly articles, chapters, or data sets. Metadata about the digital object is stored in association with the DOI, which often includes a URL where the object can be found. The value of the DOI is that the identifier remains fixed over the lifetime of the digital object even if you later change the particular URL where your article is hosted. Thus, referring to an online document by its DOI provides more stable linking than simply using its URL. Publishers and repositories often assign DOIs to each of your publications for this reason. If you are a UC researcher depositing in eScholarship, you can obtain a DOI through a service called EZID.
B. Promote your work & be social
Although it might seem too self-laudatory for some people’s tastes, speaking up about issues of interest to you and your audience can help position you as a thought leader in your space. Therefore, it can be helpful to participate and collaborate in promoting and discussing your work through social networking, blogging, list serves, personal networks, and more.
And don’t overlook your research that’s still underway! Discussing what’s in progress can help build interest.
C. Develop & execute a personal plan.
Perhaps the best way to increase your impact is to develop a plan that is tailored for your own needs, and check in with yourself periodically about whether it’s working. Your plan should focus on tactics that make your work visible, accessible, and reusable.
What might such a plan look like? Here is a sample that you can adapt:
- Create & maintain an online profile (GoogleScholar, etc.)
- Use persistent identifiers (e.g. ORCIDs, DOIs) to disambiguate/link
- Publish in fully OA journals or choose OA options
- Creative Commons license your work for re-use
- Post pre- or post-prints to repositories (eScholarship, PubMed Central, etc.)
- Make social media engagement a habit
- Engage your audience in meaningful conversations
- Connect with other researchers
- Appeal to various audiences via multiple publications
- Check back in on your goals
Do you want to talk more about tailoring strategies so that they are right for you? Get in touch with scholarly communications specialists at your campus library.