Using Overton for finding research impact: ELIXIR

User type: IGO

ELIXIR is a European intergovernmental organisation that promotes and supports collaboration and data sharing in life sciences research. It’s funded primarily via its member countries as well as the European Union through Horizon and the Innovative Health Initiative. It coordinates, curates and promotes bioinformatics resources and serves as an infrastructure used by academia and industry, to help further develop the body of knowledge around how living organisms work.

​​We spoke with Corinne Martin, a Programme Manager in the Impact and International Relations team, about her organisation’s use of Overton.

Need: As a recipient of public funding, it’s essential that ELIXIR proves its value for money by showing evidence of its impact in the wider world.

How does ELIXIR use the Overton platform?

  • ELIXIR uses the Overton platform to track and evidence the impact of its work in reports to stakeholders.

What were their problems?

Before they used Overton, ELIXIR found it tricky to find examples of the impact of its research.  Since 2012, they’d been manually tracking various known sources to monitor their impact and influence, notably in shaping open science policy. Using this information, they were able to build up a picture of their mentions and citations within projects, policy documents and reports. However, what started as a simple tracking project grew to a quite extensive task. The data they were collecting had grown exponentially and they were aware that they were likely not capturing all of ELIXIR’s reach.

For one thing, they have multiple partners, funders and concurrent projects, being distributed across Europe in 25 countries. On top of that, much evidence of their influence is difficult to uncover as they’re frequently referenced ‘indirectly’. For example, there are many instances of the organisation or its data being mentioned in the body of a document, rather than being cited directly as part of a set of formal references like you’d get in a journal article or scholarly book. This type of mention is difficult to uncover using traditional tools like search engines.

How does Overton help?

ELIXIR uses Overton to better understand their reach in policy, systematise their tracking and identify areas that had previously been missing in their reporting.

Using Overton helped ELIXIR become more streamlined and systematic in monitoring policy mentions and citations. What previously would have taken significant amounts of time with individual searches can now be sourced quickly and systematically from Overton’s database. The platform automatically finds references to their organisation in reports and grey literature across the world – it’s also possible to set up email alerts to receive notifications of new mentions, which helps to ensure that nothing is missed.

Overton also revealed blindspots in ELIXIR’s tracking, identifying places where they were being mentioned and cited within policy in sources that they were not previously aware of. As Overton full text indexes all its documents, it also picks up mentions of ELIXIR in the body of publications, finding ‘indirect’ references which are otherwise easily missed. What this means in practice is that the evidence of ELIXIR’s mentions is now double what was previously tracked.

Overton created a much richer picture of ELIXIR’s reach, which helps them understand their influence within the network – seeing not only who they reach but who they don’t – and learn how to build on it. It also enriched their stakeholder reporting – using the Overton platform has given them many more indicators on which to report. They can now track citations from new sources and also follow-up mentions to track other ELIXIR-related projects. This enables them to better understand not only how their data is used but also how ELIXIR is included within other projects. 

They also used the data to create public facing resources, such as an impact dashboard on their website and a paper, published in the Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics journal, in which ELIXIR outlines how they ‘demonstrate public value’ with their research, providing a case study for others.

“We feel there is so much more to gain from using Overton, and we are excited to deepen our monitoring at country-level, for instance looking at ELIXIR’s visibility in, influence of research funders’ policies linked to open science”

Corinne martin

Best features of Overton for ELIXIR

  • We’re largely language agnostic.  We can find/translate mentions from 73 languages, and extract topics from 15. 
  • We can help you systematically track policy mentions and citations. We can upload your own policy data/publications to increase the available portfolio and are constantly adding more sources.
  • We can help you easily visualise your outputs and reach, with data that can be exported into excel/csv files and images into Powerpoint, too.

Having difficulty understanding all of your reach? Overton can help you unearth and work with our data.

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