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How research intelligence can help universities maximize their impact

November 2, 2023

By Ian Evans, Alex Walker

Dr David Weindorf, Vice President for Research and Innovation at Central Michigan University, at a graduation ceremony.

“Research intelligence gives us new ways of looking at how we engage not only within our own university, but how we choose to partner with other universities.” Dr David Weindorf, VP for Research & Innovation at Central Michigan University

Dr David Weindorf has a challenging role as Vice President for Research and Innovation at Central Michigan University. He and his team aim to be effective and efficient in serving the people on CMU’s main campus and two clinical affiliations.

“Sometimes I jokingly tell people I should list firefighter on my CV,” he quipped, “because it seems like I’m just dealing with whatever fire came up today!”

But one of the greatest challenges they face, as in many institutions in the US, is dwindling resources. State budgets for higher education continue to be stretched thin and so become difficult to rely on as sources of funding. As a result, David must be cautious about spending every dollar in the most impactful way, while balancing this with the university’s commitment to equity and equality and providing services to faculties across the institution.

This is where research intelligence tools come in.

Research intelligence tools can help generate actionable insights by providing quality, structured data, advanced analytics, and an array of indicators and metrics to use in your strategic planning to support your research goals. Find out more about Elsevier’s Research Intelligence solutions.

Finding impactful partnerships in not-so-obvious places

It can be tempting to focus resources on STEM and medical fields, but non-STEM fields are also valuable and essential to the academe writ large. Using research intelligence tools has given David a new understanding of how faculty can work together across disciplines to support each other.

“It might be something like engaging with somebody in English to facilitate the best technical writing,” he said. “It might be utilizing an animation professor to bring a scientific process to light in a new way for educational purposes. I think there are lots of ways that people can work across the STEM/ non-STEM aisle and help each other. And I think these tools have brought that into specific light for me in a new way.”

Research intelligence tools also allow David to track the impact of these cross-departmental collaborations. One of the limitations of internet search engines is that search is limited to specific researchers or fields of study. Using research intelligence makes cross-collaboration visible.

“Let's say we want to study soil science,” David explained, “I put that into my search queue and some statisticians pop up because those statisticians were co-authors on soil science papers — they help to analyze the datasets. Some people might view that as a limitation of some of the software platforms; I can actually see it being used as a strength, where you're talking about cross-discipline partnership.”

With CMU being the first US university to successfully integrate Digital Measuresopens in new tab/window with Pure, David has been able to demonstrate to faculty time and again how powerful these tools can be in finding the experts they’re looking for and provide a quick sense of whether the person you are talking to is an active researcher or whether their last creative scholarship was 20 years ago. This highlights the importance for non-STEM researchers to include their information in systems like Digital Measures. With institutions increasingly using it as an authoritative source of official productivity, situations can arise where if you don’t put this information in the database, its visibility is limited. David explained that when you convey that powerfully to people, they realize it can help them gain visibility for their work.

The tools are also invaluable for those who have an interest in international engagement but aren't sure who to partner with. “We get a lot of people reaching out to us (from) universities and companies saying, ‘We want to partner with CMU, and we want to do X, Y, and Z,’ and we don't know, especially if they are not in the US, if they're a legitimate group or not, or what they have strengths in or their areas of expertise,” David explained. “Utilizing these tools gives me just a snapshot view of their wheel of expertise, so if they have 75% medical output, they must be a medical school. Or if all of their work is in engineering, they wouldn't be a good partner for us if we're looking to partner on a poetry project. Those are the kinds of things that we can use to match people up.”

Extending your university’s impact

In an environment where institutions compete for talent and funding, raising the profile of a university is crucial, and research analytics can help build that visibility. Using tools such as SciVal and Pure, David has been able to support his institution’s ability to differentiate themselves from other universities in its contribution to the UN Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs).

“We can differentiate ourselves from other institutions, who either may not be so focused on those SDGs or may not have the insight to know how theyre contributing.”

Dr David Weindorf, Vice President for Research and Innovation at Central Michigan University


David Weindorf, PhD

Vice President for Research and Innovation at Central Michigan University

This impact can also be seen internally, with faculty members now able to see how their research impacts specific goals. As David explained:

Once they have these tools, and they see that they fall into these different categories, they're like, ‘Wow, I didn't know that my work was being used at that level to inform higher level policy decisions, at the national or international level.’ I think it gives them a sense of buy-in of importance for their work. Within SciVal or within Pure, we have the ability to quickly highlight all of our contribution to the SDGs and say, ‘Hey, y’all want to know what makes CMU different than Eastern or Western Michigan? Look at what we're doing — we're contributing on the global stage.’

As another example of how these tools have enabled him to showcase the work of different university departments, David points to the recent achievement of CMU attaining Space Grant status: “As part of our application, one of the things that I demonstrated to the Space Grant Program was that we have a wide breadth of faculty at our university who work in many different areas that touch on Space Grant topics of interest but collectively we are doing these things that are impacting the larger world. We're not just concerned with what's going on in Central Michigan — we're concerned at the state, national and international level.”

Tips for making the most of research intelligence tools

What tips would David offer on maximizing the power of Research Intelligence tools?

“These products gain power the more data you put into them,” David said. “That information becomes more powerful when you consider 25 people in a department or 120 people in a college or 800 people at the university level. At every level, the more data we feed into it, the more data points we have, the better the idea we have of who we are.”

As with new AI tools, research intelligence tools can provide a large amount of good information, but it’s not always perfect.

“You have to sift through it and see, ‘Does this make sense?’ David advised. “I'm not suggesting that they're the be all end all and we should only make decisions based upon them. Some of the information they spit out is a little skewed, but overall they provide us with new ways of looking at how we engage not only within our own university, but how we choose to partner with other universities. And that’s also important.”


Portrait photo of Ian Evans


Ian Evans

Senior Director, Editorial, Content & Brand


Read more about Ian Evans
Alex Walker


Alex Walker

Communications Project Manager