Strategies for Enhancing the Impact of Research

Optimizing discoverability and access of your research is the surest way to enhance its visibility and impact. As follows are various strategies for authors to consider as they undertake research. The strategies are divided into three categories: Preparing for Publication, Dissemination, and Keeping Track of Your Research. Repetition, consistency, and an awareness of the intended audience form the basis of most the following strategies.

Preparing for Publication

  1. Authors should use the same variation of their name consistently throughout their academic careers. If the name is a common name, consider adding your full middle name to distinguish it from other authors. Consistency enhances retrieval.
  2. Use a standardized institutional affiliation and address, using no abbreviations.  The affiliation for the School of Medicine should be noted as Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.  See the Washington University Public Affairs Style Manual.
    Recommended Affiliation Citation
    Use This: Not This:
    Mae O. Gordon
    Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
    Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
    660 South Euclid Avenue
    Saint Louis, Missouri 63110
    United States of America
    M. Gordon
    Dept. of Ophthal. and Vis. Sci.
    Wash. U. Sch. Med.
    660 S. Euclid Ave.
    St. Louis, MO
  3. Add the name of study in the title of all publications and use the same title/ name consistently.
  4. Add the name of the research study or your department, center, institute, division or program as a corporate author and use the same name consistently.  See the Washington University Public Affairs Style Manual.  This will allow for enhanced retrieval of publications generated by a particular research study or center, institute, division or program when searching a database or other resource. See NLM’s Fact Sheet: Authorship in MEDLINE.
  5. Assign keyword terms to the manuscript.
  6. Use the classification scheme and the terminology appropriate to your field of study. One example for use in Ophthalmology is the Birmingham Eye Trauma Terms (BETI).
  7. Formulate a concise, well-constructed title and abstract. Include crucial keywords in the abstract. See Wiley-Blackwell Optimizing Your Abstract for Search Engines.
  8. Retain rights to manuscripts that allow for maximum flexibility to re-use the work. Some rights include:
    • Post on a laboratory or research study website
    • Post on an institutional or subject repository
    • Present the work at a meeting or conference
    • Distribute copies to colleagues
    • Include the work in a thesis or dissertation
    • Prepare derivative works

    (If the right to post a manuscript on an institutional or laboratory website cannot be obtained, create links to the manuscript from your website using the PMID from a PubMed citation or persistent URLs/DOIs that link directly to the publisher’s website. Check with the library staff of the affiliate organization for more information on how to create links to content).

  9. Assign MeSH terms to the manuscript. (Contact your health sciences library for assistance with MeSH terms.)

  10. Present preliminary research findings at a meeting or conference and consider making your figures available through FigShare and your presentation materials available in your institutional repository or on a sharing site such as SlideShare so that others may discover and share your materials post-event. You might also consider submitting your content to a permanent, citable archive such as F1000Posters.
  11. Audiences for Dissemination of Findings
    • Researchers and scientists
    • Educators
    • Clinical trial participants
    • Health care providers
    • Funding bodies
    • Policy-makers
    • Medical specialty organizations
    • Governmental bodies
    • Media
    • General Public

    Consider the desired audience when choosing a journal for publication. Topic-specific journals or journals published by a specialized society, such as RNA or Journal of Clinical Investigation, may disseminate research results more efficiently to a desired audience than general science journals, such as Nature or Journal of the American Medical Association. More specialized journals, even with a potentially smaller readership, may offer an author broader dissemination of relevant research results to their peers in their specific field of research. For more information on selection of a journal for publication, see Preparing for Publication: Factors to Consider in Selecting a Journal for Publication.

  12. If your work involves potential translational medicine applications, include a discussion of how the research could translate to clinical outcomes. “Impact of journal articles will be improved if they provide a direct line of reasoning for how findings might translate into useful information for real-world behaviors or technologies. This will enhance the probability that the article will affect public policy and thus increase its impact.” See “Publishing in the Psychological Sciences: Enhancing Journal Impact While Decreasing Author Fatigue.”
  13. Partner with industry for a research project. One study, “Translation of highly promising basic science research into clinical applications,” found that some form of industry involvement in the basic science publication was the strongest predictor of clinical experimentation, accelerating the process by about eightfold (95% confidence interval: 3 to 19) when an author had industry affiliations. According to "Academic medicine to the rescue," collaboration between industry and academic institutions "provides access to the best minds to solve the problem, and greater objectivity."

Dissemination

  1. Submit the manuscript to a digital subject repository. One example is arXiv which is an e-print service hosted by Cornell University in the fields of physics and mathematics. PubMed Central is another example of a digital subject repository. Investigators whose research was funded by NIH or Autism Speaks are required to submit their manuscripts to PubMed Central.
  2. Submit the manuscript to an institutional repository such as Digital Commons@Becker.
  3. Publish “negative” as well as positive research findings. Publication of negative findings guides the further applicability of research and prevents others from duplicating research. In “The randomized controlled trial gets a middle-aged checkup,” Jadad and Rennie discuss the importance of publishing negative trial findings as well as positive findings. Principle 30 of the World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki reads in part, “Negative and inconclusive as well as positive results should be published or otherwise made publicly available.”
  4. Open Access

    Publish your work in an open access journal. Open access journals allow authors to retain rights to the manuscript to allow for many options for dissemination of the research. Open access articles often garner greater impact than traditional models of publication. See: “The effect of open access and downloads (‘hits’) on citation impact: a bibliography of studies.” Authors from the Washington University Danforth Campus (WU) or the Medical School Campus (WUSM) are entitled to a discount on author publication fees for open access articles published in select journals. See list of publishers and/or individual journal titles.

  5. Publish your work in a journal currently indexed by PubMed. Entries in PubMed are crawled by Google Scholar. Google Scholar can help promote visibility and accessibility of your work.
  6. Set up a web site devoted to the research project and post manuscripts of publications, conference abstracts, and supplemental materials such as images, illustrations, slides, specimens, and progress reports on the site.
  7. Take advantage of SEO (search engine optimization) tips to enhance retrieval of your research project web site by search engines.  Work with your webmaster to make sure your web page titles describe the content of the web page and include the name of your research project. Include meta tags in the page header section that include appropriate keywords to describe the content of the page. Search engines look at this “hidden” content and use it to determine search results page rankings. See “Maximising Online Resource Effectiveness” for tips on how to promote online content.
  8. Register with Mendeley, CiteULike, or Zotero and start a “library” of publications related to a research project or by author and share the research project library with users.
  9. Consult data management guidelines for suggestions on organizing, managing, and sharing your data. The University of California Curation Center of the California Digital Library provides a comprehensive set of guidelines in their Data Management Plan.
  10. Share the research data generated by the research and deposit research data in appropriate repositories such as GenBank or other databases at NCBI or with publishers of journals who are willing to post the data. Sharing of research data can lead to more rapid analysis and identification of genetic contributions to diseases and medical conditions. One study, “Sharing detailed research data is associated with increased citation rate,” demonstrated a correlation between shared research data and increased citation impact.
  11. Present preliminary research findings at a meeting or conference and consider making your presentation materials available in your institutional repository or on a slide sharing site such as SlideShare so that others may access your presentation post-event.
  12. Persuade the organizers of a meeting or conference to make publicly available the presentations made at meetings; not just the published abstracts.
  13. Follow up preliminary research findings presented at a meeting or conference with a published manuscript. A Cochrane Review titled, “Full publication of results initially presented in abstracts,” reported that only 63% of results from abstracts describing randomized or controlled clinical trials are published in full. The consequence of this is that systematic reviews will tend to over-estimate treatment effects.
  14. Consider submitting the same article to a journal in a different language as a “secondary publication.” According to Section III.D.3. of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), certain types of articles, such as guidelines produced by governmental agencies and professional organizations, may need to reach the widest possible audience. In such instances, editors sometimes choose deliberately to publish material that is also being published in other journals, with the agreement of the authors and the editors of those other journals. Secondary publication for various other reasons, in the same or another language, especially in other countries, is justifiable and can be beneficial, provided all of the conditions are met as noted on the ICMJE website.
  15. Start a blog devoted to the research project. Also check out ResearchBlogging.org. ResearchBlogging is a site that allows bloggers to not only show when they’re blogging about peer-reviewed research, but also to share that work with readers and bloggers around the world. See: “Why Do We Blog and Other Important Questions, Answered by 34 Science Bloggers” and “Five minutes with Patrick Dunleavy and Chris Gilson: Blogging is quite simply, one of the most important things that an academic should be doing right now.”
  16. Consider communicating information about your research via Twitter. Twitter provides an efficient platform for communicating and consuming science. For some practical guidance on getting started and some background, see “Twitter 101: How should I get started using Twitter?” To get a better idea of  how and why scientists and physicians are using Twitter, you might find“What is Twitter and Why Scientists Need to Use It,” “How Could Twitter Influence Science (And Why Scientists Are on Board),” and “Physicians on Twitter.”
  17. Contribute to a wiki in your area of work or research. Some examples of research and medical wikis include Medpedia, Ask Dr. Wiki and SNPedia. Wikipedia has a broad range of topics to which you can contribute. For a more comprehensive list of medical wikis, consult medical librarian David Rothman’s List of Medical Wikis and for a list of life science wikis, take a look at Mary Canady’s list in The Wonderful World of Wikis for Life Scientists.
  18. Register clinical trials in a public trials registry. Registration of a clinical trial is a requirement set forth by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE).
  19. Research is not just text and figures. Create a podcast describing the research project and submit the podcast to YouTube or Vimeo. See the Washington University YouTube channel for examples of podcasts describing research efforts. Another option for dissemination of podcasts is BioMed Central. BioMed Central recognizes that video is an increasingly important way for researchers to communicate their results and welcomes submissions of podcasts from authors and editors. Links to podcasts are located on the BioMed Central YouTube website.
  20. Consider publishing your work in the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE). JoVE is a peer-reviewed, online journal that publishes videos of biological research. JoVE is indexed in MEDLINE and its content includes topics such as Basic Protocols, Neuroscience, Developmental Biology, Cellular Biology, Plant Biology, Microbiology, and Immunology.
  21. If the research study group is participating with a Contract Research Organization (CRO), try to retain the rights for control and access to the research data generated by all studies.
  22. Partner with publishers of non-peer reviewed trade publications devoted to the medical specialty of the research study to provide updates of research. These publications are used often by health care providers as a means of keeping current with new developments in the field.
  23. Issue press releases for significant findings and partner with the organizational media office to deliver findings to local media outlets.
  24. If there is a web site for the research study, provide information tailored for consumers.  According to the 2009 Pew Internet & American Life Project report, The Social Life of Health Information, 61% of Americans use the Internet for health information.
  25. Conduct outreach visits or provide seminars to other institutions/scientists, policy makers, practicing physicians and health care providers to discuss the research project.
  26. Consider discussing the results of your research with policy-makers and other governing bodies that issue policies, guidelines and standards. See Feeding your Research into the Policy Debate for a review of the pros and cons of sharing research findings with policy-makers.
  27. Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) is the National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) controlled vocabulary thesaurus. MeSH is used by NLM for describing the content of articles from over 5,000 leading biomedical journals indexed in the MEDLINE®/PubMED® database, and for books and related materials used by NLM. The staff at NLM update MeSH descriptor terms on a regular basis and welcome suggestions for new or revised MeSH terms.

    Has your research resulted in a new term reflecting a new discovery, disease, process or concept? Does your research expand upon an existing MeSH term? Is the term referred to in your journal articles or conference abstracts? Is the term being used by others? If so, consider submitting the term to NLM for consideration as an official MeSH term. NLM has a form, Suggestion for Medical Subject Headings Change, for submitting suggestions.

Keeping Track of Your Research

  1. Keep track of your author name. Your name as an author is key to establishing a unique public profile for dissemination and promotion of your research. Authors should use the same variation of their name consistently throughout their academic and research careers. There are several resources to help authors manage unique and consistent author names to ensure that their publications are associated with the correct author: ORCID, ResearcherID and Scopus Author Identifier.  See Establishing Your Author Name for more information.
  2. Keep your profile data up to date on social networking sites aimed at scientists, researchers and/or physicians. Inquire about these tools at your institution or within your organization. Some highly adopted institution-wide platforms include VIVO and Profiles.  These institutional efforts leverage structured data about researchers to provide current and validated data which can be used to visualize your efforts and identify new collaborators. 
  3. Register for an ORCID iD and curate your ORCID record with your scholarly contributions. ORCID identifiers provide you a way to differentiate yourself and highlight your professional activities.
  4. Sign up for other social networking sites to increase your visibility and connect with colleagues.  Some useful sites are ResearcherID or LinkedIn.  Sites such as Nature Network allow and encourage interaction between users. Social network tools provide a forum for disseminating your research, promoting discussion of your work, sharing scientific information, and forming new collaborations. 
  5. Alternative metrics allow users to understand how their work is being used in the online world via bookmarks and links to the article or data, conversations on twitter and in blogs about the work, and various methods of sharing and storing content. Some great sites for viewing these “altmetrics” include ImpactStory, DataCite, and the Altmetric explorer and bookmarklet. Articles published in PLoS journals now include an Article-Level Metrics tab that allows users to measure the performance and reach of published articles.
Findings:
How to Build Your Pathways to Impact
  • Ideas travel through networks and relationships.
  • The pathways to impact are active before and during a research project and soon after.
  • Develop expertise in your field and be a trustworthy source of evidence.
  • Address areas of policy interest.
  • Build relationships and networks.
  • Get decision makers involved in the research.
  • Join relevant committees and insert your findings into decision making.
  • Consider Action Research designs.
  • Don’t wait for publication. Disseminate early.
  • Cultivate champions.
  • Be opportunistic.
  • Present, Present, Present.

The Primary Health Care Research Impact Project studied the impact of a sample of research projects and the pathways by which those projects affected policy and practice. The authors of the study were Eleanor Jackson Bowers, Libby Kalucy, and Ellen McIntyre, Primary Health Care Research and Information Service (PHC RIS – a component of the Australian Government Primary Health Care Research Evaluation and Development [PHCRED] Strategy); and Richard Reed, Department of General Practice, Flinders University. The study, “Pathways to Impact in Primary Health Care Research”, offered the findings to the right.