Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Alternative Measures of Research Impact

Credit: madpixblue/Adobe

Credit: madpixblue/Adobe

By Paul X. McCarthy

New “altmetrics” tools are enabling universities and the private sector to identify emerging talent much earlier than traditional measures of academic publications and citations.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Since the 1960s the main measure of much of the world’s research has been the number of published references or citations it receives. For most academics, career success and the acquisition of grant money to continue their work depends heavily on the total amount of citations they receive from others, which in turn is usually related to the volume of work they have published.

But not all publishing venues are equal. A paper published in highly competitive journals such as Nature, Science or PNAS, or a citation received in another author’s paper, is likely to have more significance than one in less competitive journals.

Furthermore, the citations approach naturally disadvantages early-career researchers. Citations tend to accumulate slowly, and even the most productive authors are unlikely to amass many in the first few years.

Statistical analysis of citations, known as bibliometrics, allows us to measure the currency, influence and impact of the work of scholars who are working within the same field or discipline around the world. Despite the growth in data and tools to better understand the impact and influence of scholarship, there remain several key challenges with traditional bibliometrics.

  • How can the quality, not just quantity, of work be assessed?
  • How can scholars working in different domains be compared?
  • How...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.