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Using Research Indicators

This guide provides information about indicators that can be used as a measure of research performance

What are publication and citation metrics?

Publication metrics are a measure of academic productivity. They are a count of the number of scholarly outputs by academic authors, and other metrics derived from this count.

Citation metrics quantify the use of scholarly publications by citing academics as a count of number of citations and other metrics derived from this count.

Both publications and citation metrics provide an indication of academic influence because they only count scholarly outputs and the citations from scholarly outputs.

Publication and citation metrics are best used in combination e.g. Citation Count Snowball Metrics symbol and Citations per Output Snowball Metrics symbol are complementary to Field-Weighted Citation Impact Snowball Metrics symbol:

  • Citation Count and Citations per Output are simple metrics that indicate the magnitude of the number of citations received, and offer transparency in the underlying data when used in metrics derived from citations.
  • Field-Weighted Citation Impact is useful for benchmarking entities regardless of differences in number of publication outputs, disciplinary profile, age, and publication-type.

Comparison of publication and citation metrics

Metric Size-normalised Field-normalised Publication-type normalised Resistant to database coverage Difficult to manipulate Time-independent
Outputs in Top Percentiles Percentage          
Field-Weighted Citation Impact Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes  
Citations per Output Yes          
Publications in Top Journal Percentiles Percentage Yes     Yes Yes

Appropriate and responsible use of publication and citation metrics

When presenting publication and citation metrics, it is important to state the time frame that metrics refer to e.g. when benchmarking individual researchers, the year of first publication must be stated. It is also important to state the database source.

Counts of Scholarly Outputs will vary between sources, and there is no database with comprehensive coverage of all outputs. Comparisons of number of Scholarly Outputs should therefore only be made from the same source.

The number of citations recorded for a publication depends on the source database. This is because only the citations from articles indexed in the same database will be recorded. Because the publications (e.g. journals, books, book chapters, conference proceedings) indexed in a database will vary, the number of citations recorded for each output will also vary between databases. Therefore, when benchmarking research entities with citation metrics, a single source should be used.

Citation metrics for the same publication(s) will vary between database sources.This is because only the outputs indexed in a database will be included in a citation calculation from that data source, and citation data sources will vary in their coverage of outputs and there is no data source that will have comprehensive coverage of all outputs. Comparisons should only be made from the same source.

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