Why metrics support?
Research metrics or indicators are quantitative measures designed to evaluate research outputs. The term encompasses citation metrics, also known as bibliometrics, which are based on traditional scholarly citations, and ‘alternative’ metrics based on attention in social media, news, policy documents, code repositories and other online sources. These metrics are increasingly being used to benchmark research performance and provide an indication of research impact in funding applications, by promotion and progression boards, and feed into university league table rankings and REF2021 assessments.
It’s attractive to think that the complexities of evaluating one piece of research against another could be simplified by using metrics, but these indicators have serious limitations that must be acknowledged if they are to be used effectively. Metrics are significantly affected by differences in citation patterns across disciplines, sub-specialities, and researcher career stage, and can be subject to ‘gaming’ – deliberate inflation of citation counts. As a result, qualitative review must always be used alongside a range of indicators to give a true picture of research impact.
“Carefully selected indicators can complement decision-making, but a ‘variable geometry’ of expert judgement, quantitative indicators and qualitative measures that respect research diversity will be required.”
Wilsdon, J., et al. (2015). The Metric Tide: Report of the Independent Review of the Role of Metrics in Research Assessment and Management. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.4929.1363
With this in mind, the library’s Research Support team has launched a researcher metrics support service to help researchers access accurate metrics data, and select and interpret appropriate indicators. The scope of the service was determined in consultation with Research and Enterprise Development (RED); library support will focus on individual researchers, whereas RED will retain support for strategic bids and projects requiring metrics information.
Useful research metrics are dependent on the quality of the source data: accurately attributed publications. A key task for the metrics service will be to help researchers correct attribution information for their publications. The University subscribes to SciVal for access to research management information based on Scopus citation data, so initially this support will focus on Scopus author profiles, although other systems will be added later if there is demand. Additionally, we promote the use of ORCiD researcher identifiers to easily link author profiles in different systems, including Scopus and the University’s current research information system, Pure.
Other library support offered to researchers includes:
- web guidance
- workshops (in development)
- SciVal deskside training
- enquiry service
The online guidance covers a range of topics, including an overview of important indicators and where they can be accessed, suggested use cases for metrics, an introduction to different tools available to access and analyse indicators, and signposts to the support available from RED and other departments.