The use and misuse of bibliometric indices in evaluating scholarly performance

  • Howard I. Browman

Abstract

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Quantifying the relative performance of individual scholars, groups of scholars, departments, institutions,  provinces/states/regions and countries has become an integral part of decision-making over research policy,  funding allocations, awarding of grants, faculty hirings, and claims for promotion and tenure. Bibliometric  indices (based mainly upon citation counts), such as the h-index and the journal impact factor (JIF), are heavily  relied upon in such assessments. There is a growing consensus, and a deep concern, that these indices - moreand-more often used as a replacement for the informed judgment of peers - are misunderstood and are,  therefore, often misinterpreted and misused. Although much has been written about the JIF, some combination  of its biases and limitations will be true of any citation-based metric. While it is not my contention that  bibliometric indices have no value, they should not be applied as performance metrics without a thorough and  insightful understanding of their (few?) strengths and (many?) weaknesses. I will present a range of analyses in  support of this conclusion. Alternative approaches, tools and metrics, that will hopefully lead to a more  balanced role for these instruments, will also be presented.

Published
2015-11-24