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Measuring the Impact of Research

This resource is licenced under a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence by Claire Sewell, the Office of Scholarly Communication, Cambridge University Libraries.

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Welcome to this online resource introducing metrics and the measurement of impact. It often feels as if academic librarians work in an age where everything is measured and assessed and research outputs are no different. In the UK, the Research Excellence Framework is perhaps one of the driving forces of this assessment but there are also many other key areas impacted by this measurement from hiring decisions to selecting which publication to approach with work. Librarians are often familiar with at least some metrics through their work but they may not fully understand the pressures researchers are facing when it comes to recording the impact of their work. This unit will introduce learners to the different metrics, how they can be used and why there is a move towards using them more responsibly.

Time commitment

This unit should take between 30 - 40 minutes to complete.

This resource is aimed at academic library staff in the UK who are new to working in research support or need to refresh their knowledge of a particular topic. In many institutions research support may only be one part of a larger role and it can be hard to develop a knowledge of the basics. This resource is designed to fill in these potential gaps. Learners can work through the whole resource in sequence or just dip into individual units as they need to. All of the units begin with a clear outline of the topic together with a list of anticipated learning outcomes. Within each unit learners will find optional reflective activities which encourage them to think about how the topic in question relates to their own work environment. The scholarly communication landscape varies by country so although the basics will remain the same, learners from outside the UK should investigate their local policies and practices.

Learners can navigate through the unit in a number of ways. The ‘Previous’ and ‘Next’ buttons below can be used to move through the unit in a linear way, the tabs on the left of the screen will allow learners to jump to a particular page and the homepage can be reached at any time by using the ‘Return home’ button.


   This unit will cover the following topics:

  • What are metrics?
  • How are they used?
  • Common types of metric
  • Limitations of metrics
  • Responsible metrics movement
  • Measuring research impact


   At the end of this unit learners will:

  • Understand what is meant by the terms bibliometrics and altmetrics
  • Identify the most common metrics and how they are calculated
  • Describe the limitations of metrics and the need for responsible metrics

Select the Next button below to move on to the next section of the unit.

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