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Librarians help faculty measure research impact

Assessing the use and importance of research—known as research impact—is valuable to many. Researchers who spend countless hours investigating topics of great personal, organizational, and global significance care about research impact. Tenure and promotion committees rely on measurements of impact when evaluating institutional scholars. The institutions that fund research use these same measurements to see the return on their investments.

Therefore, it may be no surprise that librarians, too, are invested in the measurement of research impact. The subject liaisons at Raynor Memorial Libraries who support Marquette researchers provide services designed to improve awareness of current measures as well as increase the visibility and accessibility of researchers' outputs.

The measurement tools traditionally used include cited reference searching, journal impact factors, and the h-index. Cited reference searches quantify the total number of authors who cited the various publications of a researcher. Journal impact factors are calculations of the number of citations an individual journal receives on average for each article published within a two and five year period of time. While this tool doesn't directly measure the publications authored by a researcher, it implies that researchers who publish in journals that receive high citation counts will have more impact. The h-index, on the other hand, is a measurement of an individual researcher's publications, incorporating only the most cited papers and the number of citations these papers received in other publications.

Each tool has advantages and disadvantages. Subject librarians can help faculty and research assistants navigate these tools, providing one-on-one or group consultations upon request. A Cited Reference Searching and Journal Rankings research guide is available for additional support. The guide identifies subject specific databases for citation searches, explains the use of traditional research measurement tools and addresses alternative metrics—such as online social sharing of openly accessible publications—that account for impact not measured using traditional tools.