Substance without citation: evaluating the online impact of grey literature
Individuals and organisations producing information or knowledge for others sometimes need to be able to provide evidence of the value of their work in the same way that scientists may use journal impact factors and citations to indicate the value of their papers. There are many cases, however, when organisations are charged with producing reports but have no real way of measuring their impact, including when they are distributed free, do not attract academic citations and their sales cannot be tracked. Here, the web impact report (WIRe) is proposed as a novel solution for this problem. A WIRe consists of a range of web-derived statistics about the frequency and geographic location of online mentions of an organisation’s reports. WIRe data is typically derived from commercial search engines. This article defines the component parts of a WIRe and describes how to collect and analyse the necessary data. The process is illustrated with a comparison of the web impact of the reports of a large UK organisation. Although a formal evaluation was not conducted, the results suggest that WIRes can indicate different levels of web impact between reports and can reveal the type of online impact that the reports have.