An Intentional Approach to Getting Your Research Noticed


by Allison Stapleton and Louise McHugh

Section Editor’s note: Recently the Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science seems to have found the magic bullet when it comes to scholarly and dissemination impact. Among behavior analysis journals, in 2022 it attracted more than its share of citations and non-academic altmetric mentions. Here two frequent JCBS contributors talk about how they cultivate attention for their research.

About the Authors

Alison Stapleton is a Researcher at Smithsfield Clinic and Lecturer in Psychology at Maynooth University and Dublin Business School. Alison is a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, serves on the Steering Committee for the Association for Contextual Behavior Science relational frame theory special interest group, and currently works at ACT Now Purposeful Living, a leading provider of ACT training in Ireland.

Louise McHugh is a Professor of Psychology at University College Dublin UCD. She is the director of the Contextual Behavioural Science lab at UCD. Louise is an Action Editor (AE) for JCBS and a fellow for the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACBS)  since 2014. She is also the current president for the UK and ROI ACBS Chapter.

The internet has led to many changes in the world of academia. For example, the internet augmented approaches to knowledge transfer and exchange, the cultivation of a research identity, measuring research impact, and more. In the context of research, the internet is now often used to bolster science communication, increase connectedness between researchers and non-researchers across disciplines/domains, and amplify the voices of marginalized and/or stigmatized individuals and groups.

Researchers are increasingly encouraged to put themselves and their work “out there”; to make an impact in the digital world and beyond. One way we can measure this impact is via altmetrics. Altmetrics (or “alternative metrics”) refer to the level of attention received by a research output in terms of online interactions. An Altmetric Attention Score is calculated by collecting engagements/interactions with a research output, such as social media mentions (e.g., number of times a research output is mentioned on Twitter), downloads and views (e.g., on a website or a repository), bookmarks and citations (e.g., via Mendeley and Zotero), and media coverage (e.g., mentions in news articles). These data are then collated and weighted to generate a score/set of scores that indicates the attention a research output has received. Although altmetrics display weak correlations with article citations, altmetrics can complement citation analyses by highlighting different types of impact (e.g., public outreach; Costas et al., 2015).

We are two contextual behavioral scientists who regularly contribute to the Journal of Contextual Behavioural Science (JCBS). As a JCBS Action Editor (Louise) and Editorial Board member (Alison), we have thought a lot about JCBS’ relative success in cultivating good altmetrics and on the value of reaching beyond traditional academic audiences. Below we offer some for researchers (individuals, labs, organizations, etc.) aiming to broaden their dissemination channels and bolster research impact. We will then provide some tips for increasing engagement with research outputs, consequently increasing altmetrics.

Key Considerations

Reflect on your intentions. The consequences of diversifying your research outlets will depend on what you put into it. It can be helpful to begin by reflecting on the intentions behind sharing your work. In our experience, sharing research outputs can feel daunting at times. One might worry about making an error, or how content could land versus how it was intended. And yet, leveraging the internet to maximize research impact is important. Beyond (relatively) superficial benefits such as increased employability, the internet can allow us to contact a range of perspectives on our work. Regardless of one’s opinions of those perspectives, and alongside any sense of vulnerability that may arise, it is important to attend to differing viewpoints, particularly those coming from stakeholders and external and/or independent groups/individuals; with variation (hopefully) comes refinement, growth, shared understanding, and prosociality.

Take responsibility for your outputs. As researchers, we are responsible for what we share, and indeed what we don’t share, in public forums; as best we can, we should say what we mean. In the same way, consumers are responsible for how they engage (i.e., there is a dual responsibility). Dynamics between knowledge producers and knowledge consumers can be complex (e.g., consumers of your research outputs may also be knowledge producers, etc.). So, it is important to present research outputs in a way that is likely to land with the target audience (i.e., be understood as intended). It can also be helpful to consider whether you are sharing/responding to feedback with an assumption of good faith. Is the function of my response more about being collegial or feeling superior? Am I willing to be wrong? Am I open to alternative approaches?

 Avoid burnout – remember to “disconnect.” A final key consideration relates to the nature of online platforms versus traditional research outlets. More specifically, the internet does not have regular working hours, or a six(teen) month turnaround for feedback. To avoid burnout, increase sustainability, and ensure you are getting the most (personally and professionally) from sharing research outputs, it is important to remember to disconnect (e.g., spend time offline). Sharing research online or via traditional media outlets can feel vulnerable, which may occasion defensiveness or upset. It is important to attend to feedback (or a lack thereof) and to address misconceptions or misrepresentations of your work. And, at the same time, you need to take care of yourself; to explore the functions underlying your sharing/responding to feedback (e.g., “Is this something I can look back on and be proud of?”).

Tips for Increasing Audience Engagement With Your Research Outputs

  1. Establish an online presence. For example, create a professional Twitter account and build a community by engaging with content relevant to your research interests. Remember, consistency is key here; knowledge transfer is an ongoing part of research that should not just be left to the end of the journey. These strategies have been employed by JCBS. In addition to its website, JCBS maintains a consistently active Twitter page that serves to increase the visibility and accessibility of the journal’s content, leading to more mentions and shares online.
  2. Cultivate interdisciplinarity. As much as possible, engage with research outputs from outside your discipline. In addition to benefitting from variability in perspectives/approaches, you will also increase the likelihood that your research reaches a new audience. Aligning with this, JCBS publishes research that spans myriad topics (e.g., clinical, educational, organizational, social psychology, etc.) and disciplines. This diversity of subject matter can appeal to a broad range of readers, increasing the likelihood that the journal’s content is shared widely.
  3. Increase accessibility. When possible, draw from existing frameworks, such as the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework (see, to increase accessibility of your research outputs. Central to UDL is the “plus one” approach to sustainable change; making one change at a time that gives consumers more options for representing and engaging with your outputs (Behling & Tobin, 2018). For example, if your research output used an image to convey a key point, you could provide alt text (alternative text; i.e., text that communicates the same essential information as the image) to better accommodate consumers that use screen readers.
  4. Draw from existing knowledge transfer and exchange models. For example, the Evidence-based Model for the Transfer and exchange of Research Knowledge (EMTReK; The Palliative Hub, 2020; Payne et al., 2019) may be useful for brainstorming the purpose of the research output, the target audience, and methods of dissemination in local and social, cultural, and economic contexts. These models also highlight the importance of producing multiple outputs tailored to different audiences.
  5. Innovate! Bearing in mind the purpose of sharing your research output beyond traditional academic outlets, experiment with what you think is likely to work. Evaluating the results (e.g., level of engagement/non-engagement) can guide future dissemination efforts. For example, Mike Morrison, PhD provides numerous innovative ways to approach dissemination in the digital age, often striving for maximum impact with minimal effort:

We hope that this post contributes to meaningful growth in your approaches to research, and that the outlined tips will help you get your work “out there”, beyond just academic journals.


Behling, K.T. and Tobin, T.J., (2018). Reach everyone, teach everyone: Universal design for learning in higher education. West Virginia University Press.

Costas, R., Zahedi, Z., & Wouters, P. (2015). Do “altmetrics” correlate with citations? Extensive comparison of altmetric indicators with citations from a multidisciplinary perspective. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 66(10), 2003-2019.

Payne, C., Brown, M. J., Guerin, S., & Kernohan, W. G. (2019). EMTReK: An evidence-based model for the transfer & exchange of research knowledge—Five case studies in palliative care. SAGE Open Nursing, 5(3), 237796081986185.

The Palliative Hub. (2020). An evidence-based model for the transfer & exchange of research knowledge (EMTReK) relevant and applicable to palliative care.