Publishing research open access offers numerous potential benefits for researchers, for the University, and also for wider society. It opens up research outputs and makes them accessible to anyone anywhere with an internet connection. By opening up research in this way it could be argued that it is more important than ever that we try to understand the impact and reach of papers beyond citation counts limited to just academic and other research-specific publications.
We do find ourselves faced with the challenge of how to effectively communicate the benefits of publishing open access – beyond general statements such as those included in the diagram below.
To look at the world beyond academic citations we can investigate tools such as Altmetric.com. This offers a way to monitor online attention and conversations surrounding a particular piece of research. It takes into account mentions in public policy documents and references in Wikipedia, the mainstream news, social networks, blogs and more.
Let’s look at a 2018 paper by Stephen Gorard and Nadia Siddiqui:
Gorard, S. & Siddiqui, N. (2018) ‘Grammar Schools in England: a new analysis of social integration and academic outcomes’ British Journal of Sociology of Education 39(7) DOI:10.1080/01425692.2018.1443432
This paper was published gold open access with a CC BY licence, meaning that it is available for anyone with an internet connection to not only read but to also re-use.
It has an impressive Altmetric Score and appears to have grabbed the attention of a wide variety of people.
[Ed. We’ve been looking at Altmetric data for Durham authored publications recently, and this score puts this article firmly within the top 30 of all Durham authored publications.
Altmetrics give a measure of ‘attention’ – how and where a scholarly publication has been shared and discussed. Read more about altmetrics on our web pages.]
Altmetric does attempt to define the “types” of people who are tweeting about a particular paper and gives the categories of “members of the public”, “scientists”, “science communicators”, and “practitioners”. It states that this is done based on people’s posting history and profile information:
To compile a table of twitter demographics, we look at keywords in profile descriptions, the types of journals that users link to, and follower lists to assign each profile a category:
Member of the public – somebody who doesn’t link to scholarly literature and doesn’t otherwise fit any of the categories below
Researcher – somebody who is familiar with the literature
Practitioner – a clinician, or researcher who is working in clinical science
Science communicator – somebody who links frequently to scientific articles from a variety of different journals / publishers
For this particular paper the statistics breakdown claims that 80% of those tweeting about the paper are “members of the public”. If this is correct then this could help to demonstrate the broad appeal of the research and the attention that it has received beyond academia. You are able to see who has tweeted about the research, when they tweeted, and read the first few lines of their tweet.
A quick scan through a selection of those who have tweeted about this research shows that amongst them there are academics, researchers, policy makers, teachers, authors, librarians. It may be of interest, therefore, to look beyond the statistics provided and analyse the data provided in more detail.
[Ed. – at Durham University we don’t have Altmetric Explorer at present, which may allow authors to do further analysis of who is sharing and using their publications and how, but it is possible to use other tools or Twitter APIs to search for, extract and then analyse this data in more detail. See our web pages on Twitter for further information.]
The authors themselves also promoted their research on Twitter and these tweets were retweeted multiple times, showing the potential benefits of researcher ‘s both engaging with social media, and receiving support where needed as to the best means of harnessing this as a dissemination tool.
Our grammar school paper in new issue if BJSE. Open access, so free to read
Gorard, S. and Siddiqui, N. (2018) Grammar schools in
England: a new analysis of social segregation and outcomes, British Journal of Sociology of Education,
39, 7, 909-924, https://t.co/DxY9UU2eCR
— Stephen Gorard (@SGorard) October 25, 2018
[Ed. Durham University’s Marketing and Communications Hub offer some guidance via their social media toolkit, and the Library offers some further tips and guidance on their Researcher Support pages]
Altmetric provides some information on where in the world the attention surrounding a particular paper is coming from.
Furthermore, this research was mentioned during 2018 and 2019 by multiple national and local media outlets. Looking into this data further could also help to show that this research had wide-reaching appeal. These articles include an opinion piece from The Guardian newspaper which cites other research on grammar school performance and this paper, referring to the “exhaustive analysis of pupil data”. There are also articles in the Northern Echo and the ITV News, reporting solely on the paper by Stephen Gorard and Nadia Saddiqui. As with the Twitter information, it is useful to have this data gathered together by the tool for further analysis, or just to let you know people are accessing and sharing your research in ways not visible via a citation in a scholarly journal!
[Ed. You can access a range of newspaper resources via our web pages, and we’ve covered some of the latest additions to our digital newspaper archival collections for staff and students at Durham here.]
No metrics will ever define the full impact but you may find it useful to investigate the variety of tools that exist, such as Altmetric, to help to put together the story surrounding the impact of your own research.
[Ed. For more information about altmetrics, see our web pages or drop us a message – we’d be interested to hear if and how this type of data might be useful to you as publishing researchers!]
What is Open Access Week? Open Access week is a global event, aimed at promoting and informing the academic and research community about the benefits of open access. Open Access is the free & immediate online access to the results of scholarly research, and the granting of rights to share, use and re-use those results.
- You can see other activity at Durham University here, or follow our blog to learn more.
- You can find out more about Open Access at Durham here.
- Remember: any full text research publication you access from Durham Research Online, an author at Durham has made the effort to ensure that research is available for free to anyone, with the assistance of colleagues from Durham University Library and Collections, and departmental administrative staff across the University. Thanks all!