ACADEMIC IMPACT

‘The justification for a university is that it preserves the connection between knowledge and the zest of life, by uniting the young and the old in the imaginative consideration of learning. The university imparts information, but it imparts it imaginatively…. This atmosphere of excitement, arising from imaginative consideration transforms knowledge.’ 

Alfred North Whitehead [1]

What is the purpose of research? As the quote above suggests, the purpose of a university is not just to educate, but to imaginatively create and transform knowledge for the benefit of society.  

 

When research impact is evaluated, we draw a distinction between academic impact [2] and external socioeconomic impact [2]. The former focuses on the intellectual contribution of research within academia, whereas the latter focuses on broader, external socioeconomic contributions that go beyond academia.  

Why is research impact important?  

 

There are many reasons to understand and evaluate research impact. Four primary purposes for assessing research impact are [2]

  1. Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) overview: Research impact enables research organizations to monitor and manage their performance, as well as understand their contributions to communities.   

  2. Accountability: Research organizations need to demonstrate the value of research to government, stakeholders, and the wider public. 

  3. Informing funding: Research impact can inform governmental funding decisions. Emphasising the socio-economic value of research can lead to enhanced research support.  

  4. Understanding: By understanding how and why research leads to impact, we can maximise our delivery of findings and overall impact.  

Evaluating research influence 

 

Academic impact can be measured in two ways: ideational and social influence. Ideational influence [4] is based on the number of citations a researcher’s paper receives, showing their  scientific influence in their field of research. Social influence is determined by a researcher’s interactions with other colleagues in the field [5]. Researchers with more collaborations and co-authorships show a higher degree of social influence.  

 

Ideational influence can be measured using, among other things, h-index [7] or g-index [6] scores. These are author-level metrics that distinguish between different types of scientists [8], on the dimensions of research production and impact. For example, low producers show low production and low impact, whereas big producers show low impact but high production. Selective scientists show intermediate-low production but high impact, and top scientists show both large production and high impact. The indices differ in that the h-index gives more weight to citations of recently published papers, whereas the g-index gives more weight to the author’s most highly cited papers. The g-index is relatively better at discrimination between types of researchers [9], and  may be better suited to determining a researcher’s ideational influence.  

Researcher Tip

Want to better understand your own ideational impact?

Publish or Perish retrieves and analyses your academic citations, providing a range of metrics and indices, including your h-index, g-index, age-weighted citation rate, and average citations per paper.

Social influence can be measured using centrality indicators [10], which reflect the types and numbers of relationships a person has with other members of a research network; for example, other researchers in the same narrow area of research. Examples of these indicators are degree centrality, betweenness centrality, and closeness centrality.

 

Degree centrality reflects how many direct connections a researcher has within the network, with very connected, high centrality individuals able to quickly connect with the wider network.

 

Betweenness centrality is the degree to which a researcher serves as a “bridge” connecting other researchers in the network. Someone with a high betweenness centrality score influences the flow around a system.

 

Lastly, closeness centrality focuses on the distance between researchers in the networks, and how centrally located a researcher is compared to others. Researchers with high closeness centrality are near to other researchers in the network and are best placed to influence the entire network.

Open access articles  

 

Making research freely available is a pressing issue for encouraging collaborative research on a global scale. However, journal subscriptions are increasingly unaffordable for institutions. Rising journal prices have outpaced library budgets, leaving institutions unable to provide widespread access to published research [14]. Consequently, the research impact of these articles is lost, as the findings from these articles remain unread and unused. Researchers depend on research impact for their salaries, promotions, funding and more.  

 

Open-access articles are beneficial for researchers. They are more likely to be read and cited, offering an advantage over pay-walled articles [14]. A 2005 study of 1.3 million articles found that open access articles consistently received more citations, indicating an OA citation advantage [15].  

 

Researchers can make their articles open-access by self-archiving them online. Many universities offer online repositories for pre-prints, along with other popular self-archiving sites such as the Open Science Framework or arXiv. Additionally, researchers can keep an up-to-date record of their publications online through their university profile, ResearchGate, or other personal webpages. Keeping contact details open and publicly accessible allows other researchers to request full text versions of articles when these are otherwise unavailable, improving the likelihood of citations.  

Strategies to improve your research impact 

 

Given how important research impact is to your work and career, it’s important to know how to improve your impact scores. Below, we provide a range of methods which correlate with higher research impact scores:  

 

  • Collaborate with others. Research collaborations produce higher research impact compared to solo publications [18]. More research collaboration leads to more publications (greater publishing productivity) [19] and more citations [20]. A group of researchers may be better able to share their resources (e.g., workload, expertise, knowledge) compared to a single author, who can only rely on his or her own resources. Read more about research collaborations here.  
     
    Who should I publish with?  
    1. Publish with international authors 
    2. Publish with a team, as team-authored articles are cited more often than single-author articles. 
    3. Publish with Nobel laureates 
    4. Publish across disciplines 
     

  • Promote your own research. When your work is published, it’s important to promote it so it doesn’t go unnoticed. Promotion can occur across three stages [21]
    Stage 1: Manuscript preparation and submission.  
    Researchers should aim to make their manuscript as search engine friendly as possible. When general terms are used, it’s easier for search engines to find the article.  
    Stage 2: Post-publication promoting 
    After your work is published, continue to share your paper to enhance readership. Aim to make your paper visible to a large, diverse audience. 
    Stage 3: Monitoring 
    This stage includes finding the right channel for effective promotion, tracking citations, and looking for possible collaboration opportunities. 
     
    How can I promote my research? [22
    1. Deposit your papers in an Open Access repository to boost citation rates.  
    2. Publicize yourself – update your email signature with a link to your latest publication  
    3. Keep your professional web pages and publication lists up to date  
    4. Self-archive your articles and make sure they are easy to find 
    5. Publish in journals with high impact factors. Think outside the box – some research fields have higher impact factors and citation rates than others, so consider whether your publication is suited to a high-impact journal outside your immediate research area.  
    6. Publish your article in a journal that is commonly read and cited by other researchers in your discipline  
    7. Create a podcast describing your current research project 
    8. Present working papers and publish tutorial papers 
    9. Join academic social networking sites to connected with researchers with similar interests 
     

  • Develop communication and influencing skills.

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