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Altmetric ‘mentions’ and the identification of research impact

Can data emerging from media ‘mentions’ of research provide timely indicators of outcomes linked to social and technical innovation for stakeholders in networks beyond academia?

Nesta Working Paper 15/03
Issued: February 2015
Keywords: Altmetrics, Publishing, Research Impact, Big Data, Science Communication

Abstract

Can data emerging from media ‘mentions’ of research provide timely indicators of outcomes linked to social and technical innovation for stakeholders in networks beyond academia? Altmetric.com has collated mentions pointing at 2.5 million scholarly documents. Articles from high impact journals have a high average mention count, but those with more mentions do not always have more citations. There are professional, academic and social motivations for mentions: the challenge is to discern patterns and concentrations that capture these factors. Do mentions have innovative value in communicating impact beyond the academic world?

Impact in communities of practice. Rapid and accessible communication of innovative research outcomes relevant to practitioners and professionals in the health sector is also of value to research users and managers. We interviewed a range of experts but found no clear characteristics of research publications with economic, social or professional - rather than academic - impact. Analysis confirmed many motivations for research mentions and highlighted their communication potential, but found no consistent view as to why some articles get mentioned frequently.

Impact in communities of interest. Patients, carers and supporters of disease charities represent a network that wants to look at, understand and communicate research about new treatments. Statistical analysis showed more mentions were given to papers associated with diseases tackled by charities with larger research funds. Cardiovascular disease receives more attention than its charitable research spend suggests, however, whereas spend on Immune and Musculo-skeletal diseases is high but media mentions are relatively low.

Health/clinical networks can enable timely, rapid and ‘serious’ media communication of innovative research with non-academic social and professional stakeholder benefits, but they may need key people as active nodes to engage them.

Authors

Tamar Loach and Jonathan Adams, Digital Science 

 

The Nesta Working Paper Series is intended to make available early results of research undertaken or supported by Nesta and its partners in order to elicit comments and suggestions for revisions and to encourage discussion and further debate prior to publication (ISSN 2050-9820). The views expressed in this working paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of Nesta.