University of South Australia

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“The ability to find mentions in public policy and benchmarking against other publications in the field is really useful when applying for research funding.”

The bip team

About the Institution

Established in 1991, the University of South Australia (UniSA) is a relatively young university that consistently ranks in the top 50 of institutions in the world aged under 50 years. The faculty produce high-quality research across many disciplines, and the institution is constantly looking for opportunities to raise the profile of their expertise.

The Business Intelligence and Planning (BIP) team report to the Vice-Chancellor and are responsible for research performance monitoring and other reports and analysis to senior management. Within the group there is a specialist research performance monitoring team, analysts and a technical team – the work undertaken by the group is high-profile and strategic.

We spoke to members of BIP, to find out what got them interested in Altmetrics and how they have been using the data.

Getting started

Through its involvement in national research excellence exercises, the team in BIP were interested in exploring Altmetrics to not only enhance existing performance reports, but also to inform communications, marketing and applications aligned to research. Being a young institution, UniSA’s research was sometimes underrepresented by traditional bibliometric indicators (such as citations) and they wanted to find new ways to evidence their successes. They were careful not to conflate ‘quality’ with ‘attention’, and hoped to get a better understanding of how their research was perceived by communities beyond academia – something that the wide variety of attention sources tracked by Altmetric is particularly useful for.

Current applications

The Altmetric data made available via the Explorer for Institutions platform and the associated API have already been used in a number of ways across UniSA. The BIP team working collaboratively with the Library unit, have been experimenting with incorporating the data into their strategic reporting, often including visuals and examples of particular successes or noticeable changes in specific fields.

They have also begun embedding the Altmetric ‘donuts’ for each research application in staff performance reports – giving faculty something beyond citations (which often are not available for recently published work) and researcher-based indicators (such as the h-index) to discuss with their supervisors.

Doing so means they can have conversations that take into account the most recent work a researcher has produced, and not just the after-effects of something that may have been published a year or two before.

Researchers have been encouraged to look at and, where appropriate, include some examples from the altmetrics for their work in funding applications.

The data has also been incorporated into the system that is used when making promotion and tenure decisions, to provide decision makers with additional context on the broader engagement and potential impacts of a researcher’s work.

“The design of the Explorer and our confidence in the quality of the data makes it easy to quickly gather valuable insights.”

the bip team

Attracting new talent and showcasing success

Central to the strategy of UniSA is a drive to showcase the expertise of their existing faculty and attract new talent from around the world to help grow the reputation of the institution. They’re also keen to identify rising stars amongst their existing staff, and to encourage those people to continue to showcase their work and educate others on best practice.

As part of these efforts the BIP, Library, Marketing and Research units of the organisation use Explorer for Institutions to find researchers who were doing a good job of engaging with external audiences.

These researchers were then invited by the marketing team to participate in their ‘talking papers’ video series – a great way to showcase a more diverse group than would’ve been identified via traditional scholarly indicators (i.e. those researchers whose work had received the most citations – typically more established staff in a narrow range of disciplines).

Collaboration with the Library

The Library have been central to the success of the roll-out of Explorer for Institutions at UniSA. They have run workshops, including information on Altmetrics in induction sessions, and targeted key researchers who were already active in outreach to introduce them to Altmetrics and encourage them to spread the word to others.

Library staff have encouraged top researchers to include significant Altmetrics results in national competitive grant applications. Additionally they have promoted the use of Altmetrics on the institution’s Research Outputs Repository.

Where next?

UniSA will continue to foster Altmetrics across the institution and within its own network. The Australian Technology Network, which UniSA is a member, will explore a whole-of-ATN instance of Altmetrics during 2016.

The objective, internally and externally, is to continue to analyse Altmetrics results to help shape marketing, communications and to showcase engagement activities.

With a national research performance framework focussed on engagement and impact, Altmetrics could provide useful insight. Altmetrics provides an ‘attention indicator’ beyond that of traditional metrics – it begins to connect a broader group of constituents with research outputs, i.e. beyond academia. This activity will highlight thought-leaders who may be at the forefront of engagement, thereby providing institutions like UniSA with early insight on the power of their research.

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