University of Cambridge

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“Altmetric for Institutions enables us to quickly and easily see where Cambridge research is being applied in practice.”

Juergen wastl, head of research information

Key stats

  • 131,191 mentions of Cambridge research to date
  • 406 references in public policy documents
  • 8,073 articles which have received mainstream media coverage
  • Over 800 articles mentioned or shared online in the last month alone

Policy document tracking

Key sources include:

  • World Bank
  • World Health Organization
  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)

User profile

Juergen Wastl is Head of Research Information at the University of Cambridge. He and his team are part of the Research Strategy Office in the Academic Division within the Institution. The Research Information Group is tasked with providing information and metadata relating to submissions for governmental and other mandatory returns, such as the research excellence framework (REF) exercise that took place in the UK in 2014. The team works across all disciplines and faculties, and operates closely with the departmental and research group administrators, network coordinators, and research facilitators.

Institutional goals

Juergen’s team is tasked with the very broad and challenging goal of gathering and providing evidence surrounding the broader impact of their institution’s research output. Finding the evidence for the 2014 REF proved to be a painfully slow process; once the evidence was found, amalgamating the data was equally difficult –
the team found relevant items in a multitude of different sources. Despite what felt like an exhaustive process, the team was still concerned about missing valuable data – for example, where the research was having an impact on policy.

Cambridge is interested in understanding how its research is being received by peers, and increasingly by the general public around the world. As a result, the university wanted to provide their academics with tools to more easily gather and understand the perception of their work, externally.

Implementing Altmetric for Institutions

Juergen began the implementation process by looking more closely at the Altmetric data to establish a better understanding of what exactly the data included, and to determine how it could help in reaching their goals. Initially he worked to ascertain the distinction between traditional bibliometrics and all of their pros and cons, and what insight this new data could offer. Cambridge signed up to be a development partner on the Altmetric for Institutions product and worked closely with the Altmetric team over a period of 5 months, giving feedback, testing data, and providing directional guidance.

Tracking the impact research has on public policy

Juergen was particularly keen throughout the development partner engagement on the inclusion of mentions in public policy documents. This, he notes, was a missing link between research and practice, and shows a measureable impact that his team was unable to capture through any other system. This valuable policy information can now be easily uncovered and collated in the Altmetric for Institutions platform, and is vital, says Juergen, for better evidencing what the research supported by public funding has achieved.

To date Cambridge have found over 400 mentions of the research they’ve published in the policy documents tracked by Altmetric – and in some instances it was research that had never been cited or shared.

Encouraging collaboration

Cambridge are keen to encourage inter-departmental working groups, and plan to use the subject filtering in the Altmetric for Institutions platform to identify where there might be opportunities for this – instances where academics from different departments are actually doing research which can be beneficial (or is closely linked) to one another.

In a similar vein, they are also looking to do further network analysis and profiling; who are their departments working with globally, and who is talking about which research? This in turn will give the Research Information Group and departmental stakeholders the opportunity to identify weak or empty spots where there is room for improvement, and enable them to adjust their strategy accordingly. They hope to map these trends over time and to report on their progress in specific countries or communities.


The Altmetric data will enable Cambridge to benchmark their research in a number of ways – comparing for example the volume and type of mentions in policy documents versus those found in traditional journal citations.

They’ll also be looking to see how their disciplines and institution as a whole compares to that of their peer institutions, making use of the full Altmetric database of all research outputs with online mentions to do so.

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