Can data emerging from media ‘mentions’ of research provide timely indicators of outcomes linked to social and technical innovation for stakeholders in networks beyond academia? This was the focus of a study released this week by the consultancy arm of Digital Science.
Focussing particularly on outputs in medicine, the study acknowledges that there are professional, academic and social motivations for mentions, and recognizes that the challenge is to discern patterns and concentrations that capture these factors. The authors ask:
“Do mentions have innovative value in communicating impact beyond the academic world?”
They propose that there are two key types of communities who regularly engage with published research online, and the characteristics of each can be distinguished by their motivations:
Impact in communities of practice. Rapid and accessible communication of innovative research outcomes relevant to practitioners and professionalsin the health sector is also of value to research users and managers. We interviewed a range of experts but found no clear characteristics of research publications with economic, social or professional – rather than academic – impact. Analysis confirmed many motivations for research mentions and highlighted their communication potential, but found no consistent view as to why some articles get mentioned frequently.
Impact in communities of interest. Patients, carers and supporters of disease charities represent a network that wants to look at, understand and communicate research about new treatments. Statistical analysis showed more mentions were given to papers associated with diseases tackled by charities with larger research funds. Cardiovascular disease receives more attention than its charitable research spend suggests, however, whereas spend on Immune and Musculo-skeletal diseases is high but media mentions are relatively low.
The study observes that health and clinical networks can enable timely, rapid and ‘serious’ media communication of innovative research with non-academic social and professional stakeholder benefits, but they may need key people as active nodes to engage them.