Friday, 12 February 2010

Publishing for the REF?

Where Periodicals Go to Die

I'm increasingly being asked to support our staff and PhD students in the field of publishing. I guess from two angles:

1) What sources can we use to determine good publications to target - especially in the context of the REF.
2) Are there any good sources of guidance on writing for publication.

For the first I'm going have to develop my knowledge of the REF a bit. It's all very well being aware of the sources that folks can use (e.g. JCR, Web of Knowledge, Scopus) but these things need to be taken in the context of what the REF is going to be assessing. Are measures such as impact factors the 'be all and end all', or will the REF take other factors into consideration?

To help me with this I'm taking a look at this document:

HEFCE, 2009. Report on the pilot exercise to develop bibliometric indicators for the Research Excellence Framework. [Accessed 12 February 2010].

It outlines the pilot study to 'develop the bibliometrics element of the Research Excellence Framework'. I think it's worth emphasising that bibliometrics is just one element of the REF and other factors may need to be taken into account when choosing where to publish. One of the key points of the study is the conclusion that bibliometrics are not robust enough to replace expert review... but citation analysis may inform the review. Another finding is that the effectiveness of bibliometrics varies depending on your subject area (i.e. bibliometrics are going to be more effective in those subject areas that rely most heavily on journals for dissemination).

So how do you know how important bibliometrics are going to be in in informing expert review in your subject area? Annex H. of the document above is a study on the availability of citation data in different subject areas and offers some analysis of how important citations might be. For my area (Health and Social Care) it's mixed news!

‘Health sciences’ is a mixed area. Many staff are professionally engaged and used
practitioner journals not well covered by commercial data. Others are in areas that
provide excellent bibliometrics. This is therefore an area in which bibliometrics may be
seen by some commentators to provide useful information but which in practice cannot
be assumed to provide sufficient information without support from peer review. (HEFCE 2009: 154)

This suggests to me that expert reviews in health sciences will not rely solely on citations (as they recognise that many practice based researchers will be disseminating research in professional journals). I think the holy grail as far as choosing where to publish goes, will be to find journals that do well in JCR and on Scopus but are also well read by practitioners.


HEFCE, 2009. Report on the pilot exercise to develop bibliometric indicators for the Research Excellence Framework. Bristol: HEFCE. Available from: [Accessed 12 February 2010].

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