How can I demonstrate the social impact of my research?

With DORA, a large number of universities and funding agencies have committed to value of the impact on society of your research. With your list of publications, altmetric data, a search engine and your detective skills, you can identify who and how they are using the knowledge you have generated.
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A few years ago, when I was a doctoral student at UNAM in Mexico, the most important thing to promote a scientific career was the impact factor of the journals that published your articles. At least, they had to be indexed in Scopus or the Web of Science, which functioned as white lists to assess the quality of scientific research. This has been strongly criticized by the academic community specialized in bibliometrics, and the clearest position was expressed in the Leiden Manifesto. The journal where you publish is still important to many academic institutions and funding sources. As an example, there is the Register for Scientific Journals, Series and Publishers of the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, which classifies journals into three levels (zero, one and two) based on their scientific quality. But, in general, things have changed and there are now scientific impact metrics at the article and researcher level. Furthermore, with the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), a large number of universities and research funding entities have committed to prioritizing the scientific value of the content of their articles and, very importantly, their impact on society. The development of indicators of the impact of scientific research on society is a topic of current research and debate on what variables to measure and how to use them. There are almetric information databases such as Dimensions and PlumX that provide information on the flow of knowledge from scientific literature to public policy documents, news media, Wikipedia and social networks. The problem is its full use is limited to subscribers. Depending on the publisher, practically all academic articles will show a link to altmetric information in one of these two databases with information open to the public. With your list of publications, altmetric data, a search engine and your detective skills, you can identify who and how they are using the scientific knowledge you have generated, beyond academic fields.

Here are three examples of how my previous research has achieved a significant impact on society:

My study on the emergence and evolution of research fronts on HIV/AIDS, which I have already written about in this blog, has been cited in a newspaper article [in German] by Richard Friebe published in Tagesspiegel recalling the struggle of HIV/AIDS patients for their right to health uses this paper as a main source of scientific information. Even more exciting, a 2024 Forbes op-ed cites this article refuting the dangerous anti-science denialism taking place in the United States and other parts of the world. In general, the use of this research in the news media and social networks means that it is in the top 5% of research outputs with the highest Altmetric score.

My research on CRISPR research funding, which I have also written about on this blog, has been cited in policy documents by the European Parliament, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, according to PlumX. which if you explore any of the aforementioned databases, it is a quite extraordinary situation given that the vast majority of articles are never cited in policy documents. Also, this article has been cited in an article by Wikipedia which is not bad at all.

Finally, our study on the health research system of the European Union commissioned by the Panel for the Future of Science and Technology of the European Parliament, which I have also written about in this blog, has been presented to MEPs in two occasions being used to inform the review process of the basic EU pharmaceutical legislation. The study has been adopted in EP resolutions.

Taking into account the growing number of institutions that have adopted the principles of the DORA declaration, information on the social impact of your research, dear colleague, will become increasingly important. It is then important that you begin to collect, articulate and narrate all available information in this regard. It will be of some use to you.

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