Measuring your academic impact

There are a various ways that you can measure and track the academic impact of your research outputs.   Metrics that help you to do this fall into the categories of citation metrics and altmetrics.

Citation metrics
Citations  have traditionally been seen as an indication that the cited work is being used to advance the research of others and can therefore be considered an indication of impact.  Arguably, they could be more appropriately seen as an indication of academic attention.

  • You may see citation counts being used to help determine the impact of a particular article. However, these are a rather crude way of measuring impact and have many limitations. It can still be  interesting to track citations to your work to find out more about the documents which have cited your work, analyse the citing documents and be alerted to any new citations to your work.
  • Your h-index attempts to measure your productivity and impact based on the citations to your body of work.  Again however, it has some fundamental flaws.

In the last few years altmetrics have become available.  These are measures of article views & downloads, social media mentions, news mentions and captures & shares on tools such as Mendeley. Altmetrics can help toward measuring attention before citations are likely to happen and can give a wider picture beyond the academic literature.  Use them to help build a ‘story’ around the reach of your outputs, alongside citation metrics and other measures of impact.

Responsible use of metrics in research analysis
It is important to understand the limitations of any metrics you use and to use them for appropriate purposes. For example:

  • citation metrics aren’t capable of measuring broader societal and economic impact
  • metrics such as citation counts may be ‘quantitative’ but they are dependent on citation practices
  • it is considered illegitimate to use journal levels bibliometrics to evaluate the quality of particular articles published in the journal or to evaluate the researchers writing the articles in the journal

You may want to read the Library Research Support Team’s approach to the  responsible use of metrics advice and to consider the advice in the Leiden Manifesto and the Metric Tide report (pgs 134-5).

You may find the short video below useful.  It describes 10 principles to guide the use of metrics in research evaluation and is a video version of the Nature paper:
Hicks, D., Wouters, P., Waltman, L.,  de Rijke, S. & Rafols I. (2015). The Leiden Manifesto for research metrics: use these 10 principles to guide research evaluation. Nature, April 23, 520:429-431. doi:10.1038/520429a.