About this series: This series of posts are authored by some of the team members at Altmetric, a data science company that provides attention data to authors, publishers, institutions and funders. The posts will discuss, among other topics, using altmetrics within your C.V.s and grant applications, and how journal editors can make use of their tools. Learn more about the series by starting with the first post here. This particular post is authored by guest bloggers Cat Chimes and Fran Davies.
- It’s important to understand what the data is showing you.
Don’t assume that if your work has been tweeted by 20 people or blogged about 5 times that it’s always for a positive reason – make sure you use something like the Altmetric bookmarklet (available to download here) and details pages to see what the mentions actually say. This will help you see why people are talking about your work and ensure it is being interpreted in the right way.
- Decide what attention and indicators of potential impact are most important and relevant to you.
For some researchers, where in the world their article is being shared will be really important, whilst others might want to know where it’s been referenced in public policy or commented on by someone influential.
- Think about what the shares and discussion around your research really demonstrate – funders and potential employers don’t want to see just numbers, they want you to show them examples of the reach and broader influences of your work, and how it’s achieving them.
- Consider pulling out some key quotes or high profile news article snippets to include in your application.
In the new NIH biosketch templates, for example, evidence like this would fit well into the ‘contribution to science’ or ‘personal statement’ sections to help draw the bigger picture of your activity and influence as an academic.
- Make sure you talk about why an piece of attention you’ve chosen to highlight was important – for example was it coverage amongst a key audience you were hoping would pick up on the work? What were the aims of conducting your research and how did the attention you’ve chosen to highlight help meet these aims?
- Talk to your department head or program or grant manager to get a better understanding of the kinds of reporting on broader attention or influence they’d be most interested to see – you never know what they might say!
- Bear in mind how your work fits into the bigger picture – all Altmetric details pages offer a ‘score in context’ section to help you understand how the attention your research has received compares to the volume of attention surrounding other articles published around the same time, or in the same journal.
- Don’t just report the Altmetric score for your article.
The score is designed to be an at-a-glance indicator of the volume and approximate reach of the online discussion relating to a research output – but that alone does not really tell you anything about why the article did (or didn’t) receive a lot of attention, you need to look at what people are actually saying for that.
- See if you can ask your interviewers or funding application review committee for feedback on what they thought of the inclusion of that kind of detail (that is, if you’ve included altmetrics data or evidence of online engagement in any of your previous applications); was it useful, how could you make it better?
- Reach out to your library or research support office.
They deal with questions about assessing and evidencing research impact all the time, and will be able to provide you with some advice and guidance to help you on the right path.
If you take these ideas into account then you’ll be on the right track – and altmetrics can become a powerful and efficient tool in not only tracking and monitoring the online attention surrounding your work, but also in using that as evidence in funding applications to better demonstrate the value of your research and increase your chances of success.