Societal and scientific impact of policy research: A large-scale empirical study of some explanatory factors using Altmetric and Overton

Authors: Pablo Dorta-González, Alejandro Rodríguez-Caro, María Isabel Dorta-González

This study investigates how scientific research influences policymaking by analyzing citations of research articles in policy documents (policy impact) for nearly 125,000 articles across 434 public policy journals. We reveal distinct citation patterns between policymakers and other stakeholders like researchers, journalists, and the public.

News and blog mentions, social media engagement, and open access publications (excluding fully open access) significantly increase the likelihood of a research article being cited in policy documents. Conversely, articles locked behind paywalls and those published under the full open access model (based on Altmetric data) have a lower chance of being policy-cited. Publication year and policy type show no significant influence. Our findings emphasize the crucial role of science communication channels like news media and social media in bridging the gap between research and policy.

Interestingly, academic citations hold a weaker influence on policy citations compared to news mentions, suggesting a potential disconnect between how researchers reference research and how policymakers utilize it. This highlights the need for improved communication strategies to ensure research informs policy decisions more effectively.

This study provides valuable insights for researchers, policymakers, and science communicators. Researchers can tailor their dissemination efforts to reach policymakers through media channels. Policymakers can leverage these findings to identify research with higher policy relevance. Science communicators can play a critical role in translating research for policymakers and fostering dialogue between the scientific and policymaking communities.

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