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Publish and Publicise, or Perish: The Importance of Publication Impact by Mark Rubin

This guest post is from Mark Rubin, a senior lecturer in social psychology at the University of Newcastle, Australia. You can visit his ImpactStory profile at: http://impactstory.org/MarkRubin or follow him on Twitter @MarkRubinPsych.

I’ve recently conducted an “Introduction to Academic Publishing” seminar for PhD students at the University of Newcastle and the University of Canberra. During the seminar, I spend some time explaining to students the new emphasis on publication impact. Publication impact is the influence that scholarly publications have on other scholars and the general public, and it is becoming more and more important in academia. Below, I consider some of the ways in which publication impact is making an impact in the research world.

Measuring Researchers
The quality and quantity of a researcher’s publications provide a key measure of their research productivity. Consequently, publication track records are often used to determine whether or not researchers get hired, promoted, or funded for their future research. In addition, at the institutional level, the quality and quantity of a university’s publication output help to determine its international reputation and the amount of funding that it receives based on national research performance reviews. So, there are several reasons why researchers find themselves and their research outputs to be objects of measurements.

Tape Measure

© Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity, Tape Measure, Creative Commons

The ethos of “publish or perish” has been around for a long time. However, in recent years, this message has become more articulated, and it now takes into account the impact of researchers’ publications. In particular, researchers are now told that they must not only publish their research but also get their publications acknowledged by other researchers and society at large. In practice, this means that researchers need to get their publications (a) cited in the work of other researchers and (b) discussed in traditional and online media. To help achieve a greater scholarly and public impact, researchers must promote and advertise their work as much as possible. In this respect, the message has now become “publish and publicise, or perish!”

Publications Need to Make a Big Splash!

A Little Trick

© Nathan Rupert, A Little Trick, Creative Commons

Measuring Publication Impact in the Scholarly Literature: The H Index
The concern about impact in the scholarly literature explains the growing popularity of the h index, a metric that is used to quantify not only the number of articles that a researcher has published but also the number of citations that these articles have accrued in other scholarly work. My own h value is currently 12, meaning that 12 of my 33 research publications have each been cited at least 12 times in other research articles.High impact researchers are expected to have h indices that are at least as large as the number of years since their first publication. The h index is not without its critics, and some have argued that a more comprehensive assessment of publication impact should take into account a broader array of alternative impact metrics, or altmetrics, that include more than just citations in scholarly work.

The H Index

Wooden Brick Letter h

© LEOL30, Wooden Brick Letter h, Creative Commons

Altmetrics
Altmetrics platforms such as altmetric and impact story count the number of times that scholarly articles are mentioned in both the scholarly literature and online social media and websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Wikipedia.They can also measure the number of times that online articles are viewed, bookmarked, liked, and downloaded on document managers such as Mendeley and Citeulike. Like the h index, altmetrics has its critics. However, if used wisely, altmetrics can provide a useful tool for assessing publication impact.

Altmetrics

© A J Cann, Altmetrics, Creative Commons

“Facebook for Researchers”
In an effort to increase their scholarly impact, researchers are now advertising their work on professional social networking websites such as Academia and ResearchGate, which have over 12 million researchers signed up between them. Researchers can follow other researchers in their area and be notified about their activities, including when they publish new articles. These sites also allow researchers to publish self-archived versions of their research papers that other users can then access, further increasing their citation potential.

Research Gate Logo

By ResearchGate [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Funnelling News of Research Outputs: Research Blog Aggregators
Modern researchers are also blogging about their work. I do this myself and, although it takes a bit of time to prepare each post, I really enjoy turning a dry research abstract into a more accessible and appealing piece for my blog. Like many other researchers, I feed my posts through to research blog aggregators like ScienceSeeker and ResearchBlogging. These platforms funnel posts from many different research blogs into a single stream of the latest research.

I think therefore I blog

© Marsmettnn Tallahassee, I think therefore I blog,Creative Commons

Open-Access = Greater Impact
The drive to publish lots of highly cited and publically-acknowledged articles also helps to explain the rise of open-access journals. Unlike traditional journals, open-access journals publish articles 100% online rather than in print and, without the associated printing costs, they are able to accommodate a greater number of journal articles. For example, PLOS ONE published 23,464 articles in 2012, making it the largest journal in the world!

Importantly, the appeal of open-access journals is not only their ability to publish more publications, but also their ability to make those publications more accessible to readers. Unlike traditional journals, which tend to hide their content behind subscriber-only paywalls, open-access journals make their content freely available to everyone with internet access. This has the effect of increasing publication impact by increasing citation rates among scholars as well as online discussion among the general public.

Open Access (1)

© Research and Graduate College Graduate Studies Office, Open_Access_PLoS, Creative Commons

Hello? Can Anyone Hear Me!?
If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no-one around to hear it, then does it make a noise? I can’t answer that one I’m afraid. But I do know that, nowadays, if a researcher publishes an article in a journal and no-one views it, downloads it, cites it, or Tweets it, then it certainly doesn’t make an impact!

Trees

© Sue Langford,Trees, Creative Commons

Hackademic Guide to Networking: Tip Off the Press
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Hybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost continue their Hackademic series with a new set of hints, tips and hacks focused on academic networking.

TIP OFF THE PRESS. Sometimes you’ll organise an event or publish a piece of work that has obvious impact beyond your academic field alone. When this happens make sure you talk to your university’s marketing and press team. Work with them to draft a brief and to-the-point piece of text you can send out — press-release style — to relevant news outlets. It might be that you’re organising an event that will benefit the local community so make sure the local papers know about it well in advance. If you can make life easy for them as well by presenting them with text that pre-empts their questions you’ll increase your chances of the event/project being written about. If your work has real national/international impact then it’s really important you work closely with the press team not just to make sure you get press but also so that they can protect you and your intellectual property (no matter how you choose to license it, whether with a Creative Commons license or a more conventional copyright).

 Academic work is seldom a fame-game, but it’s always worth publicising important work because it will be bring prestige to your university and give you added kudos in your department (not to mention it may well build an audience for your work and help sell books etc) and that can lead to bigger and better grants. Jesse writes more on this subject in his article, “Promoting Open Access Publications and Academic Projects.” There, he writes, “Our work has value, and it’s safe to openly admit that. In fact, at this moment in education, championing what we do should be a major part of what we do.”

 

Hackademic Guide to Networking: Hone Your Elevator Pitch
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Hybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost continue their Hackademic series with a new set of hints, tips and hacks focused on academic networking.

 

HONE YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH. Learn how to describe what’s very broadly at stake in your work. This can take years of practice to get good at — and it’s especially hard to do straight after completing your PhD — but we don’t have years (we usually need to hone a pitch before the PhD is even finished), so here’s a cheat. Imagine you have to convey the life or death importance of your work (and that your life actually does depend on getting the message across). What would you say? Instead of being lost in the intricacies and jargon of your field, you have to tell someone — anyone — just why your work matters. This sort of thing is often described as an ‘elevator pitch’, a short teaser you could recite to the most important person within or outside your field in a short elevator trip.

 

Hackademic Guide to Networking: Have a Privacy Policy
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Hybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost continue their Hackademic series with a new set of hints, tips and hacks focused on academic networking.

 

HAVE A PRIVACY POLICY. Being an academic often means doing public work. Even if you see yourself as more of an introvert, research is about sharing and opening up dialogues in the classroom and beyond. Social media intensifies this so it’s worth working out how to approach social media platforms in advance and maybe devising a clear policy for yourself. For example, a Facebook post about LOLcats or a casual comment on Twitter about a heavy weekend’s drinking might not be things you want to add to your professional persona. Whether you have friended colleagues on Facebook or not, even with privacy controls, you can never guarantee these things won’t come to light elsewhere. With that in mind, you might like to consider firstly which platforms you are likely to use to communicate with colleagues and peers and which are for close friends only and second, lock down the privacy on the ones you want to be personal. Then decide what you are happy to talk about in public. Savvy social media users appear to be very open and friendly but are often extremely careful about what they do and don’t share. It might be useful to brainstorm a policy for yourself on paper, which you can keep handy to periodically remind yourself what you’re comfortable with.

 

Hackademic Guide to Networking: Have a Business Card
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Hybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost continue their Hackademic series with a new set of hints, tips and hacks focused on academic networking.

HAVE A BUSINESS CARD. It might seem strange for two Twitter-obsessives to suggest something as old-fashioned as a business card but what we’re really promoting is being multi-modal. Business cards remain useful ways to leave your details with somebody, especially if you’re easily connected with your card – the physical trace can work in ways different from our virtual presence. Also, you’ll find that different cultures respond better to different forms of networking/self-promotion. For example in Hong Kong, where Charlotte lives and works, business cards are considered an essential networking convention (even human beatboxes carry them). There is even a ritual to receiving a business card and reading all of its details before continuing to talk to the person who gave it to you. Today it’s quick, cheap and easy to get a stash of cards so the only thing to think about is how to present yourself. You might keep your card very minimal, you might go for lots of visual or textual information, you might even include a word cloud rather than job description to better represent your academic interests. And, if you are indeed a Twitter-obsessive, don’t forget to include your Twitter handle.

Hackademic Guide to Networking: Buy a Domain Name
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Hybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost continue their Hackademic series with a new set of hints, tips and hacks focused on academic networking.

BUY A DOMAIN NAME. This is relatively simple. If you don’t own your own domain, buy it now. You don’t necessarily even need server space or a website to put up. In lieu of anything more elaborate, simply forward your domain to your work profile or Academia.edu page. Eventually you might build a blog or substantial website and use the domain for that. The point is to start laying claim to your online identity. You’ll be glad you did as your career grows, because you’ll have an easy-to-find web presence with some history that will help your work show up in google searches.

How to be a Hackademic #41 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel
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How to be a hackademic pictureHybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost rethink academic life and writing productivity in this on-going series of hints, tips and hacks.

HAVE AN EMAIL SIGNATURE. Make sure your email contains a short signature detailing your current job and the main place people can find you online. You might even consider regularly updating this signature with a link to your latest piece of work, whether that’s a journal article or a blog post. Just like an online bio/image combo, this consolidates and re-enforces your persona and area of expertise. It is also a way to get your work under the nose of new people whose curiosity in link-clicking will be satisfied in spates.

This tip also can help you with your thoughts.

How to be a Hackademic #34 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel
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How to be a hackademic pictureHybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost rethink academic life and writing productivity in this on-going series of hints, tips and hacks.

BE ADAPTABLE. You’re going to need expertise in more writing styles than just thesis/dissertation writing. When we write academic dissertations, we are learning how to write for a very niche academic audience. Now you need to adjust your writing style for a new audience (the one that isn’t examining your PhD). For example, if you are writing for a more popular or generalist audience, you’ll want to use a lot less jargon. When writing a dissertation, we laboriously chose and qualify our terms, such precision ensuring the intricacies of our argument are clear. The typical dissertation is very different in tone and structure from the typical academic book. While a dissertation is usually directed toward a very small audience, a successful book must be accessible to a wider audience. This modulation of tone may take time to master so it is worth practicing early on.

What else does it take to be a Hackademic? Click here to find out.

OMFG! I just got re-tweeted by Justin Beeber!?!?! Social Media Academia by Ben
Image from Mochimochiland.comImage from Mochimochiland.com
Image from Mochimochiland.com

Image from Mochimochiland.com

This blog post by Ben (author of the Literature HQ blog) is part of a series that asks after new forms of scholarship and demonstrates how academic out-put is changing in the digital age.

From blogs like the Thesis Whisperer to Twitter communities like #PhDchat there are a number of ways in which academics are harnessing digital communication technology to support each other and their work within and without institutions. And some are even outright reinventing what academic scholarship might be. We are well beyond the early phase of academic listserves and blogs and into a – perhaps third wave – of digital discourse design.

In this series I’ve invited the people responsible for these types of projects to share what their intentions were when they established them. How their projects have changed the way they (and we, as participants) work, research, share, support and interact with each other as global colleagues. And how they might describe what the emerging skill-sets are and their benefits and pitfalls.

Today’s celebrities are more accessible than ever before. It’s not uncommon for me to see my friends gushing after being mentioned by a minor (or sometimes major) celebrity on Twitter. While this may seem trivial, for me it’s amazing. I think it represents the shrinking of oceans between us and people who we thought were totally inaccessible. This includes vacuous celebrities, but more importantly, it also includes the greatest minds of the 21st Century. This incredibly powerful phenomenon has become the new focus of my growing blog.

So where did it all begin? Well, I suppose my site is first and foremost an experiment. Now I have some idea of how I want it to progress but at the start I certainly didn’t. I just wanted to make a “complete” resource for people doing an academic literature review. By complete I mean that I didn’t just stop half way through but made it into something that someone could ultimately use to succeed with their own project.

Based on my early goal and the vision that I had the site has far surpassed my initial expectations. However, as the site has grown so have my ideas hopes for the future of the project. It has been a great vehicle for me to experiment and learn about communicating useful information through digital media such as Twitter, You Tube and Webinars.

Initially it was just me rattling around on the blog, not much of a community or input from others. Now I think that the community and the other contributors are the most important part. Perhaps the most influential section of the blog is a podcast that I use to talk to experts from all different academic fields to try and help my readers/listeners with their literature review. This was popular when it first started but I’ve recently been hosting the podcasts live with input from the audience which has been a huge success. I think it highlights the changing tide of media in general. It is no longer acceptable to just preach to crowds from a pulpit. Our audiences expect to be engaged by the people who are providing them with information.

Is this novel? Am I feral, hybrid and outstitutional? When Charlotte asked me this I couldn’t help but smile. I’ve never really thought about it before but yes, this is how I feel at the moment. I feel that what I do is provide an alternative to the way that a lot of skills training (especially writing) is done in universities. I feel like I’m providing an education that I needed myself about 3 years ago! I’m ok with this. It’s certainly not that the academic institutions are doing a bad job, but it’s very difficult to cater to everybody. That’s why I like what I do and I like providing an alternative resource and an alternative point of view. I think it’s ok to be feral as well. This way we are all a little bit leaner and meaner, ready to adapt to the ever-changing tides as larger institutions simply can’t be.

How would I describe Literature Review HQ now? Well I’d say deep down it hasn’t really changed. I still want to make a “complete” resource for anyone doing an academic literature review. However my definition of “complete” has changed. Now it’s not just about me sharing my experiences and advice. I feel like now it is my responsibility to find the very best experts in the world and to try get them to impart their wisdom to my audience. In the future I also want to focus even more on engagement. I think it’s really exciting how we can deliver information online. I also think it’s exciting how accessible people genuinely are. We really have the best information within reach. If we want we can talk to experts and learn an awful lot. I feel that it is my responsibility to use my blog as a platform to aggregate all this information for the benefit of anyone who wants to really write an amazing literature review.

How to be a Hackademic #26 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel
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How to be a hackademic pictureHybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost rethink academic life and writing productivity in this on-going series of hints, tips and hacks.

FIND AN AUDIENCE. Without an audience, you have no real motivation for writing. Your work becomes an exercise in speaking to an empty room, which is – to be fully honest – kinda crazy. So first it is a good idea to really think who you are aiming your work at? Who would you like to speak to and why? And then think about building this audience more literally. For example, students can be an excellent audience for rough pieces of writing and early ideas. Blog posts and conferences are other great platforms for building an audience for your work as you’re writing. Of course you need the writing to really win an audience, but building an audience one step at a time works really well. Then, once you have an audience, the demands of that audience will keep you writing.

 

Want more tips on Hackademic? Click here!

Writing for a non academic audience by Marcia Hughes
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Today’s post is about writing for non academic audiences. Marcia Hughes, the post author is one of the founders of the Boulder Group Ltd, a communications consultancy founded in 2007, dedicated to working with universities and higher educational institutions in the delivery of knowledge to wider audiences.

If you’re passionate about communicating your research with as wide a public as possible, then the chances are you’re already presenting your ideas clearly and simply to diverse audiences outside of academic walls. Hopefully, you’re also benefiting from your public engagement.

As a journalist and reporter with the BBC for nearly 15 years, I had to ensure my ideas ‘educated, informed and entertained’ the public. I found it rewarding making programmes for a general audience to absorb and appreciate.  Working mainly for Business and Financial News and Current Affairs, I had to turn quite complex issues into accessible listening and viewing for TV and Radio. I quickly learnt some important steps for engaging a general audience:

  • Developing a clear and simple narrative for the audience to follow
  • Choosing interesting case studies (voices) with relevant human interest or experiences
  • Making sure interviews with experts outlined key themes in a straightforward way
  • Removing any jargon or specialist speak
  • Using simple and concise language and using short sentences

Of course, it wasn’t always plain sailing. At times, appealing to this unknown “general audience” felt like being in the firing line from a group of people with the same “Am I bothered?” attitude as the infamous teenage girl played by Catherine Tate. Reaching out to the world beyond my like-minded BBC peers and financial experts took me out of my comfort zone. It constantly challenged me to think more simply and develop a much more open mindset every time I thought of a new programme idea:  Why am I making this programme; Who am I really trying to reach? What do I want to say?

These questions centre on two key areas: Audiences and Messages. They are as important and relevant to an academic individual writing for ‘non-academics’ as they are to a journalist.  What are the potential audiences are out there for you? What are their needs? What are their interests and values?  What are your key messages? Why does your research matter to them?

The more you ask yourself these sorts of questions, the sharper your focus. The more straightforward your communication, the more likely your research will resonate with a non- academic audience.

At the Boulder Group Ltd we are committed to supporting individual researchers, academic professionals, and post-graduates in their communication with the wider world. Our founding belief is that the knowledge created in our universities and HEIs, and the great ideas of researchers deserve a much bigger audience and greater appreciation.

Our service Researcher AM focuses on Audiences and Messages. It gives one-to-one help in audience engagement and current thinking on public engagement in order to help you define your research’s key audiences and choose the most appropriate means of communicating with that audience.

Contact Marcia: marcia@bouldergroup.co.uk

Weekly Wisdom #99 by Paul Gray and Simon E. Drew
WTDTYIGS Cover image

SPECIALIZE. GET KNOWN FOR SOMETHING. It helps visibility. Sadly, brilliant, restless people who work on several topics simultaneously usually do not achieve as much visibility as those who plod along in the same area for many years.

Why so Shameless? On Self-Promotion and Networking by Amber K.Regis
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Todays post is about the value of blogging and promoting research through social media. It is written by Amber K. Regis who completed her PhD in Victorian life-writing at Keele University. She is an Associate Lecturer for the Open University and teaches English literature at the Universities of Chester and Liverpool John Moores. She blogs at Looking Glasses on Odd Corners on life-writing and life-narratives across different media. She has published work on John Addington Symonds, Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West. You can follow her on Twitter: @AmberRegis

I started a research blog in the final months of 2011 in a wave of enthusiasm. I was going to become an overnight internet sensation; I was going to get my research ‘out there’, reach new audiences and make a name for myself! And do you know what? I thoroughly enjoyed the act of blogging, and while I’m still waiting go viral, I have managed to share ideas and start conversations with a multitude of readers (including many beyond the ivory tower of academe). But blogging is also a commitment that takes up time, and in recent weeks time has been desperately lacking.  Like so many other post-PhD researchers, I’m juggling multiple jobs while I seek the ‘holy grail’ of a permanent academic appointment. Prepping, marking and commuting has taken its toll and I’ve been neglecting my blog.

But, rather surprisingly, the blog has remained active during my absence. Others have started to take notice.

Shameless self-promotion?

I’ve already admitted that increasing my online presence was a key motive in setting up my blog, and it has received several special mentions in recent weeks:

  • A post on material objects and life-writing was quoted by Charlotte Mathieson, an Associate Fellow in English at the University of Warwick, in a recent piece on literary tourism for the Journal of Victorian Culture Online.
  • A keynote speaker at a recent Victorian Studies conference referred to a post on souvenirs and collecting. I was sitting in the audience. It was all terribly flattering, but I blushed and looked at my feet.

As a means of self-promotion, blogging appears to be paying off. Each special mention resulted in increased traffic and a number of Google search hits. Internet sensationdom is just around the corner…

But why is this kind of ‘self-promotion’ so consistently paired with the pejorative ‘shameless’? And why did I blush when my blog was mentioned at a conference? After all, wasn’t this what I wanted? But alas, was my face now registering the inevitable ‘shamelessness’ of attention seeking in the blogosphere?

Not-so-shameless self-promotion?

I do not believe that self-promotion is a shameless or even a necessarily selfish activity. Indeed, the three instances above demonstrate a range of benefits to increasing online visibility and engaging with social media. Attention has been drawn to my work, yes, but I have also engaged directly with other researchers, forging connections with peers and more senior academics. Social media have thus transformed self-promotion into a mode of continual networking—formerly an oft-dreaded activity that required awkward conversations over coffee cups during breaks in conference schedules. But networking can now extend beyond the temporal and physical space of a conference; conversations can start before an event and continue long after, mediated online.

So yes, all this blogging and tweeting is a form of self-promotion, but it is certainly not shameless. The clue is in the title: social media and the social web. Making connections, forming communities, offering support; in getting your name ‘out there’, you are not a voice crying out in the wilderness. Self-promotion in the age of the social web is very much a team sport; plugged-in academics are networked and networking all the time.

Weekly Wisdom #76 by Paul Gray and David E. Drew
WTDTYIGS Cover image

TENURE COMMITTEES LOOK ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY AT REFEREED PUBLICATIONS that appear in peer-reviewed journals or in scholarly books. It is, in a sense, a tragedy that you get much more credit for what appears in a “write only” journal (i.e., a journal with minute circu­lation) than for what appears in a high circulation, widely read pop­ular magazine. But that is the way the game is played.

Weekly Wisdom #75 by Paul Gray and David E. Drew
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COMMUNICATING YOUR FIELD TO THE PUBLIC. Those who can communicate ideas from their discipline clearly to the public hold an important place in our society.  If you develop this skill, you can become a “public intellectual”.  Some highly successful public intellectuals in the recent past included astronomer Carl Sagan (Cornell) who had a television series, Daniel Patrick Moynihan (Harvard) who became a United States senator, and Stephen Jay Gould (Harvard) a broadly published a paleontologist and evolutionary biologist. Listed by your school’s PR department as an expert in your field, you can expect local (and sometimes national) media will ask for your comment.  If you are good on TV, you will be asked about all kinds of subjects, many beyond your expertise. Be careful not to pontificate about subjects where you know next to nothing.