Metrics for your communication strategy

It is important that your research outputs reach your intended audience.  This may include your academic peers, practitioners, researchers in different disciplines, service users, policymakers or members of the public.  Here, we highlight some key metrics that can help you choose a journal for publishing, or develop a social media strategy for promoting your research. 

Metrics to inform your journal publishing strategy

Journal metrics can give an indication of the reach and impact of a publication and some researchers use metrics to decide which journal to approach first.  There is a range of journal metrics available, some using a straightforward calculation to obtain a mean score for the number of citations received per paper per journal, whilst some are normalised for discipline and type of publication.  Journal metrics are available from a range of sources, and we highlight some of the main ones below.

Journal Citation Reports

InCites’ Journal Citation Reports (JCR) is based on Web of Science data and can be explored by year, discipline or specific journal title.  Key metrics include:

  • The Journal Impact Factor (JIF).  This long established journal metric is a mean score of the number of citations per paper in the journal, calculated on a two-year window.  Please note that JIF is not normalised for discipline and can be easily skewed by a single very highly cited paper.  
  • The Journal Citation Indicator (JCI).  Launched in 2021, this metric normalises to take into account citation differences related to discipline, document type (articles, reviews, etc.) and age of publication.  This enables some degree of comparison across different disciplines, so can help in interdisciplinary areas.  A value of 1.0 represents world average, with values higher than 1.0 denoting higher-than-average citation impact (2.0 being twice the average) and lower than 1.0 indicating less than average.  Some JCIs are in the 10s or even higher.  The first set of JCIs uses 2020 data.
  • JCR also offers a range of complementary journal metrics such as the Immediacy Index and Cited Half Life


There is a range of journal metrics built upon Scopus data - to access them, go to Scopus, then click on 'Sources' at the top of the search page.

  • CiteScore is similar to JIF, giving an average of the number of citations per paper in the journal, but calculated on a four-year window and based on Scopus data.
  • Source Normalised Impact per Paper (SNIP) is a normalised journal metric from Scopus.  SNIP measures a journal’s citation count per paper as compared to a journal’s citation potential in its disciplinary field.   
  • % Cited  tells you the percentage of articles in the journal that have received at least one citation.   You may like to use this in combination with other journal metrics to give you an idea of how likely your paper is to be cited.  

Scimago journal rank is similar to the JCI and CiteScore, but citations are weighted depending on the source they come from.

Some disciplines have their own journal list, e.g. Business has the Academic Journal Guide from the Chartered Institute of Business Schools, and many key Law journals exist outside the main citation databases, making those journal rankings incomplete.  

Metrics to inform your social media strategy

Alternative metrics, also known as “Altmetrics” look at the level of attention received in social media and other platforms. They offer useful information about attention outside scholarly publishing, and possibly highlighting online and other communities that can serve as potential audiences for your work.

Different social media channels pick up on different topics. Finding altmetric information for a successful paper in your research area may inspire you, or inform where you focus your social media strategy, whether that be blogs, Facebook, Twitter or elsewhere. 

Altmetrics can be obtained using the following services:

  • Plum metrics are available in Scopus and are also embedded in some publisher and other platforms.  Metrics are expressed in the form of a clickable “Plum print”, giving different sized “wings” to indicate which social media channels have mentioned the paper.  Search for a key paper in your area, then click on the plum print to see an indication of the social media channels that have picked up on that paper.
  • The bookmarklet produces a “donut”, giving an attention score and using colour to indicate the attention a paper has received through various social media channels.  To download and use the bookmarklet:
    1. Go to Altmetric for Researchers and select 'Tools'.  Click to 'Learn more' for the Altmetric bookmarklet.
    2. Complete the form, then click and drag the bookmarklet onto your toolbar.
    3. Search for a key paper in your area on your usual service, then link out to the full text via a DOI link.  Click on the 'Altmetric it!' bookmarklet on your toolbar to generate the Altmetric donut. Clicking on the attention score generates an altmetric summary including which social media channels have picked up on the paper.

Further help

Library Services offers online training via our Influential Researcher Canvas Course.

For one-to-one appointments and bespoke workshops, contact the Research Skills Team in Library Services.


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