Quantitative Indicators

It is often necessary to demonstrate the impact of your research in numbers. There are unlimited quantitative indicators that can be used, the difficulty is to choose the right ones for your research project.


Quantitative indicators can be useful when measuring the scientific impact of research, or when you want to strengthen for example your impact story with metrics . Different disciplines have different forms of publishing so also the evaluation methods should vary. It is therefore important to keep in mind, that comparing different disciplines with same indicators is not always advisable. The Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) is based on the need to improve the ways in which the outputs of scholarly research are evaluated. It doesn't mean that bibliometrics should not be used when evaluating research, but that scientific output must be measured accurately and evaluated wisely.

Traditionally research impact has been measured by bibliometric indicators such as:

  • Number of publications
  • Quality of publications, i.e. Impact Factor value
  • Visibility of publications, i.e. the number of publications in citation databases (Scopus and Web of Science)
  • Impact of publications, i.e. the number of citations they have received
  • Researcher's H-index
  • Researcher's cooperation network, i.e. the number of co-authors and affiliated organizations in publications.


Altmetrics is an interesting addition to the traditional bibliometrics. Altmetrics measure the impact of publications (e.g. articles, books) in social media and other social networking services by tracking for example the number of downloads, mentions on news sites, tweets, likes and traditional citations. Altmetrics help assess the impact of publications quicker than traditional citation-based metrics.

Tweets and mentions on news sites may accumulate very quickly after publication, whereas for citations this may take months, even years. The most prominent altmetrics service is Altmetric.com. The service is used by countless international publications, which use the attention score provided by Altmetric.com to indicate the impact of articles.

To have your publications included in altmetrics data aggregation, they must have a persistent identifier, such as for example:

  • DOI: articles published through various publication channels, also for example data sets
  • ISBN: books
  • URN: various publication type

Other quantitative indicators

Other useful quantitative indicators can include:

  • Number of IPRs, patents, spin offs, new products, new jobs
  • Uptake of results by x number of end users
  • Savings in production costs, energy, time etc.
  • Number of seminars/workshop organised
  • Number of appearances in social media/press
  • Number of stakeholder contacts
  • Number of courses/seminars organized based on research results
  • Participation in committees, councils and working groups (incl. in companies), parliamentary hearings.

The Horizon Europe has defined their own set of indicators for scientific, societal and economic impact to report the impact of the funding program. These indicators might be useful when you are planning a HEU proposal.

UN SDG Indicators

As the connection between research and the United Nation Sustainable development Goals (UN SDGs) becomes more and more important, it might be useful to take a look at the indicators the UN has set to measure the achievement of each goal and their targets. For example:

Goal Number Description Target Indicator (one of many)
3 Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages By 2030, reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births Maternal mortality ratio
12 Responsible consumption and production By 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature Extent to which (i) global citizenship education and (ii) education for sustainable development (including climate change education) are mainstreamed in (a) national education policies; (b) curricula; (c) teacher education; and (d) student assessment.

If you can find the link between your research and the UN SDGs, why not check whether the indicators that measure the advancement of the targets could be used to measure also your research impact.