Getting the Expert View on Journal Metrics

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Journal and article metrics are increasingly important across academic publishing. They can help researchers choose which journal to submit their work to, and assess the ongoing impact of an individual piece of work (including their own). Journal editors use them to assess their journals’ standing in the community, raise its profile, and potentially attract quality submissions. And metrics can also assist librarians in selecting journals for their institution and analysing their usage and impact, as well as helping them assess the impact of research published by those in their institution.

To provide journal editors with practical advice on using metrics to develop a journal, Taylor & Francis recently held a metrics webinar, as part of their new Expert View webinar series. The webinar shared the views of an expert panel, including Altmetric Founder & CEO Euan Adie, journal editors Dr John Harrison and Dr Grant Abt, and James Hardcastle, Senior Manager for Product Analytics at Taylor & Francis. So what were our experts’ top tips?

Select the right metric

“The key thing is selecting the right metric for your journal.”

James Hardcastle explained how metrics can be contradicting, so you’re unlikely to get very high results for all of them. For example, the articles that are most highly cited, and thus improve an impact factor, might not be the most highly read, or the most policy relevant work. The important thing is to decide what your aim is, and concentrate your attention on the metrics that best align with that aim, selecting appropriate goals for your journal.

Understand the context

“Remember the difference between attention, quality, and impact.”

Euan Adie encouraged us to think about what each metric measures, for example Altmetric scores measure attention – how many people are talking about an article on social media, in blogs, in news outlets, or policy documents. Attention doesn’t necessarily mean an article is high quality, or impactful, but merely that it’s got people talking, and that conversation could be positive or negative. When analysing metrics data, “qualitative beats quantitative”. You need to look beyond the numbers and understand the context – what are people saying about the article, or did an author cite it to back up their own theories, or in order to refute it?

Turn “lookers” into “readers”

“Shorter, snappier, eye-catching titles are generally more engaging for researchers.”

Dr Harrison shared his advice on converting people who look at an article into readers. He emphasised how improving titles and abstracts can make a big difference to the readability of an article. Long, titles that are very specific are much more likely to put a “looker” off from reading, than simpler, broader titles that will appeal to more people. Abstracts, too, should be very simple and understandable, clearly indicating what the research is, why it’s interesting, what the author has found, and what the take home message is.

Drive social media engagement

“[Social media] is a really good way of connecting with authors and reviewers and readers of your journal.”

Dr Abt discussed how he used Twinterviews, or Twitter interviews, with authors to drive conversations and engagement on social media, as well as interest in the work being published in the journal. Interviewing a well-known author of a recently published article, and making that article free to access for a limited time, not only draws attention to the article and increases usage, but also helps build a community of people interested in your content.

Q&A findings

With a Q&A session rounding off the webinar, and feedback collected afterwards, it was fascinating to understand the areas attendees were keen to learn more about, and what information they found the most useful. So what did we learn?

Practical advice is key

A large number of questions, and much of the feedback, concentrated on “practical advice”, and the small changes which can be made to enhance article and journal performance, and consequently metrics.

Keep asking questions

“The opportunity to ask questions” was consistently mentioned in the feedback as one of the elements of the webinar that attendees found most useful. Many questions led on from each other, with attendees using the opportunity to delve deeper into topics already mentioned. This really highlighted the importance of conversation and discussion, and how bringing together a community, even digitally, can be a highly valuable experience for all involved.

Want to know more? Peruse our webinar resources, and stay updated regarding future Expert View webinars via Editor Resources or @tandfeditors.

Emma Cianchi, Communications Executive