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Research impact measures

Numeric measures provide an indication of a researcher’s impact. These measures are based on the assumption that influential researchers and important works are cited most frequently.

Bibliometrics is the quantitative analysis of research publications and other research outputs e.g.:

  • Number of publications
  • Number of cited publications
  • Number of times a publication has been cited
  • H-index
  • Journal Impact Factors

Other measures you could use as an indication of your research impact include:

  • Article download count:
    Download counts are provided by some publication databases and other web platforms, although there is no standard way to aggregate counts from different systems. Examples of platforms that provide download counts include:
  • ResearchOnline@ND
  • Public Library of Science (in the metrics tab for individual articles)
  • Number of media appearances
  • Community engagement activities
  • Number of book reviews by experts within the same field
  • Number of publisher book sales
  • Number of libraries holding a copy of the publication
  • Citations by non-traditional sources e.g. internal government reports
  • Unpublished evidence of use of the research e.g. by community groups or NGOs

For a robust measure of research impact, use bibliometric measures in conjunction with qualitative assessment (e.g. peer review) of the content of a publication.

Use research impact measures to:

  • Record research achievement for academic promotion, grant applications and job applications
  • Benchmark performance of individuals, research groups or institutions
  • Track development of a field of research
  • Identify influential (highly cited) papers, researchers or research groups
Further reading:

When using bibliometric data, you need to keep in mind that:

  • Each measure and tool has advantages and disadvantages
  • Citations take time to accrue
  • Citation comparisons are only meaningful if comparing like with like e.g. researchers in the same field of research and at similar career stages
  • The raw count of citations and analyses depend on database content:
    • No database lists all publications. Even the 3 main sources i.e. Web of Science, Scopus and Google Scholar vary substantially in content.
    • Journals are the predominant publication type in databases. Inclusion of other publications e.g. books, book chapters, conference papers and theses is improving.
    • Journal coverage in Scopus is more comprehensive than Web of Science for the Humanities and Social Sciences.
    • In Scopus, citation data only extends back to 1996 for all disciplines, so will undervalue impact of long-standing researchers.
  • Bibliometrics are best suited to the Health and Physical Science disciplines because these disciplines are dominated by international, peer-reviewed journals published in English.
  • Bibliometrics are less suited to the Social Sciences and Humanities because researchers in these fields often publish in books and conference papers which are less likely to have citation counts. If the source does have citation counts, they are likely to be lower because readership is more limited, there are fewer researchers in these disciplines, research often has a local focus and may be published in a local (non-English) language.