Monday, 15 February 2010

Sources for bibliometrics in the REF

Web of Knowledge cake

This is the second of a series of posts summarising what I'm reading about the use of bibliometrics in the Research Excellence Framework. The first post looked at how influential bibliometrics are likely to be in informing the REF in the health fields.

So, working on the assumption that citation analysis is going to at least influence expert review in the health field, what are the best sources to use to find journals to publish in? As part of the REF, a lot of research has been carried out to assess the pros and cons of the various citation databases on the market.

This document: Appraisal of Citation Data Sources: A report to HEFCE by the Centre for Science and Technology Studies concludes that Scopus is a serious alternative to WoS in the science fields. There are gaps though (for example Scopus does not index journals from cover-to-cover like WoS, so there are some articles and reviews that might be indexed in WoS but are not available in Scopus). Swings and roundabouts though as Scopus is judged to be more accurate in some areas. One example is that it preserves author affiliations for all co-authors, wheras WoS only lists the institution of the first author.

There is a subject element to this as well:

"The comparison of WoS and Scopus coverage of the ‘best’ publications submitted to the 2001 RAE showed that Scopus coverage is especially better in the Subject Group Subjects allied to Health, as well as to a lesser extent also in Engineering & Computer Science and Health Sciences." (Meod and Visser 2008)

So Scopus can't be ignored - especially in the subject areas mentioned above. But I think maybe it's best not to get too hung up on the bibliometrics side of things. The latest REF guide from HEFCE clearly states that citation analysis will only be used only in those subject areas for which citation data is considered to be a strong indicator of outputs and that other methods will also be used (HEFCE 2009). It's highly likely that other indicators will be taken into account in the health sciences fields.


HEFCE, 2009. The Research Excellence Framework: A brief guide to the proposals. Bristol: HEFCE. Available from: [Accessed 15 February 2010].

Moed, H.F. and Visser, M.S., 2008. Appraisal of Citation Data Sources: A report to HEFCE by the Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University. Bristol: HEFCE. Available from: [Accessed 15 February 2010].

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