Using altmetrics to showcase the influence of your work to funders: A case study
This case study taken from The Evolution of Impact Indicators: From bibliometrics to altmetrics, a free ebook co-produced by Scholastica and Altmetric, explains how a researcher was able to use altmetrics to show a more complete picture of the impact that her research was having, both in scholarly discussions and public policy.
Case: Terrie Moffitt is the Nannerl O Keohane University Professor at Duke University. In looking to demonstrate the broader impacts of her work to her NIH and MRC program officers, Terrie was keen to understand more about the attention and online activity relating to her work, and to determine if any of that information would be good to include in her report.
Action: Terrie used Altmetric data to uncover a lot of activity around her work that she was previously unaware of. Altmetrics were able to show her that her work had been referenced in policy documents published by two major organizations - evidence she considered “bona fide data demonstrating that practitioners – not researchers – but folks who can affect lives through legislation, health care, and education, are using my research to better their work.” Terrie realized she had previously had no idea of the scope of news coverage or people sharing her work online, particularly on Twitter where she found practitioners discussing her research, and this made her think that perhaps she should reconsider her approach to demonstrating her research impact.
On receiving Terrie’s application the program officer gave very positive feedback on the additional context Terrie had uncovered via altmetrics. Her NIH program officer commented: “[This altmetrics data is] fantastic information for [our] budget report.”
Summary: Using altmetrics to help identify the influence of her work saved Terrie a lot of time, and helped her see and interpret how broadly her work was disseminated, and via what channels - information that she can use to improve future outreach strategy.
Generally, authors rely on download stats, citation data (which takes a long time to build up) and feedback from other academics to understand how their work is being received by the scientific community. Altmetrics goes a step further in each of these respects:
- Using altmetrics, authors can see not only how academics but also how the wider public are responding to their work
- They start getting this information as soon as their article is published, and do not have to wait for citation data to accumulate over time.
- Additionally, authors are able to see not just how many people are talking about their work, but also what is being said.
In an interview with Editage Insights, Stacy Konkiel, Outreach & Engagement Manager at Altmetric, aptly sums up the benefits of using altmetrics:
- “If you want to understand the impact of research on society, the holy grail tends to be if your work has been referenced by policy makers or if your work has received extensive media coverage. You can also look at how your papers are being talked about on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to understand how the public perceives your work, and whether it’s making a difference in their lives.
- If you want to understand your research’s impact upon your discipline or other disciplines, you can look at others’ peer reviews of your work, what other scientists are writing about your work on their blogs, and reading the contexts in which you’ve been cited.”