Scholarly Communication and Citation Analysis

Added by Michael Jubb on 23 February 2007 11:21

In all the debates about scholarly communications it is easy to overlook the fact that most of the articles published in academic journals are never cited by other researchers; and that applies to up to half the papers published in the most prestigious and high-impact journals such as Nature and Science. Estimates even suggest that as many as half the papers published never read by anyone other than the authors and their rexferees.

Citation indexes and impact factors have become increasingly important as mechanisms for judging the quality and impact of research, used both within the research and academic communities, and by funding agencies and Government.  And metrics such as these are likely to feature prominently in whatever replaces the current Research Assessment Exercise in the UK.

But while they are widely used, citation indexes and impact factors have long been criticised by scientists and others as imperfect measures of quality. And recently there has been a spate of interest in other measures, such as the h-index developed by Jorge Hirsch. Online tools are now available to calculate individual researchers? h-index using Google Scholar.

But it?s also increasingly recognised that no single index is without its drawbacks, and that we need a basket of measures including newly-developed ones such as the g-index, the a-index and the creativity index.  There?s an interesting recent article by Lokman Meho which provides a useful account of these, and a very full bibliography. The key point is that citation analysis is here to stay, but we need to use and develop further a variety of tools and measures that are sensitive to how researchers behave in different disciplines and settings.


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