Increasing the Public Impact of Research (pilot)

Dr. Adriana de Souza e Silva partnered with the Open Knowledge Center to experiment with various modes of increasing the potential for her work to have impacts outside of higher education. As a pilot project, this public impact strategy offers a test case in how a library might partner with researchers to extend research products into creative and open access works. 


This pilot project explored a deep collaboration with a small team and one researcher over a short, focused period of time (about one month) to develop a strategic approach for moving their research concepts into public awareness. We were interested in playing in the space between academic publishing, scientific journalism, media production, and library-based digital/open scholarship expertise. The outcome of this partnership, a five-page strategy document, was a realistic and conclusive goal for the small project, and this strategy is leading to several new and additional projects. This project coincided with and developed from Micah Vandegrift's visiting appointment as the Program Officer for the Association of Research Libraries' Accelerating the Social Impact of Research cohort. 

How We Did It

The Open Knowledge Center (OKC) works to decrease the barriers between research products (e.g., journal articles, scholarly books) and the public, primarily through encouraging open access. We are also developing a partnership concept we're describing as "communicated scholarship," combining aspects of digital scholarship, open access, public science, and scientific communication. Dr. Adriana de Souza e Silva approached the library with a question about open access article processing charges to make her scholarship more available online, which is not a service we provide, and instead we offered the opportunity to conduct a pilot deep-dive consultation that would result in a public impact strategy. This concept was inspired by a recent study by Springer Nature and the Association of Dutch Universities (VSNU) on the connection between open research and social impact

The OKC conducted an in-depth analysis of five of Dr. de Souza e Silva’s recent and forthcoming works, including thorough consideration of audiences and modalities. Our goal through this process was to familiarize ourselves with her work and bring a creative, multidisciplinary, and broad media imagination to the academic writing. The project team included our two graduate research assistants, Sara Rose Kittleson and Rachel O'Reilly, who brought multilingual and multimedia expertise. The review period (one week) was followed by two weeks of brainstorming, researching audiences, developing the strategy document, and suggested next steps, including recommended various avenues and opportunities for distributing or pitching versions of the work translated into other media or non-academic language. 

The summary Public Impact Strategy breaks down potential opportunities for each of the five works by three concentric circles: local (NC State University), interdisciplinary, and general public. For example, we suggested connecting with our University Communications office which hosts a podcast, submitting a pre-print to MediArxiv, and writing a general interest piece on Medium. A reachable goal was to raise the profile of Dr. de Souza e Silva's work enough to pitch it to The Conversation. Throughout, we employed our knowledge of digital scholarship platforms, best practices in scholarly sharing, and our increasing interest in public communication of scholarship. Dr. de Souza e Silva also pointed us to new literature in her field on open research practices and research groups adopting open science strategies, both of which we were able to work into our recommendations. 

The strategy includes ideas as broad as:

At the conclusion of the short pilot project, to which the team dedicated a few hours a week for four weeks, Dr. de Souza e Silva took several of our recommendations, and by the end of 2021 she had successfully expanded her impact potential. The OKC is continuing work with her on one specific project, a community hub to gather examples of Mobile Networked Creativity, a research topic that Dr. de Souza e Silva is driving. As a successful pilot, we are examining the opportunities for service scale, capacity for follow-up work, and how to effectively operationalize a public impact consultation process in conjunction with our Libraries strengths in media production, high-tech displays/spaces and public or community-focused programs.