Georgia CTSA Evaluators Use New Framework to Show Translational Impact of Supported Pediatric Research Publications

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“This article provides a new framework for demonstrating the impact of a translational research program. By evaluating short- and long-term influence across both academic and public spheres, we obtain a more complete picture of how Georgia CTSA-supported pediatrics research has advanced translational science,” says Nicole Llewellyn, Ph.D., associate director, Georgia CTSA Evaluation and Continuous Improvement.

In the new publication, Big splashes & ripple effects: a narrative review of the short- & long-term impact of publications supported by an NIH CTSA pediatrics program, published March 2022, in Translational Pediatrics, Dr. Llewellyn and colleagues examine a new framework for analyzing the outputs of pediatric research in the context of translational advancement.

Over the past decade, the Evaluation and Continuous Improvement (ECI) program of the Georgia Clinical & Translational Science Alliance (Georgia CTSA) has been dedicated to finding methods for studying publications as a scientific output, formally known as bibliometrics. Previous systematic evaluations of the Georgia CTSA’s publication portfolio revealed a robust, diverse, and highly impactful portfolio compared to similar CTSA hubs across the country. In 2020, ECI researchers examined the progress made in publications since the 2017 transition from the Atlanta Clinical and Translational Science Institute (ACTSI) to the Georgia CTSA, with the important addition of a novel kind of publication analysis, altmetrics. Traditionally, bibliometric analyses involved studying publication productivity and influence through academic citations; altmetrics describe the influence of published research in non-academic spheres, such as media and community attention, and references in patents and public policy. Moreover, the findings from that research study indicated clinical and translational science articles that make an early ‘big splash’ of altmetric attention have long-term ‘ripple effects’ through increased citation influence, which is not entirely due to publication in higher impact journals.

With these research findings in mind, Dr. Llewellyn chose next to take a closer look into the publication portfolio of the Georgia CTSA Pediatrics program, whose focus is dedicated to transforming scientific discovery into solutions that improve pediatric health. The program provides the necessary research support for pediatric investigators, such as educational and training resources, grant funding, clinical research infrastructure, administrative personnel, and expert consultations and review. ECI researchers sought to discover if bibliometrics could be used to determine how Georgia-CTSA supported research is making an impact on the translation of pediatric science from clinical research to clinical use and health improvements. Researchers identified 250 articles supported by the Georgia CTSA Pediatrics Program from 2007 to 2020 and used several bibliometric methods to assess both short-term attention and long-term influence made across both academic and public spheres. For this pediatrics research portfolio, the study found that short-term attention was indicated through high journal impact factors, peer recommendations, and readership, as well as by early altmetric attention in the news and social media. The long-term influence was demonstrated by academic citations and by downstream altmetric influence in public-facing documents.

When discussing the importance of this research, Anne Fitzpatrick, Ph.D., MSc, director, Georgia CTSA Pediatrics, adds, "This study highlights the tremendous research that Georgia CTSA investigators are doing in the field of Pediatrics. This Georgia CTSA Pediatrics research has not only influenced other researchers but also has directly impacted the care of children across multiple conditions."

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The Georgia CTSA is a statewide partnership between Emory, MSM, Georgia Tech, and UGA and is one of over 60 in a national consortium striving to improve the way biomedical research is conducted across the country. The consortium, funded through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) and the National Institutes of Health's Clinical and Translational Science Awards, shares a common vision to translate laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients, engage communities in clinical research efforts, and train the next generation of clinical investigators.