Research impact for academic authors: what it means and how to nurture it

Research impact for academic authors: what it means and how to nurture it

Traditionally, an author’s impact was measured using the number of times he/she was published and the number of times his/her publications were cited by other researchers. Technology has been revolutionising academic communications.

There are many ways to disseminate your research and different ways it could have an impact, depending on your topic, field and how it can be applied to address societal issues.

We are all familiar with academic impact, how research activities can advance a theory and how research findings can develop understanding within a field or across disciplines. We have already mentioned the societal impact, this might extend to influence policy making, affect economic growth, provide environmental benefits and, crucially in this period, tackle health challenges.

In the UK, the REF (Research Excellence Framework) definesimpact as “an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia”.

Research impact is often a prerequisite of funding calls and grant applications – funding councils and bodies need to ensure they are investing in projects that deliver tangible benefits. Governments and even businesses – think of knowledge transfer and how many organisations are eager to support research and development by funding projects in academia  – are also interested in assessing the quality and impact of research.

Research diffusion, impact and your career

If you can demonstrate the impact of your research, this will help further your career by boosting your academic profile and increasing your chances to be awarded funding for your project. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Regularly present your research at conferences. Include links to your latest publications to your institutional profile and even under your email’s signature.
  • If writing a paper, ensure you choose a good title and use relevant keywords to increase its visibility online. Try to make it understandable to a reader outside your field by avoiding abbreviations and jargon.
  • Write a blog post. If you don’t have your own blog, find a blog within your field and offer a guest post. Here is an example showcasing criminology research.
  • Run a public engagement activity – this could be an in-person or virtual event.
  • Build connections – in-person and online. Don’t discount social media and focus on a channel that can reach your audience (i.e. Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn). Altmetric counts mentions on social media networks. If you publish a paper, tag co-authors, your publisher, funder and institution and anyone else who might be interested. Use relevant hashtags to include a wider audience. You can also create a video talking about your research with your mobile phone.
  • Join research-sharing networking sites, such as ResearchGate, Mendeley and Academia.edu. It is also useful to create a Google Scholar profile.

Last but not least, it’s important you publish your research in well-reputed publications with high impact factor. If you would like tips on how to choose the right journal for your paper, you can read a previous article here.


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