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Friday, June 20, 2008

Math societies critique impact factor, mention OA advantage

Robert Adler, et al., Citation Statistics, a report by the International Mathematical Union, the International Council of Industrial and Applied Mathematics, and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, June 12, 2008. (Thanks to Wired Campus.) From the executive summary:

This is a report about the use and misuse of citation data in the assessment of scientific research. ... There is a belief that citation statistics are inherently more accurate because they substitute simple numbers for complex judgments, and hence overcome the possible subjectivity of peer review. But this belief is unfounded. ...

We do not dismiss citation statistics as a tool for assessing the quality of research—citation data and statistics can provide some valuable information. ... But citation data provide only a limited and incomplete view of research quality ... Research is too important to measure its value with only a single coarse tool.

... If we set high standards for the conduct of science, surely we should set equally high standards for assessing its quality.

From the body of the report, discussing the ambiguous meaning (and thus value) of citations:
... [M]ost citations are rhetorical. ... Why is this important? Because unlike "reward" citations, which tend to refer to seminal papers, the choice of which paper to cite rhetorically depends on many factors—the prestige of the cited author (the "halo" effect), the relationship of the citing and cited authors, the availability of the journal (Are open access journals more likely to be cited?), the convenience of referencing several results from a single paper, and so forth. Few of these factors are directly related to the "quality" of the cited paper. ...
Comment. In a recent post, I suggested "OA [would become] a more mainstream topic in scientometrics ...". As if on cue, here is a mainstream report on scientometrics, suggesting that the accessibility of a paper may be a factor in how frequently it is cited. The discussion of the OA advantage goes no further than that in the excerpt, but that it even warrants a mention is noteworthy.

See my further comments at