Lance Armstrong and Academic Impact

It is not enough to just publish in academia. Work has to have value. The easiest, and clearest, way to measure value is to see how many times an article (or book for those in humanities a la Kevin Carnahan) has been cited by other scholars. Of course, attention to ones work is not always positive (ask Andrew Wakefield), but for the most part getting an article cited in another article (or book) is considered a win.

Those of you with a Google Scholar account can see how many times your work has been cited by others….according to Google. Read the following clearly, Google citation counts are inflated. always. end. of. story. More than once I have overheard faculty members stating that they report the Google Scholar citation counts because, “they are higher” than those reported by agencies such as the Web of Science, Scopus, and other academic-oriented organizations that keep track of citations. This is akin to Lance Armstrong justifying cheating by saying that everyone else was doping, so why should he not do it as well.

Additionally, I have recently discovered that you can add papers to your Google Scholar Profile, even if you are not an author of said paper.  But more on that later.

This is not to say that citation counts from the Web of Science or Scopus are perfect, but they are at least based on something that is verifiable.

About Nicholas Wyant

Information does not want to be free. Fake News does not exist. Friends on Facebook are not really friends. I can ruin any party/social setting in mere seconds.
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1 Response to Lance Armstrong and Academic Impact

  1. Stacy Konkiel says:

    I’d disagree with your statement that citations in Google Scholar aren’t verifiable. GS links out to all the citing papers, so you can read for yourself if they’re good or bad. That’s the beauty of the platform.

    You’re right in that each platform has positives & negatives w/r/t the type of citation data they provide. Google Scholar’s biggest drawback is that the papers aren’t always peer reviewed papers, like Scopus & WoS. But they also have much more international coverage than either Scopus or WoS; I’ve found citations to my work in Chinese and Polish LIS journals that wouldn’t be discoverable elsewhere, since Scopus & WoS both a) aren’t that international in scope b) don’t do LIS research literature very well.

    Google Scholar does a good job of documenting the limitations to their citation database; I’d argue Scopus & WoS aren’t as good at making their limitations clear to users. It’s up to the user to teach themselves about the quality of the data they’re drawing upon, and of librarians to objectively present the limitations of all platforms and the fact that no metric is objectively better or worse than another–they all have different uses, limitations, and advantages.

    As to whether or not GS cites are inflated–that’s a very subjective statement. You can either choose to think of them as “inflated” if you only see their citations as being junk, or as “offering more coverage, but with less quality control” if you see them for what they are: a source of data that’s not perfect, but does tell us more about the use of our scholarship among a more diverse audience (w/r/t to internationality and status (student, prof, postdoc, etc)) than traditional citation databases.

    And to your point about gaming GS by adding papers you didn’t author to your profile (or doing anything else that’s underhanded, like creating fake citations)–sure, some people might do that, but given the transparency of the data, who’d risk their reputation and career by doing it?

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