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Evaluating the Impact of Academic Work

How to make a case and create a narrative around the scholarly contributions that are most valuable to you in academic evaluation.

Evaluating Impact

Cropped version of "The Evolution of Metrication" by Alex Prellezo - a bar graph showing the adoption of the metric system in various countries.Adapted from The Evolution of Metrication" by Alex Prellezo is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0  (image cropped)

Institutions and individuals are increasingly interested in understanding and evaluating faculty contribution, productivity and impact, especially for academic promotion and tenure. It is important to understand the requirements of your department for promotion and tenure, as well as the work that is most important to you personally, when thinking about impact.

Academic departments have traditionally focused on scholarly impact.  However, academic work does not have to be isolated to academic communities, but can be used for economic and social benefit. Indiana University has built institutional capacity in these areas and hosts an Innovation & Commercialization Office, as well as a Center for Rural Engagement and various offices for community engagement in various departments and schools.

You can think of impact in a holistic manner, incorporating the academic requirements of your department, the work that is important to you, and how your work benefits your community or our society at large.

With that in mind, you can develop an impact plan that will allow you to thoughtfully: 

  • plan your work 
  • share your work
  • gather evidence on the impact of your work, and
  • communicate how your work affects our community - both your scholarly community and the wider society.

Your Impact Plan: Strategize, share, capture, then communicate.

Your Impact Plan

It's useful to make a plan at the beginning of each semester for how you will track your impact.  Think of the activities that you will be engaged in over the semester, how you can promote your work, and how you can gather evidence that the activities you will engage in are impactful.

Will you be teaching?  Think about peer review, student feedback, and tracking student progress.  Use campus resources such as the Center for Innovative Teaching & Learning and IU Libraries Teaching and Learning Department to incorporate effective pedagogical strategies and enhance assessment.

Are you involved in service work?  Request feedback and gather testimonials.  Think ahead to how you can create feedback instruments.  Even negative feedback can help you pinpoint areas for improvement and track progress in future endeavours.

Will you publish?  Citations take time to accrue but there are quicker measures of utility such as Altmetrics (article level metrics like downloads, tweets, news mentions).

Think about unique publishing outlets.  Indiana University has partnered with The Conversation whose byline is 'Academic Rigor, Journalistic Flair'. This is a venue for academics to write about their work in language that can engage a non-academic audience.  All publications in The Conversation are open access.

Knowable Magazine by Annual Reviews is a similar outlet which describes itself saying "Knowable Magazine explores the real-world significance of scholarly research, punctuated with forays into wonder and awe." Knowable is also a fully open access publication venue.