Insights into new tools for measuring the impact of research publications, by Paul Wouters and Rodrigo Costas (CWTS)
What is the scientific and social impact of my research publications?
This question has been of interest to scientists and scholars since the inception of modern science 400 years ago. But it was hard to answer. This may now be changing. Scholarship is transforming into a variety of digital networked forms. These developments have created new possibilities and challenges in the evaluation of the quality of research. This is of interest to research funders assessing the quality of research. It is also relevant to the individual researchers interested in assessing their career development.
Exploring the explosion of tracking tools
Under commission of SURFfoundation and being part of the Surfshare Programme and more specifically the work package focused on investigating new ways of measuring the quality and impact of scientific output, research has been done to investigate the explosion of tracking tools that have accompanied the surge of web based information instruments. Is it possible to monitor ‘real-time’ how new research findings are being read, cited, used and transformed in practical results and applications? And what are the potential risks and disadvantages of the new tracking tools? The aim of the research is to contribution to a better understanding of these developments by providing a detailed assessment of the currently available novel tools and methodologies. A total of 16 quite different tools are assessed.
Tools allow for self-assessment
The research report concludes that web based academic publishing is producing a variety of novel information filters. These allow the researcher to make some sort of limited self-assessment with respect to the response to his/her work. However, this does not mean that these technologies and databases can also legitimately be used in research assessments. For this application, they need to adhere to a far stricter protocol of data quality and indicator reliability and validity. Most new tools do not (yet) comply with these more strict quality criteria.
More useful tools required for the scientific and scholarly community
The report therefore advises to start a concerted research programme in the dynamics, properties, and potential use of new web based metrics which relates these new measures to the already established indicators of publication impact. Its goal would be to contribute to the development of more useful tools for the scientific and scholarly community. This programme should monitor at least the following tools: F1000, Microsoft Academic Research, Total-Impact, PlosONE altmetrics, and Google Scholar. The programme should moreover develop the following key research themes: concepts of new web metrics and altmetrics; standardisation of tools and data; and the use and normalisation of the new metrics.