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What's all this about bibliometrics?

A Slide Rule

We live in an era of stats, data, league tables and benchmarks where everything is assessed, measured, documented and compared.  This is as true of research activity as it is of many other aspects of higher education. Bibliometrics is a whole new science which has developed to assess the impact and reach of research publications. 

Bibliometrics are quantitative measures of research publications through citation analysis. They typically measure the number and frequency of citations to assess publications, and can be used to evaluate individuals, research groups, institutions, and journals by identifying:

  • the areas of strength and weakness in a research field
  • emerging areas of research
  • highly-cited journals in a particular field
  • highly-cited researchers in a particular field
  • core literature in a particular field

Why bother with bibliometrics?

As a researcher, you may have come across the use of bibliometrics.  Have you spotted citation measures in bibliographic databases, or been asked how many journal articles you have written, or how many times your articles have been cited in other research publications?   Do you know whether you have an 'h' index, or have you been advised to publish only in a journal with a high impact factor?  What does any of this mean, and does it matter?

Bibliometrics can be used in lots of ways to your advantage.  For example they can:

  • help you decide where to publish
  • help you to promote your research online
  • provide data to support funding bids
  • support promotion and job applications
  • benchmark your research performance against others in your field
  • benchmark the performance of your research group
  • benchmark the research performance of the institution