Is bibliometrics at danger?

Isidro F. Aguillo isidro.aguillo at CCHS.CSIC.ES
Mon Oct 6 04:36:15 EDT 2014

During our last conferences (Vienna, Berlin, Leiden) we discussed the 
problems related to the uncontrolled usage of bibliometric techniques by 
people without enough knowledge of the quality standards needed for 
research assessment. In fact with the spread usage of “bad” 
bibliometrics the discipline is starting to be viewed as irrelevant or 
seriously flawed and biased. It is important to read carefully the now 
famous DORA declaration that not only discourages the usage of the 
impact factor but it is also attacking the whole citation analysis as 
the recommended evaluation tool.

I already mentioned during the Vienna session that from a practical 
point of view the success of certain rankings of Universities that use 
flawed citation data is also a source of potential danger for the 
prestige of the discipline.

A few days ago the British magazine Times Higher Education (THE) 
published the last edition of its very popular ranking of Universities. 
Besides a reputation survey-based indicator they also collect citation 
data (30% of the overall score) that during the last years have produced 
very striking results. Among others, you can check in the current 
edition that Federico Santa Maria Technical University, Chile has a 
larger score than Harvard or Princeton, Tokyo Metropolitan University 
larger than Caltech or Stanford, or Bogazici University, Turkey is 
performing better than Oxford or Cambridge.

My point here is that data does not come from a THE journalist but, 
surprise, directly from Thomson Reuters, as stated in their methodology 
webpage: “this year, our data supplier Thomson Reuters examined more 
than 50 million citations to 6 million journal articles, published over 
five years. The data are drawn from the 12,000 academic journals indexed 
by Thomson Reuters' Web of Science database and include all indexed 
journals published between 2008 and 2012. Citations to these papers made 
in the six years from 2008 to 2013 are also collected”.

You can find a very good analysis with tables in the blog of Richard 

I know that Thomson Reuters is an independent private company, but I 
wonder if our community as represented in this forum could ask for a 
strong action regarding this unfortunate situation.


Isidro F. Aguillo, HonDr.
The Cybermetrics Lab, IPP-CSIC
Grupo Scimago
Madrid. SPAIN

isidro.aguillo at
ORCID 0000-0001-8927-4873
ResearcherID: A-7280-2008
Scholar Citations SaCSbeoAAAAJ
Twitter @isidroaguillo
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