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Impact: beyond bibliometrics

Impact is the change or effect that your research has on the world, or "the demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to society and the economy” (UK R&I). It can be useful to think about the process as an impact journey involving inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes and impacts, and to consider who will benefit from your research and how they will benefit.

Pathways to impact (activities or initiatives you can undertake to help guide your research towards impact), like engagement with stakeholders, communicating your research at conferences, media appearances and using social media, are often confused with actual impact itself.

Impact can be:

  • Cultural e.g. changing attitudes or opinions
  • Economic
  • Environmental
  • Health & wellbeing-related
  • Policy-related
  • Scientific or academic 
  • Societal e.g. increasing awareness or understanding
  • Technological
  • Training and capacity building

Collecting evidence of your activities, outcomes and impacts is important in helping you to communicate a comprehensive picture of your research impact. This may include bibliometrics and other quantitative indicators, as well as qualitative information and evidence. 

Responsible metrics

Bibliometric indicators can be a useful source of information, yet they also can be very narrow and limited measures and should not be used in isolation.

The Metric Tide in 2015 has made a series of recommendations to promote how metrics and indicators can be developed and applied in more positive and responsible ways.

The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) and Leiden Manifesto for Research Metrics are also efforts to improve the ways in which the assessments of research output can be more open and transparent.

In Finland, introducing and developing a national recommendation for utilising responsible metrics became one important task of the Culture of Open Scholarship expert panel of Avoin Tiede, part of the joint efforts by the entire research community in Finland to promote open science.