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Using Data to Demonstrate Global Impact: How Impact Metrics Reports Elevate Penn Medicine Brand

Manuel de la Cruz Gutierrez stands on Locust Walk.

Manuel de la Cruz Gutierrez, the Director of Data & Innovation Services at the Biotech Commons, works to demonstrate impact metrics in academia. These measures are frequently used by researchers to determine the impact of their work using statistics such as citation counts, download counts, pageviews, and social media mentions.  

In November 2019, a colleague from Penn Medicine reached out with a unique request: Kelly Abramson, Executive for International Business Development, wanted to find out whether bibliometrics (the quantitative method of citation and content analysis) and altmetrics (alternative metrics which measure and monitor the reach and impact of scholarship and research through online interactions) could be used to generate business. Abramson wanted to evaluate current partnerships and develop a strategic plan for future partnerships. 

“I had two objectives: To demonstrate our global impact, and to elevate our global brand,” Abramson says. She and de la Cruz Gutierrez partnered together and hired graduate interns to aid in exploring the research database Dimensions, with the ultimate goal of using data to create impact metrics reports. 

“I have a great partner in Manuel. He is a visionary, as well as a wonderful teacher and mentor for our graduate interns,” Abramson adds. 

The work in Dimensions was supplemented by the tools Almetric for Institutions and H1 Insights. “It is good to use more than one tool in case there are gaps – either in the data or the functionality of the tools with that data. So, we used tools beyond Dimensions to supplement some of the data that we have,” de la Cruz Gutierrez explains. They pulled the last 10 years of publications for examination. 

Abramson adds, “We tried to get as many meaningful data sets as possible.” 

They started by exploring connections with Australia. “One of the first things Kelly was interested in was seeing what type of linkages existed with Australia in terms of scholarship. Penn Medicine has been interested in expanding cross-continental clinical trials with Australia in cancer therapies,” de la Cruz Gutierrez says. “What we want to do is establish relationships with people who already collaborate with us, or who are influenced by our work, and we garner that through citations. Further, through Altmetric Explorer, we can also see who in Australia might be talking about our work, either on social media or in news outlets. That’s another way that we have been determining, when we are interested in specific countries, what the penetrance of Penn’s research is in that country.” 

He adds, “This can also be gauged in policy documents, which is another of the outputs we look at; namely, where Penn’s research has been quoted in policy documents around the world. That is a powerful statement: when you change policy in a country or you change practice, it’s a very powerful way of saying how influential the research of Penn has been.” 

Next, they explored metrics through the lens of a specific type of treatment. 

“One of the areas they were interested in was how Penn stacked against peer institutions or peer researchers,” de la Cruz Gutierrez explains. “The next project we did was look at CAR-T therapies, these cell therapies that Penn pioneered.” CAR-T cell therapies use the body’s own immune system to help fight leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. Using Dimensions, he was able to demonstrate that in the realm of CAR-T therapies, “Penn leads the world in terms of publications and in terms of number of citations that those publications generate. That is a proxy for leadership and influence.” 

From there, de la Cruz Gutierrez went on to study the publications of Penn’s CAR-T researchers, asking questions like: “Who are they citing? Where are they having influence? Who is familiar with our work – for example, in the Arabian Gulf countries?” This information can help Penn Medicine recruit collaborators. 

This led to further examination of the scholarship, productivity, and influence of other groups and individual physicians at Penn Medicine. Using some of the same metrics from previous studies, they drilled down to groups and individuals and in some cases measured their success against peers in the industry. This type of information would ideally be used to solicit grants or other forms of funding for research, and aid in raising the profile of physicians and researchers in advance of travel to places of interest. 

“You can also see how funds from companies can ebb and flow, and try to figure out why they stopped investing,” de la Cruz Gutierrez says. “All of these we can do without reaching out to the people involved in this individually, which is always a challenge in an intensive research institute like Penn.” 

Abramson says de la Cruz Gutierrez’s work is “putting us on the map, literally, in a very Penn proud way, very scholarly and very sound.” Now, three years after this project was launched, de la Cruz Gutierrez has taken on a consulting role and the interns are leading the work. “It’s been very interesting working with the interns. They really did – yes, with our guidance, but – but they did work that I would never have thought to do myself. It has been rewarding.” 

“What we are doing now is zoning in on a country of interest,” Abramson says. “I think we could really form a stronger relationship for advancing scientific discovery through cancer research and treatment with Canada.” Penn Medicine was able to incorporate bibliometric and altmetric data into a letter to the Ambassador to Canada that Abramson believes made a strong case for furthering this relationship. She says, “Finding some of these great treasures in the data is really exciting.” 

Meanwhile, de la Cruz Gutierrez took his findings to the Lippincott Library of the Wharton School of Business, where he partnered with Marcella Barnart, Zilberman Family Director of the Lippincott Library, to identify potential sponsors for the Cellicon Valley conference, which is hosted every two years by the Perelman School of Medicine and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The two librarians combined forces, with de la Cruz Gutierrez using a database called Embase to track company activity in academic literature, and Barnhart identifying venture capitalists that were able to make investments in cell therapies. They then shared their findings with the conference organizers, helping them to forge new connections and relationships. 

Their work has also gained interest from the private sector as well as other academic institutions who stated they did not know how to incorporate altmetric data into promotions or recruitment activities, Abramson notes. “We are pleased to advance Penn Medicine’s brand using scholarly publications and social media data, identifying relationships, current or new, and collaborating throughout the World,” she says. 

This work is exciting for de la Cruz Gutierrez because it taught him about different uses for data that move beyond “just supporting the research enterprise itself.” Through this project, he learned that “within an academic medical center, this data can be used for advancing the business side. Before this, I did not realize that it could be used this way.”

This October, we’re celebrating National Medical Librarians Month! Want to learn more about our medical collections and expertise? Check out these blogs from across the Penn Libraries:

Unique at Penn
Biomeditations: News from the Biotech Commons
Datapoints: A Lippincott Library Blog