Enhancing research impact

Enhancing research impact
by Rebecca Sierig

Pathways to Impact

What keeps a research infrastructure alive? Of course, funding is an important factor, but the very heart of a research infrastructure is the researcher using it, sharing his or her data and knowledge and developing it further. A research infrastructure benefits highly from its users, but this relationship is by no means one-sided.  From the researcher’s perspective, using a research infrastructure can be very advantageous.

Video about enhancing research impact

Watch Sally Chambers (DARIAH-BE), Toma Tasovac (DARIAH-RS), Esther de Smet (Ghent University), Alexis Dewaele (Ghent University) and Thorsten Ries (Ghent University) reflecting on what research infrastructures can do to enhance individual researchers’ impact and what they cannot do.

The researcher’s perspective

A research infrastructure offers a variety of opportunities for researchers to increase the impact of their work. In this section impact has been defined  as an “occasion of influence from academic research on another actor or organization” (LSE Public Policy Group 2011: 5), so the question is: In how far does a research infrastructure helps you as a researcher to create (more) occasions for your research to exert an influence on others? In short, research infrastructures support you to: (1) publish more of your research products or rather to publish them earlier, (2) disseminate them more widely, (3) store them more sustainably, and, (4) get or stay in contact with other researchers for mutual inspiration and networking.

  1. Publish your research products earlier using a research infrastructure

    The potential of research infrastructures to enhance a researcher’s impact is due to its strong connectivity to open science:

    “Science today is in transition – from a relatively closed, disciplinary and profession-based system, toward an open and interdisciplinary structure where knowledge creation is more directly accessible to stakeholders across society. […] Open science is a new approach to the scientific process based on cooperative work, coupled to new tools for collaboration, and new routes for knowledge diffusion through online digital technologies. Open science entails a shift from the standard practice of publishing research results in scientific journals, towards sharing all available data and knowledge at the earliest stages of the research process. It requires a move from ‘publishing as fast as possible’ to ‘sharing knowledge as early as possible’.” ( European Commission Expert Group on Altmetrics 2017:5)

    When a researcher works on a research project, he or she doesn’t have to wait for its finalization and the publication of an article to create some impact. Instead, he or she can publish drafts of the article, slides of a presentation given, data used for the research, blog-posts about the one or the other insight gained during the research process and so forth. Of course, the place for publishing these early research outcomes won’t be a journal, but rather a digital environment, e.g. a research infrastructure. The research infrastructure DARIAH offers, for instance, several places to store and publish research data and output, such as HAL or the DARIAH-DE Repository. There, other researchers can find, read and share your publications. If you want to create a blog, DARIAH offers a tool called Hypotheses, that helps you to raise its presence: “Hypotheses offers members of the humanities and social science academic community a platform from which they can directly communicate with a wide readership. The very format of the blog offers opportunities to experiment with new forms of academic writing and new ways of doing science that give pride of place to openness, sharing and collaboration.” (Hypotheses 2018a). If you have created your blog, Hypotheses helps you to reach a broad public. “Hypotheses hosts several thousand blogs covering all areas of the humanities and social sciences. The texts are in open access. They are not aimed exclusively at specialists and may be of interest to a broad readership. Each day our team showcases new posts.” (Hypotheses 2018b). So, with the help of a research infrastructure (DARIAH) and the tools it offers (Hypotheses) you can create more occasions for people to read your blog and to be influenced by it. As these people do not necessarily have to be academics, you may even create some societal impact. This last example leads us to the next point, how research infrastructures help you disseminate your research outputs more widely.

  2. Disseminate your research products more widely using a research infrastructure

    Imagine that you publish an article in an (offline) journal. Who will read it? Hopefully, at least some specialists in your field, which would already be great. If you (additionally) use a research infrastructure to publish your article, you can reach even more people, maybe from other countries or even of other – but somehow related – fields. Hence, a research infrastructure can help you in disseminating your research outputs more widely. But you can also use it to disseminate other kinds of information, like an announcement of a congress or workshop your institution organizes. You could use, for instance, Calenda, to cite another example of a DARIAH tool: “Calenda is an Open Access online announcement service in the humanities and social sciences.” (DARIAH 2018). This helps you with building and maintaining networks and to get in touch with researchers who could be challenged and/or stimulated by your research and who could somehow inspire you. Before this network-idea will be explored in more detail in point 4, point 3 will argue that research infrastructures help enhance your impact by storing your data sustainably.

  3. Store your research data more sustainably using a research infrastructure

    By having research data included within the environment of a research infrastructure (e.g. in the DARIAH-DE Repository), a researcher can guarantee that his or her data are managed long-term, allowing them to keep being used and, therefore, to remain relevant and of potential impact. Apart from that, by adhering to the standards of a research infrastructure, the research data can also become interoperable with the data of other researchers. This enables researchers to – automatically – enrich each other’s data collections, as they now refer to one another. As a result, researchers can draw conclusions based on a bigger collection of data, which improves the scope of the research or the trustworthiness of the conclusions. As soon as a researcher starts a project, he or she can benefit of the research data of their peers as well.

  4. Get in touch with more researchers through a research infrastructure

    Apart from being a digital infrastructure, a research infrastructure is – at its core – a network of people and knowledge. Being part of a research infrastructure allows researchers to collaborate, to challenge each other’s assumptions, to inspire one another and to share data and insights. An individual researcher can use such a platform as his or her soap box. Publications, newsletters and website announcements, conferences and workshops, training events, working groups and other on- and offline activities organised by research infrastructures are only some opportunities for researchers to present and share their work or to find like-minded people to set up future collaborations.

    Video about research infrastructures as networks of knowledge

Watch the video with Steven Krauwer (CLARIN ERIC) and Toma Tasovac (DARIAH-RS) for a deeper understanding of research infrastructures as networks of knowledge.

Again, with the help of a research infrastructure, occasions of influence or change are created. This has, for instance, happened during some seminars offered by another research infrastructure called EHRI.


EHRI, a research infrastructure focusing on Holocaust research offered several methodological seminars and online courses to scholars doing research on the Holocaust. The quotes taken from feedback to EHRI seminars and to online courses as well as the shared experience of an EHRI fellow might give you an impression of a research infrastructure as a source of inspiration and a knowledge network. You will find them in the “Testimonies”- below.

The following quotes are taken from feedback to the EHRI seminars, which might give you an impression of a research infrastructure as a source of inspiration and a knowledge network.

“…Last comment: I never expected to be so moved simply by viewing the documents listing appropriated property. They made me realize how, as a criminologist, my focus on catastrophic violence probably obscures much of the non-lethal theft and harassment that was the prelude to annihilation. Anna A., the woman whose furniture was listed, was as “alive” to me as any victim I have ever read about. Somehow, the singular fact that she had one chest of drawers in her room in the Jew’s House is something I can’t stop thinking about.
I suppose the chest of drawers reminded me how important it is that we not allow the catastrophic to obscure the more gradual quotidian process leading to catastrophe.
A chest of drawers. What did she keep in those drawers? Did she hide any items within any other items? Did she have photos?
This frustrating puzzle is never really complete.

Steven M. Gorelick

EHRI Workshop "Holocaust Art", organised by Yad Vashem, Israel, 2015
EHRI Workshop “Holocaust Art”, organised by Yad Vashem, Israel, 2015 https://ehri-project.eu/international-ehri-workshop-holocaust-art



Dear Sandra,
Thank you very much for your feedback. I found the lesson very enriching and eye-opening.
The structured presentation of the importance of photographies and the methodological aid you presented us in this lesson really helped me in shaping my vision and in improving my analytical skills. Moreover, the bibliography you used really caught my attention and I really want to go into depth in Zelizer, Guerin and Didi-Huberman’s books, to name just a few of the authors that I intend to read after this lesson. The videos were helpful and very to the point as well. I enjoyed very much listening to the presentations made by Dr. Uziel and Dr. Löw.
Actually, I was thinking that it would be really interesting to add photography as primary source to my future research, concerning the female experience in the Romanian Holocaust.
I will keep you updated, though.
Thank you one more time.

Andreea Camelia Tudor

EHRI Seminar "'Polish' Sources for Holocaust Research", organised by the Polish Center for Holocaust Research, 2017
EHRI Seminar “‘Polish’ Sources for Holocaust Research”, organised by the Polish Center for Holocaust Research, 2017 https://ehri-project.eu/ehri-seminar-polish-sources-holocaust-research-challenges-and-methodological-problems



The exchanging of knowledge between organizations is vital. Having completed the Fellowship, I feel equipped with the skills necessary to implement a pro-active collecting strategy for the Sydney Jewish Museum and have the confidence and renewed motivation to pursue this initiative.
I am sincerely grateful for the EHRI Fellowship which enabled me to have this unparalleled learning opportunity at the USHMM.

Roslyn Sugarman (EHRI Fellow)

EHRI seminar "Modern Diplomatics of the Holocaust", organised by the Federal Archives Germany, 2016
EHRI seminar “Modern Diplomatics of the Holocaust”, organised by the Federal Archives Germany, 2016 https://ehri-project.eu/ehri-seminar-red-blue-green-what-colour-used-minister



Although, here it is more the research infrastructure itself, which exerts an influence on the researchers attending the seminars and courses(e.g. new insights, new skills), these seminars have also created occasions of influence for the researchers leading the seminars and the people participating in them through being able to challenge their knowledge and skills with these of other researchers.

One more way a research infrastructure can help you enhance your impact is by offering tools that help you identify relevant impact factors and areas. With the Impactomatrix, DARIAH has developed such a tool, and with the Impact Playbook, the infrastructure Europeana has developed another tool which is more addressed to Cultural Heritage researchers and practitioners. To understand how they work, follow the links in the resources section below. There, you will also find the recording of a webinar held by two of the developers of the Impactomatrix, Juliane Stiller and Klaus Thoden.

As the last paragraphs might have shown, researchers can gain a lot from a research infrastructure in terms of enhancing their impact. So, how can they help to keep such a useful platform running?

From the perspective of a research infrastructure: If you liked it, cite it!

The relationship between research infrastructures and researchers is a symbiotic one. While individual  researchers reap the benefits from being part of a research infrastructure, research infrastructures themselves exist only by the grace of the researchers – their user base. Therefore, one of the most important factors proving the legitimacy and impact of a research infrastructure, is its active user base. Even if the content and services a research infrastructure has to offer are of the highest quality, the amount of users and nature of usage determines the impact of a research infrastructure.

The experiences of users offer many opportunities for research infrastructure managers and developers for further improvement of the research infrastructure. They can indicate which tools work well and which don’t, they show which data helps in their research, and help identifying blind spots.

Apart from using existing features and information (e.g. services and data) of a research infrastructure, researchers can also actively contribute to them. These contributions can be made in numerous ways, from providing data to mouth-to-mouth-propaganda, as well as co-organising workshops with research infrastructures.

As also research infrastructures increasingly have to prove their impact (see the section on Impact in the Module on Management Challenges) it is important to provide them with evidence to do so. After all, if something was helpful for your research, why not tell the whole world about it?

Video about the importance of giving credits

Watch Steven Krauwer (CLARIN ERIC) and Arjan van Hessen (CLARIAH) reflecting on the importance of giving credits.

By the way, the topic of data citation and software citation and how to include references to research infrastructures is quite new with several challenges to overcome as the current citation system was created for papers, articles, and books. There are several initiatives dedicated to this topic including members from research infrastructures. A prominent international initiative is for example the FORCE11 Software Citation Implementation Group.


To learn more about research infrastructures and standards visit the PARTHENOS Training submodule “What are Standards?”, consult the leaflet “Why standards” or get to know the SSK, the Standardization Survival Kit .

To learn more about software citation, read the following paper.

  • Paper by Smith AM, Katz DS, Niemeyer KE, FORCE11 Software Citation Working Group)(2016): Software Citation Principles. Available at: doi:10.7717/peerj-cs.86.


  • DARIAH (2018): Tools and Services. Highlights. Available at: https://www.dariah.eu/tools-services/tools-and-services/tools/dariah-at-calenda-org-events/
  • DARIAH-DE(2017): Impactomatrix. Available at: https://dariah-de.github.io/Impactomatrix/.
  • European Commission Expert Group on Altmetrics (2017): Next-generation metrics: Responsible metrics and evaluation for open science. European Commission (Directorate-General for Research and Innovation). Available at: doi:10.2777/337729
  • Hypotheses (2018a):Your blog. Available at: http://hypotheses.org/create-and-manage-your-blog
  • Hypotheses (2018b): About Hypotheses. Available at: http://hypotheses.org/about-hypotheses
  • LSE Public Policy Group (2011): Maximizing the impacts of your research: a handbook for social scientists. Consultation Draft 3. Available at: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/3575/1/Handbook_PDF_for_the_LSE_impact_blog_April_2011.pdf
  • Verwayen, Harry / Fallon, Julia / Schellenberg, Julia / Kyrou, Panagiotis et al. for Europeana (October 2017): Impact Playbook. For Museums, Libraries, Archives and Galleries. PHASE I: Impact Design. Available at: https://pro.europeana.eu/files/Europeana_Professional/Impact/Impact%20playbook/Europeana%20Impact%20Playbook.pdf



Here you can watch the full interviews with Arjan van Hessen, Sally Chambers, Esther de Smet (Ghent University), Steven Krauwer and Toma Tasovac.