My research field is a "hot" one. It is in modeling of additive manufacturing process. Majority of the research being carried out is experimental and some research is theoretical/computational. My research is entirely computational. Publications in my research topic don't go to top journals like nature or science but to applied journals like journal of thermal spray and technology, surface and coatings technology, additive manufacturing or computational materials science.
I read computational papers published by other groups from good universities (in the US and other places) and I often find them quite straightforward (that is, not much novelty in their work). In my research work, I always try to implement something extra (be it a different modeling technique, a different analysis method) to develop a distinctive new knowledge rather than a small incremental knowledge. Nevertheless, my work ultimately gets published in these journals only.
In such scenario, how do I know if I am doing a good work? My experimental collaborators are happy with my work and so is my postdoc advisor. But, how do I know that I am not generating noise? My past entirely computational papers have got just 3 unique citations each in 1-1.5 years. But my collaborative work (with experimentalists) has over 15 citations in same amount of time.