Elsevier and Queen’s University Belfast: a metrics-driven approach to research success

Elsevier and Queen’s University Belfast: a metrics-driven approach to research success

Embedding an understanding of citation and publication metrics is helping the university to better their research strategies.

This case study orginally appeared on page 49 of the State of the Relationship 2014. The report outlines the state of university-business collaboration in the UK, featuring expert views and over forty case studies. Read the full report.

When Scott Rutherford, Director of Research and Enterprise at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) joined the university in 2011, he discovered an interesting trend. “Our publication volume was growing faster than that of our peers,” he says, “but there was room for improvement in our global league table performance.”

The university turned to Elsevier, the world-leading health and science publisher, to help them to understand its situation. This led to a unique threeyear partnership between the two organisations.

QUB set the objective of increasing both citation impact and international reach through the development of institutional partnerships in focus countries. With Elsevier’s support, the university seeks to embed an understanding of citation indicators into its research strategy development.

“The objective was to improve the understanding of bibliometrics: what they mean, how they’re used, how they drive league table performance and, most importantly, how that information can be made useful for research decision-making,” says Rutherford.

With the support of Nick Fowler, Managing Director of Elsevier’s Academic and Government Institutions, the wider Elsevier team was engaged within the project and through the sharing of knowledge an informed strategy for resolving the challenge was developed.

Pilot programmes embracing this strategy are currently being rolled out across QUB, helping academics develop specific, evidence-based action plans which collectively contribute to the institution’s research strategy.

The result so far has been an innovative approach to informing an institution’s research strategy using publication and citation metrics. The programme has enabled university faculty to interrogate data, deepen their understanding of methodology and draw out key lessons for enhancing citation impact.

“It’s gone beyond analysing citation trends and a comparative assessment of Queen’s current position - we are now developing tailored and evidence-based action plans that are focused on effecting change at the research group level.” Jonathan Greer, Research Information Manager, QUB

The university has supported researchers to take advantage of citation as an increasingly important tool. At the university’s School of Psychology for instance, which took part in the pilot programme, it was clear many of its researchers were not in the habit of careful and comparative monitoring of citation impact. “The school has now set up a lab visit exchange scheme to increase international linkages, which is a key driver of citation impact”, says Rutherford.

Key to the success of the partnership has been overcoming initial scepticism from academics. A series of workshops provided by Elsevier ensured that academics became comfortable with the approach and had the tools to use the data and analyses effectively within their schools.

The partnership has been so beneficial that Elsevier is using the same approach to initiate similar programmes at other institutions. The company aspires to take this concept further by facilitating a network of like-minded institutions, leveraging citationbased analyses across the entire institution to inform and drive the success of its corporate strategies.

“We worked with Scott’s team to share knowledge in such a way that it could be used to not only answer the initial question, but also help inform and determine strategy”, says Elsevier’s Fowler. “This was a fantastic learning experience for us and the first programme of its kind for Elsevier.”

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