Research Bite: Measuring the impact of a researcher.

Being a researcher requires a high level of focus. As with any profession, setting goals ensures progression in your chosen field.  With research, the general goals are to (1) complete quality research, (2) publish findings, and (3) translate findings to those you serve in your profession. The process seems straightforward. However, there are other universal standards that allow others in the research field to understand the depths of your work as a researcher. The sooner you can establish goals based on these standards, the more focused you will become, leading to more success as a researcher.

The impact of a researcher’s work results from the prestige of the journals in which their research studies are accepted for publication, citations of their research in other publications, and more current metrics that are measured, in part, by the number of downloads of a research publication. Quantifying one’s body of research is based on these metrics and the aim can be achieving some level of metrics in each of these areas.

Measures used to determine the impact of a researcher:

  1. Journal impact factor (IF): Used to measure the importance or rank of a journal by calculating the times its articles are cited over a given period of time. Journals with higher impact factors carry more prestige in their respective fields than those with lower values.

How is a journal’s impact factor calculated: The calculation is based on a two-year period and involves dividing the number of times articles were cited in a particular year by the total number of articles that are citable in the two preceding years.

Formula to determine IF: IF 2019= Citations in 2019/Published Articles 2017 + Published Articles 2018

For example, AJOT’s IF=2.231 in 2019. This means that papers published in 2017 and 2018 were cited on average 2.231 times in 2019.

*Note that IF can also be calculated over five years in the same manner as the annual impact factor which uses total publications over two years. *

The goal would be to publish research articles in journals in one’s field with high impact factors.

2. H-index: an index to quantify an individual’s scientific research output. The h-index captures research output based on the total number of publications and the total number of citations to those works.

For example: an h-index of 10 would indicate that the researcher has at least 10 publications that has been cited at least 10 times. There are several databases (Web of Science, Scopus, and Google Scholar) that will provide an h-index for an individual based on publications indexed in the tools.  

Find your h-index at:

The goal with a researcher’s h-index would be to produce research that is consistently cited to reach a respectable h-index in one’s field.

3. Altmetrics: a quantitative measure of the quality and quantity of attention that a scholarly work is receiving through social media, citations, and article downloads. Metrics such as the number of downloads and the number of social bookmarks for an article, with the number of citations an article has received can provide the strength of a publication in the social media realm. AltMetrics are not meant to replace citation counts or the h-index, but instead compliment the metrics with additional data.

Resources for altmetrics:

  •  AltMetric: Discover the attention surrounding your research – Altmetric
  • Our Research: Our Research Scholars enter information about the articles, such as the DOI to generate an impact report (may provide the number of times an article has been liked on Facebook, tweeted, cited in publications, viewed at the publisher Web site, or shared on social bookmarking tools such as Mendeley.  

Using these types of metrics to track one’s research must be done with caution. Different fields have different performance expectations in these areas based on years in the field, the type of research that is being conducted, and the areas of focus with one’s research.

Ultimately, these metrics serve as a guide to help the researcher understand the need to produce quality research that will be accepted for publication and cited by other researchers in published work. However, in a situation where you need to provide concrete numbers of your performance in these areas, such as during the tenure process or for a grant application, having an understanding early on of the expectations, helps you to plan and track your progress early in your career.

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