Last month, PLOS ONE and PLOS Biology showcased some of the most impactful research published from 2015 – 18 in two new collections. Looking at this body of work, we’re reminded of how science builds the foundation for our understanding of the world around us. Medical research influences public health and professional practice, earth sciences inform how we understand and react to the changing climate, and the list goes on.
Each new discovery has a ripple effect on the future of research and society itself. How we measure that effect, and all the factors that contribute to it is understandably complicated. Knowing how best to tell the story of your impact can help ensure recognition for your work.
Tracking digital footprints through article-level-metrics
Citations help us understand and track how a particular research article has helped other researchers build off of existing data and theories to continue investigation in the field. But citations take time, and habits differ among disciplines making. Counting citations alone won’t always capture the way an article has affected new research or policies and professional practice beyond the sphere of academia. To do that, we need to take a broader view and more holistic approach to understanding research.
With more and more research activity happening through online sources, it’s possible to track the conversation in different ways. In addition to citations, article-level-metrics help authors keep track of different channels of influence specific to a particular article. Rather than relying on a single number, authors can share a more comprehensive story of their impact that captures the nuance of how other audiences engage with research.
In fields of high interdisciplinarity and broad public impact, social media mentions capture the conversation. Views and downloads, particularly in areas with a need for immediate information (eg disease outbreak, climate change) also provide a sampling of a work’s broad reach.
Connecting to a broad audience: How you tell your story matters
Open Access makes it possible for work to reach a global audience, immediately and without barriers or paywalls. That means your research has the potential to be read by everyone, not just the scientific community. If you want to reach a broader audience, engage more people, and boost the visibility of your work; how you tell your research story matters.
Media coverage is one way for authors to boost the impact of their work and also form a key connection to readers, researchers and policymakers. The partnership between science and journalism is an important means of helping a broader audience understand and sift through the science that is happening every day so that it’s teachings can begin to be used in everyday practice.
If you have the opportunity to connect with media partners before or after your work publishes – do it! But you can also give more context to your work through your own channels. PLOS provides tips for promoting your own work through your institutional network, social media channels, and more here. Track the effect your work has through your article-level-metrics, or just take a moment to join a conversation about how research can inspire people.
The bottom line: your research makes a difference. When you engage in the conversation, you have the opportunity to add even more context and reach new audiences. If you need extra motivation, just take a look at what our authors and editors had to say about the featured work on EveryONE and Biologue.