Not only do early career scholars need to engage in high-quality research, but they also need to show the positive impact of their scholarship in both scientific and practice communities. Demonstrating this impact may be particularly important for those who are in tenure-track positions at research-intensive universities, but nearly all early career faculty will need to document research impact for tenure and promotion. The scientific community has developed metrics and approaches for documenting research impact (e.g., h-index), however, some early career faculty may not be familiar with these metrics or what they mean. Further, practice communities may not have access to traditional research outlets (e.g., academic journals). Therefore, other approaches have become increasingly common as a means to document research impact and share evidence of why our research matters for practitioners and communities (e.g., social media). This blog post describes both traditional and innovative ways to show that your research is having an impact on the field.
Traditional Approaches for Documenting the Impact of Your Research
Some of the most common metrics for showing the impact of your research in the scientific community are your total citation count, h-index, i10-index, and research awards. These traditional approaches more effectively capture the impact of your research on the scientific community as opposed to practitioners or community members. Your total citation count, h-index, and i10-index can be found on Google Scholar or ResearchGate. You can easily and freely register for an account on both Google Scholar and/or ResearchGate by visiting their respective websites to start tracking these metrics. We define each of these approaches below.
Total Citation Count
The total citation count is the total number of times your work has been cited. Each citation of your research (e.g., published academic journal article, non-peer reviewed article, conference presentation) is counted as one citation, with your collective citations called your total citation count. This metric suggests that other researchers not only read your work but found it impactful to their own research by citing it.
The h-index is defined as the number of your publications that have been cited at least that same number of times. For example, an h-index of 5 means you have 5 papers that have each been cited at least 5 times; an h-index of 10 means you have 10 papers that have each been cited at least 10 times; an h-index of 15 means you have 15 papers that have each been cited at least 15 times; and so on. Your h-index can be found on both Google Scholar and ResearchGate. To provide context for the h-index, Watkins and Chan-Park (2015) calculated the average h-indexes for faculty in school psychology programs according to a range of characteristics (e.g., rank, gender, doctoral vs. specialist). For example, according to Scholarometer, the median and mean h-index for assistant professors in doctoral-level programs were 4 and 4.93, respectively (Watkins & Chan-Park, 2015). It can be helpful to provide this type of context for how to interpret your h-index in relation to other school psychology faculty for those outside of the field of school psychology (e.g., department chairs, deans) who review your tenure and promotion packet or other materials (e.g., annual review).
The i10-index is defined as the number of publications with at least 10 citations each. For instance, a researcher with an i10-index of 4 has four articles that have each been cited at least 10 times. The i10-index is a metric created by Google Scholar and is automatically calculated for the articles that have been linked to your Google Scholar profile.
Professional organizations, universities, and academic journals also have awards for high-impact research and researchers. Examples include being named an Early Career Scholar in the School Psychology Research Collaboration Conference (SPRCC) by the Society of the Study for School Psychology, national professional organization awards, internal university and college awards, and nominations or awards for a journal’s article of the year. Some of these awards require you to apply, so be sure to put yourself out there. These types of awards highlight the impact of your research on the field or institution and should be included in your materials.
Innovative Approaches for Documenting Research Impact
There are several ways to illustrate the impact of your research on practice communities. These types of approaches do not require access to academic journals and highlight how our research can impact the communities we serve.
Preprints and Open Access
Open Science is expanding the way scholars engage in and disseminate their research. Although traditional peer-reviewed journal publications are still the most common approach to research dissemination, expanding dissemination to include postings of preprints and open access to journal articles provides evidence of scholarly impact on broader audiences. For example, the Open Science Framework provides a platform for registering research plans, posting preprints, and supporting the wide dissemination of research findings. Early career scholars can describe their use of such platforms and how their use of the platform improves their scholarship and its impact. Many of these outlets track how often articles or preprints have been viewed on or downloaded from the platform, which is a way to illustrate that others find your research interesting and useful.
Early career scholars may also consider publishing through open access journals or allowing open access to their specific articles within a journal that typically requires a subscription. Articles published open access do not require organization (e.g., NASP) membership or institutional (e.g., university) subscription, facilitating access to broader audiences. However, open access journals or articles typically have a high cost associated with publishing (e.g., $3,000) for the author. Thus, early career scholars should consider how they will pay for such costs (e.g., grant funding, start-up funding, university funding) if publishing in these journals. grant funding, start-up funding, university funding) if publishing open access. Despite the financial challenge, open access publishing is another useful way early career scholars can broaden the audience who has access to their research. Increasing the number of people who have access to their research may increase the impact of their research on practice communities, increase the likelihood their research gets cited, and increase mentions of their research in mass media outlets. In tenure and promotion (or other materials), early career scholars should explicitly describe how open access publishing has increased their research’s impact.
Altmetric, shorthand for “alternative metrics,” documents the attention your research has received in online spaces. Altmetric measures the impact of one’s scholarly work in a broader sense, beyond traditional, academically oriented measures (e.g., h-index, i10-index). Examples of Altmetrics include tweets/retweets/mentions on X (formerly Twitter), shares/likes on Facebook, mentions/references in online news sites, the number of times an article was uploaded to an online citation management system such as Mendeley, the number of full-text article downloads, and comments/references in blogs or other online forums. Altmetric also includes traditional media coverage (e.g., New York Times) as well as references in field-specific sources. Dimensions is an example of a free application that can be used to document Altmetrics.
Social Media, Websites, and Other Outreach
School psychology and other faculty are increasingly using social media and other outreach efforts to share their work with diverse audiences (e.g., other faculty, educators). Of course, traditional dissemination of research through publications and presentations is extremely important for early career faculty, but other outlets can also be used to share your research and its impact. X (formerly Twitter) is one social media platform that many academics use to disseminate their research findings to the public and to engage in conversations about research (e.g., #academictwitter). X provides metrics that document engagement with your posts. For example, early career scholars may consider documenting the number of views or engagements with research they shared on X.
Along with social media, many scholars maintain a website affiliated with or separate from their university profile. A professional website can be a great way to share your scholarship with educators and psychologists outside of academia given those outside of universities are less likely to have consistent access to journal articles. Through websites, users can access metrics of the number of website views and engagement over specific periods of time. These metrics can document the impact of one’s work with diverse audiences (e.g., practicing school psychologists). Of course, tenure and promotion expectations vary by institution, but typically, demonstrating your impact to diverse audiences is often expected. Using social media and other outlets is a useful way to showcase your impact.
Podcasts, Newspaper and Magazine Articles, and Other Press Coverage
Your CV should also capture opportunities to demonstrate impact to the broader community. For instance, having a separate space entitled “Press Coverage” will allow you to share news articles, reports, or podcast episodes that have been disseminated to a broader audience. Links to the articles, website, or blog posts can also be shared in a citation on your CV. Another way to increase the visibility of your scholarly work is to contact your institution’s marketing team who can profile your work and share your research via school- or campus-wide emails or on social networking sites. Taking screenshots of these shares/mentions/tweets and uploading them to your dossier is an excellent way to document your work in the broader community.
Community Collaboration and Outcomes
As applied scholars, school psychology researchers are often engaging in work with community organizations (e.g., schools, community centers). Although scholarly impact through journal articles, book chapters, and social media can all be meaningful, many early career scholars hope their work has the greatest impact on the communities with whom we work. When engaging in research, professional development, or consultation with local schools and other organizations, early career scholars can document how their collaboration with the organization resulted in meaningful change. For example, did a school begin using an intervention you implemented and showed was efficacious? Did a school begin implementing an assessment framework after you consulted on multitiered systems of support? Briefly describing these experiences can show how your research had a positive impact on those with whom you work.
This blog post summarized some ways to document the impact of our research on the scientific and practice communities. What are other ways you can document the impact of your research? Comment below!