How to: Write impact statements with Altmetric data

Patty Smith
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Have you ever wondered how to use altmetrics to enhance a CV, grant application, presentation, or report? This blog post will give you some ideas and examples of how you can communicate the attention your work is receiving online, including:

  • How to write about your research impact in a narrative format
  • How to summarize attention using bullet points
  • How to use altmetrics in reference lists

What is impact?

First, it is important to consider how you define impact. Impact is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but what does it actually mean?  What does it mean to you? What does it mean to your boss? What does it mean to the organization funding your research? Unfortunately, a lot of people and organizations don’t have a set definition, but it’s good to think about, especially as more and more people are asked to create dissemination plans and plans to evaluate the impact of their work. 

Here are some different ways of categorizing impact and how Altmetric can help:

  • Academic impact: many people use citations and citation-based metrics as proxies for academic impact. At Altmetric, we track Faculty Opinions and Publons. These online communities participate in post-publication peer review, which you can use to see how other experts in your field respond to your work. 
  • Global impact: In Altmetric Explorer, you’ll see heatmaps of global attention for news, Twitter, Facebook, and policy sources. This can help you identify where in the world people are discussing your research. 
  • Impact on innovation: Altmetric tracks mentions in patent applications. This can be really useful to see how your research is leading to new innovations!
  • Impact on policy: You can also see where your work is being cited in policy documents and guidelines, which can help you make the case that your research is influencing real-world changes. 
  • Impact on public discourse: At Altmetric, we also track social media sources Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit. It can be very interesting to see these diverse and far-reaching conversations about your work!

One final, very important note about impact before jumping into some examples: Altmetric attention does not equal impact in and of itself. Rather, altmetrics can help you discover pathways to impact. Altmetric data comes in handy in space between the outputs and impact, and you can use Altmetric Explorer to help you gather evidence to underpin the impact and add to your narrative. Let’s take a closer look…

How to write about your impact in a narrative format

Here are some tips to keep in mind when writing your narrative:

  • Use plain language; avoid jargon
  • Add context when you can, e.g. in addition to listing the number of news outlets, give a bit more detail like which news outlets are sharing your work or what the headlines are
  • Don’t use the Altmetric Attention Score unless you provide more context
  • What kind of impact are you trying to describe?
    • Global impact – consider highlighting the number of countries your work has been shared in
    • Academic impact – consider highlighting post publication peer reviews
    • Public impact – look to news, social media, wikipedia, etc.

Example 1: Oral administration of morphine versus ibuprofen to manage postfracture pain in children: a randomized trial

If you click the link above, you’ll be taken to the Altmetric Details Page for this output where you’ll see all of the mentions this output has received online, including:

  • 16 news mentions
  • 2 policy mentions
  • 125 twitter mentions

If I follow the links in the Details Page, I learn that this output has been mentioned in a guideline from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, as well as news stories by NPR and Reuters. How do I create a story about this attention? Here is one example:

“This work informed non-complex fracture guidelines from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence recommending that pediatric patients receive ibuprofen to manage mild to moderate pain. More broadly, this research has influenced conversations in mass media surrounding opioid addiction; it has also been described on social media as ‘practice changing’ research by clinicians and government officials, evidencing the dissemination of this work to audiences beyond academia.” 

Or here is a shorter version:

In addition to being cited 71 times, this paper has been mentioned in 16 news outlets including NPR and Reuters. It was also cited in the non-complex fracture guideline from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence. 

Example 2: Randomized Trial of Peanut Consumption in Infants at Risk for Peanut Allergy

Again, if you click the link above you’ll see the Altmetric Details Page where you’ll discover that this output has led to changes in policy, changes in industry, and changes in clinical practice. Here is an example narrative impact statement:

“This work led to sweeping reversals on policy regarding introducing allergens to children. This work has also influenced public discourse on the topic, and the results have been shared widely on Twitter, clinicians’ Facebook pages, and mass media outlets including The New York Times and Washington Post, suggesting public awareness of this topic and translation to practice.”

How to summarize attention using bullet points

Oftentimes, you won’t have the space to write out a nice paragraph summarizing the impact of your work in a narrative format. Here are a variety of ways to incorporate altmetrics into short statements:

  • Of my papers published in the last 10 years, 79% have received Altmetric attention.
  • My work has been mentioned in 1,781 news stories in 45 countries, including:
    • 20 stories in the New York Times
    • 18 stories in The Conversation
    • 16 stories in BBC News
  • My work has influenced 88 policy documents in 8 countries, including government organizations in:
    • United Kingdom
    • United States
    • Netherlands
    • Australia
  • This paper was tweeted over 100 times in more than 15 countries, including by a women’s health center in South Africa that disseminates information to our target population.
  • This paper is in the 95th percentile of all JAMA papers tracked by Altmetric.
  • This publication has been tweeted over 3,100 times by over 2,550 users with an upper bound of 19 million followers.
  • This publication has been tweeted in 73 countries, most frequently by tweeters in the US, Canada, and Japan. 
  • The most prominent twitter accounts (by twitter follower count) to share this publication include MSNBC host Chris Hayes, Atul Gawande, White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain, and scientist Eric Topol.

How to use altmetrics in reference lists

You can also consider adding metrics to the end of your references. This is a space-saving way to sneak in some metrics when space is at a premium. You could do this on your CV or even in the reference list for a grant application. Here is an example (the added metrics are bolded): 

Reference List

  1. Randomized Trial of Peanut Consumption in Infants at Risk for Peanut Allergy, NEJM, Feb 2015. 25705822. Q1 journal; RCR: 47; 377 news stories (WoS; Dimensions; Altmetric) 
  2. Impact of peanut consumption in the LEAP Study: Feasibility, growth, and nutrition, The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, October 2016.  27297994. Q1 journal; 134 news stories, 7 patent mentions (WoS; Altmetric)
  3. Association of Staphylococcus aureus colonization with food allergy occurs independently of eczema severity, The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, August 2019. 31160034. 61 news stories, 133 tweets (Altmetric)
  4. Effect of Avoidance on Peanut Allergy after Early Peanut Consumption, NEJM, April 2016. 26942922. RCR 14; 7 patent mentions (Dimensions; Altmetric)

The above examples include both citation-based metrics (journal quartiles and the Relative Citation Ratio or RCR) and altmetrics. It is best practice to list where you got the information, e.g. Dimensions, Altmetric, etc. Learn more about different metrics using the Metrics Toolkit

Finally, you’ll notice that the Altmetric Attention Score is not used in any of these examples! The Altmetric Attention Score is an indicator that helps you pick out where your research is being mentioned online. However, the score alone does not provide additional important context like where these conversations are happening and who is talking about your work. The power of altmetrics lies in the details, so be sure to keep that in mind as you start writing impact statements of your own!

If you would like to learn more about these examples or how to use Altmetric tools and data, please contact [email protected]

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