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What is impact?

After research has been published, there are different ways of assessing its impact.  Impact is often measured by citation data, but can also include social media mentions, public engagement, and use of research in policy-making, education, and business.  Impact is one of many factors considered in the REF when assessing the quality of research outputs.

Metrics explained

Bibliometrics is a way of measuring research impact using quantitative citation data. This can include:

  • Citation counts The number of times an article is cited in other sources.
  • h-index A measure of an individual researcher’s impact based on the number of times their publications are cited e.g. a h-index of four means that four of the researcher’s papers have been cited at least four times each.
  • Journal impact factors  The average number of citations accumulated by articles published in a specific journal e.g. an impact factor of three means that papers published in that journal are cited an average of three times each.

Citation data is only one way to measure the impact of research and the fact that a publication receives citations is not always an indicator of quality.  Controversial papers may be cited a lot and other factors such as self-citation, co-authoring, and the length of a researcher’s career can all influence the citation of their work.  There are also significant differences in citation trends across subject areas.

Altmetrics measures the number of times that a piece of research is mentioned on social media (e.g. tweets or blog posts).  This is more immediate than traditional bibliometrics, but the academic quality of social media mentions should also be taken into consideration.  The Scopus database provides altmetrics information for articles where available.

Increase your impact

There are a number of ways to increase the impact of your research publications:

  • Publish open access  Publishing open access makes your research available to a wider audience.
  • Use Pure  Adding your publications into Pure makes them more visible. You can also add research activities to your profile to help maintain your online presence.
  • Use social media  Social media can be a great way to connect with other researchers and promote your work.
  • Get an ORCID iD  An ORCID iD is a unique identifying number which you can use to make sure all of your research is correctly attributed.
  • Present your research  Speaking at conferences and doing public engagement work can help to raise your profile and generate interest in your research.

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