Is multidisciplinary research more highly cited? A macro-level study

Jonathan Adams jonathan.adams at EVIDENCE.CO.UK
Mon Oct 13 04:39:55 EDT 2008

People may also be interested in Evidence Ltd's earlier study on
interdisciplinary research for the Higher Education Funding Council for
England, as part of the background development of the Research
Excellence Framework.
This report is a background document to HEFCE's consultation on
proposals for the Research Excellence Framework ('Research Excellence
Framework: consultation on the assessment and funding of higher
education research post-2008', HEFCE 2007/34).
We set out to develop an acceptable indicator of 'interdisciplinarity'
at the article level, rather than looking at articles in
multidisciplinary journals.  The report therefore considers how
interdisciplinary research could be defined for the purposes of
bibliometric analysis, and whether such research is systematically cited
less often and could potentially be disadvantaged in a
bibliometrics-based system of research assessment.
The Evidence study found that there is no strong case for research
outputs to be treated differently for the purposes of research
assessment on the grounds of interdisciplinarity, but advises that
bibliometric analysis of such outputs should be carried out carefully to
ensure they are treated appropriately.
Of course, the way in which we categorise more or less interdisciplinary
research is important.  We exposed the methodology to senior researchers
who had worked on previous RAE panels.  They agreed that our working
definition seemed to make intuitive sense in the context of their
(various) fields - which include social science.
Jonathan Adams

Evidence Ltd
103 Clarendon Road, Leeds LS2 9DF, UK
t/ +44 (0) 113 384 5680

Registered in England No. 4036650
VAT Registration: GB 758 4671 85

Please note that Evidence Ltd does not enter into any form of contract
via this medium, nor is our staff authorised to do so on our behalf.
-----Original Message-----
From: ASIS&T Special Interest Group on Metrics
[mailto:SIGMETRICS at LISTSERV.UTK.EDU] On Behalf Of Jonathan Levitt and
Mike Thelwall
Sent: 13 October 2008 00:23
Subject: [SIGMETRICS] Is multidisciplinary research more highly cited? A
macro-level study

Levitt, J.M. and Thelwall, M. (2008). Is multidisciplinary research more

highly cited? A macro-level study. Journal of the American Society for 
Information Science and Technology, 59(12), 1973-1984.

Inter-disciplinary collaboration is a major goal in research policy.
study uses citation analysis to examine diverse subjects in the Web of 
Science and Scopus to ascertain whether, in general, research published
journals classified in more than one subject is more highly cited than 
research published in journals classified in a single subject. For each 
subject the study divides the journals into two disjoint sets called
and Mono: Multi consists of all journals in the subject and at least one

other subject, whereas Mono consists of all journals in the subject and
no other subject. The main findings are: (a) For social science subject 
categories in both the Web of Science and Scopus, the average citation 
levels of articles in Mono and Multi are very similar, and (b) For
subject categories within Life Sciences, Health Sciences, and Physical 
Sciences, the average citation level of Mono articles is roughly twice
of Multi articles. Hence one cannot assume that, in general, multi-
disciplinary research will be more highly cited, and the converse is 
probably true for many areas of science. A policy implication is that,
least in the sciences, multi-disciplinary researchers should not be 
evaluated by citations on the same basis as mono-disciplinary

Reported in the Times Higher Education (REF could penalise those working

across disciplines,

Jonathan Levitt and Mike Thelwall

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