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Why measure research impact

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

Bibliometrics - What is it?

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

Underlying assumption: the number of times a publication has been cited by other researchers is a measure of the influence or ‘impact’ of the publication within the wider academic literature

Other measures of research impact

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

  • Number of downloads
  • 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  • Unpublished evidence of use of the research e.g. by community groups or NGOs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.

Issues to be aware of when measuring research impact

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.