Research impact measurement moves beyond traditional citations


As research constitutes the progress of science, impact assessment of research publications has been an area of interest for a long time. The communication of research and developments happens through scholarly publications like journal articles, books, monographs, conference proceedings etc. and their impact is continually assessed through models like impact factors which are based on the number of citations received by each publication. Citations have been chiefly used to measure the importance or influence of a journal or a publication for over half a century, with the progress in publishing technologies and growing share of consumption of information on digital formats, the ability of citations to assess the importance of a publication is being scrutinized.

The lifecycle of a published research constitutes of many events, like general consumption by readers, citations by other researchers, tweets on Twitter, shares on LinkedIn and Facebook, grants, clinical trials, patents, policy documents and translation to mass application of the outcome of the research. Citation based assessment takes into account the number of times a paper has been cited by other researchers on their work, which represents only a tiny subset of the lifecycle of the original research, and its impact on science and society as a whole.

Massive amount of research and increased competitiveness is driving the interest in broader evaluation of research impact, also enabled by greater availability of data. Justification of public funds flowing into research is a crucial factor driving this interest. How do we measure the real impact a scientific publication has on research itself, and the world beyond science? How can all the stakeholders like academics, institutions, publishers, librarians, funders and government agencies have a comprehensive insight on the impact of a particular research?

Comprehensive evaluation of interest beyond citation

Digital Science – a technology company serving the needs of scientific and research communities at key points along the full cycle of research – understands the need for this greater evaluation, their tools Altmetric and Dimensions attempt to continually improve research and its assessment. Taking impact assessment beyond citations and impact factors, Altmetric derives data from digital spaces where publications have been mentioned, such as news websites, social media, Wikipedia and patents, this gives a complete picture of the reach and impact of the publications.

Short for alternative metrics, Altmetric offers relevant information about research articles and publications and their impact on wherever the content is consumed, accessed, or referred. Research papers go through great amount of engagement on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, Altmetric derives information from these platforms on the quantity of tweets, shares and mentions, which gives an insight on the attention, usage and impact of the research output.

Evaluating research lifecycle and its impact

The information around research publications has traditionally been limited to index of scholarly articles and citations, Digital Science’s another tool Dimensions, offers an interesting sets of data that capture the entire lifecycle of research, and its societal impact. This database offers the most comprehensive collection of linked data in a single platform; from grants, publications, and clinical trials to patents and policy documents. Dimensions allows the stakeholders to follow research from funding through output to impact, the coverage of data reveals interesting results and linkages among different aspects of the research.

What if these advanced tools that help the evolution of scientific research and its impact were integrated into the publishing platform itself… The result would be a universe of scientific publishing where publishing, reviewing, distribution & delivery, analytics, interest assessment and a comprehensive data on the impact and lifecycle of research papers are all in one place. iPC Scholar, an advanced digital publishing platform is one such universe. With its ability to publish and deliver scholarly content in various formats like, journals, ebooks, videos, courses, the platform now gets widgets for Digital Science’s tools like Altmetric, Dimensions and Figshare. This makes it the world’s most complete platform for digital publishing and impact assessment of scholarly content.

As science progresses and communication technologies advance, to understand the impact of research and publications is far more complex than simply measuring citations. The metrics for comprehensive insight and measurement can be diverse and measurable but the motive and the impact calculated from these metrics are still not clear for everybody, eg, what exactly to derive from the number of shares on social media is unclear. However, the availability of this information gives a broader view of the research, stakeholders can take more informed decisions on future research and investments, it gives end users a new way to discover research and analyse its relevance to them. Technology is transforming the way research is evaluated, discovered, and accessed, and as the complexity increases advanced technologies like big data and artificial intelligence will need to intervene to help humans derive the true meaning of the data in hand.