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For established researchers

The suggestions below assume that you have already published a range of material or undertaken some kind of dissemination of your work. If you are ‘starting out’ or are an early career researcher with limited publications so far you may find the ‘tips for evidencing and maximising impact’ more helpful. The tips for evidencing impact below are intended to help build a ‘retrospective’ file to evidence impact.    

1. Firstly – take a step back and reflect on the subject and nature of your research.
   Who might be interested in this? What are your actual, intended or potential ‘spheres of influence?’ For example, if your research is on , say, economic impact  of higher education your potential audiences could include:
    • Universities and sectoral associations ( e.g. Universities UK)
    • BIS
    • Local government
    • Regional development organisations
    • International organisations ( e.g. OECD , international HE bodies , etc)
Your intended ‘spheres of influence’ may already be clear from where you have chosen to publish – are you publishing in places that your ‘target audiences’ will know about or be able to access?   Academic journal publication is obviously very important  for academic researchers . However if you only publish in academic journals the scope for evidence of a broader impact is likely to be limited.  Very few people outside academe have access to journals, even if they wished to read them. Your institutional Librarian can give advice about also uploading your work ( including ‘preprints’ of your journal articles  )to your institutional repository .That will make your work accessible on the internet to a wider audience.  


2.Do a series of ‘google’ searches.
For example, your name and one or two ‘key words’ related to your research  e.g.:

‘Joanna Bloggs higher education impact’  or ‘Joanna Bloggs higher education economy’ etc.

Try different versions or spellings of your name if there are different possible spellings.


3.Scan the results for possibly useful ‘hits.’
Typically the search will throw up

things like your university web page   and references via your university site. It is also likely to throw up references to work you may have uploaded to your institutional repository.  However you may come across items of which you were not aware eg a press report or a media mention. It is definitely worth noting here that if such a search does NOT throw up a university link you should be reviewing your own presence on your university website – what is included on the website about you? At the very least you should make sure you have a departmental listing and your general research interests. (otherwise how will anyone know you have expertise in a particular research area?)  Sometimes people think that ‘googling’ oneself is simply ‘vanity’. However if you don’t do this, how will you know what is or is not ‘out there’ about your research ( or about you)?  


4. Check how many views /downloads have been made of the publications

you have uploaded to your institutional repository.  If your institution has implemented a research information management system, this type of information should be more easily obtainable. Information on the numbers of downloads – and ideally the number from non-academic internet domains – is very real evidence that your research is in use.   If you are not sure how to find such information, ask your librarian...


5.Do a ‘Publish or Perish’ (PoP) analysis .

Publish or Perish is a software program that retrieves and analyzes academic citations. It uses Google Scholar to obtain the raw citations, then analyses these and presents a range of statistics that can be helpful in analysing impact. A PoP analysis will be of primary interest from an academic impact, rather than wider impact, point of view as most of the citations will relate to use of your work by other academics rather than by non-academics. However it is a good starting point. If your work is being cited widely by other academics this  is in itself useful to know.   Also, if you have developed an extensive reputation in the academic world, this can ‘spillover’ outside of academe.

LSE research showed :
“Analysis of our pilot sample of 120 academics shows that academics who are cited more in the academic literature in social sciences are cited more in non academic Google references from external actors. “  LSE Impact handbook(LSE Public Policy Group ) PoP also uses Google Scholar which casts its net wider than some of the other ‘citation; indexes and can sometimes pick up citations, for example, policy papers. Google Scholar is also more helpful for non-science disciplines which are not always as well covered by other citation databases ( eg Web of Science etc)  PoP gives statistics on:·         Total number of papers·         Total number of citations·         Average number of citations per paper·         Average number of citations per author·         Average number of papers per author·         Average number of citations per year·         Hirsch's h-index and related parameters·         Egghe's g-index·         The contemporary h-index·         The age-weighted citation rate·         Two variations of individual h-indices·         An analysis of the number of authors per paper.

You can scan the citations for each paper to see if any ‘jump out’ as  possibly being related to non-academic or policy usage.

To  do this you need to download the PoP (free) software.  You can obtain this, along with instructions on how to run and interpret and analysis  from the Publish or Perish site. Harzing, A.W. (2007) Publish or Perish, available from http://www.harzing.com/pop.htm  Harzing also gives helpful advice on how to use PoP results for academic purposes e.g. when you are applying for promotion etc. The LSE handbook (LSE Public Policy Group, gives a range of useful comparators for citation rates in the social sciences ( so you have an idea whether or not your citation counts are typical for your peer group.) 

6.Search other relevant electronic databases that you may have access to:E.g. Lexis UK. This can pick up press coverage you may have overlooked  

7. Search specific target outlets that are allied to your identified sphere of influence. EG Has your work been of a topical political nature? Have you submitted evidence to Parliamentary committees? In which case, try searching Hansard.  (Submission of evidence to a Parliamentary Committee is relevant evidence of impact for the REF, as it shows conceptual impact – influencing debate. There is a vey helpful article by Matthew Flinders, a Sheffield Professor, on both how to work with Parliamentary Committees and how to use this for REF evidence. (Flinders, 2012)    

8. Record any relevant evidence for professional use of social media outlets. If you are a regular user of social media outlets you are likely to be familiar with a range of tools such as ‘tweet reach’ or ‘Klout’ . These can give you information on the ‘reach’ of your tweets ( how many people saw your tweet – if something was retweeted a few times it can reach thousands)  ‘Klout’ is related to your online presence – how much online ‘klout’ do you have ( how many people retweet you, interact with you etc. ) If you do not use social media for professional purposes and only for personal purposes , clearly this information is not relevant .   However if, for example, you tweeted about your ‘latest report on copyright law’ and this was retweeted a number of times you have useful evidence that your work is reaching people.  Building a retrospective ‘file’ of evidence of impact is obviously going to be more time consuming than keeping it up to date as you go along. It also has to rely heavily on what can be found through online searching.  However it remains useful as by – taking the Molas-Gallart proposal that impact is driven by ‘’productive interactions” (Molas-Gallart & Tang, 2011) or indeed the LSE Impact handbook definition of research impact being a recorded ‘occasion of influence’  , locating your  digital footprint is a good way of recording interactions and ‘occasions of influence.’