Using data analytics to grow your journal and increase its impact

Adopting a data-driven mindset can make a big difference to your journal and open the door to new voices

By Hélène Hodak, PhD - April 22, 2020  4 mins
Elsevier editorial illustration - Analytical Services

One of the priorities – and often challenges – for many journals is attracting and publishing high impact research. That remains one of the most important attributes that can help journals establish or grow their impact.

It is possible to draw on personal editorial networks to do that, but using a data-driven approach can help to identify – in an almost limitless way – highly appropriate types of research. It can expand your pool of authors and give a voice to new, talented experts in your field of interest. Here are some recommended steps:

1. Agree and set clear objectives based on the individual aspirations of the society and the journal. The objectives will vary by journal, but it is essential that they are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound).

2. Define your key variables. There is a myriad of ways in which published research can be “segmented” to help you find topics and researchers that represent the best fit for your journal. Some of these are outlined in the table below. In many ways this process can be likened to that used to solve a mathematical equation: you lay out the variables and then work to resolve the unknowns.

variables parameters chart
Correspondence table between variables to parameters in the data-driven approach.

3. Make your final selection. Once you have generated clusters of topics and potential authors, the next step is to identify those who are compatible with the majority of your criteria. In the context of identifying potential high impact research, bibliometrics analysis can help greatly to identify characteristics which are most likely to result in above average citations. This may result, for example, in selecting authors based on particular areas of research and from specific regions or institutions who typically do not publish in your journal (yet) but are reputed to publish high-impact research. The h-index can further help narrow down the search based on authors’ productivity (number of published articles) and citation impact, which can act as a proxy for seniority. This is particularly helpful if, for instance, one is seeking to reach out to early-career rather than more established researchers. Furthermore, one may also wish to limit the search to authors who have previously published under a specific publishing model (e.g., subscription or open access).

The data analysis will, of course, only be as good as the data used. Reliable journal indexing databases, containing up-to-date literature powered by sophisticated search engines such as Scopus or Web of Science, can enable this type of analyses. In the example below, Elsevier’s Scopus database with ~70 million records was used to perform a preliminary search based on author keywords (e.g., autophagy). The search was limited to papers published in the past four years to maximize the chances of finding researchers who are still actively working in this specific field. The ~24 thousand articles can then be further filtered as needed (by country, institution, journals which support this type of research, the type of articles published, citations per article or per author, author’s h-index, etc.). The search results can then be readily exported in various formats, including Mendeley, SciVal, Excel and in plain text.

Illustration of Scopus data analysis tools
Deep dive into the data: illustration of Scopus data analysis tools.

4. Position your value story in line with specific researcher needs. Once your search is complete, the next step is to present a value story to authors that best reflects the journal’s unique advantages. At Elsevier, we devote a lot of time to lifecycle marketing, which focuses on reaching out to the right authors at the right time with the right message. Underpinning this approach is the idea that the most effective outreach messages are those that respond to a specific need an author has at a particular point in time, and as they move from potential author to published author to advocate. An author who is trying to decide where to submit a paper, for instance, needs different information than an author whose paper was recently published in a journal.

Data and analytical tools offer a powerful way to analyze published literature and research trends, which can then help you identify high impact content for your journal. As you consider the best way to meet your publication goals, Publishers and Editors at Elsevier would be delighted to provide further advice.

Written by

Hélène Hodak, PhD

Written by

Hélène Hodak, PhD

Hélène Hodak holds a PhD in Molecular Microbiology from Pasteur Institute of Lille, France. She went on to pursue her post-doctorate at Yale University before joining Elsevier in 2013 as Scientific Editor of the Journal of Molecular Biology. She then moved to a Publisher role in the Molecular Biology portfolio of journals, where she continued to work and expand initiatives focused on training and promotion of early career researchers such as VolunPeers, JMB Career Advancement Initiative and CBP Featured Early Career Researchers.

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