Research metrics: an introduction

Research metrics aim to quantify and monitor the importance of published research.   The need to measure research performance is largely driven by the necessity to make funding decisions, but citation metrics are also used in some university ranking methodologies and when benchmarking institutions.  There are limitations to research metrics and consequently there is a wide range of discussion and activity in the area of responsible metrics to ensure that measures are used responsibly and that stakeholders experience a level playing field. 

Individual researchers might use metrics as evidence for promotion, job applications or as part of a grant application, or to inform a publication and communication strategy.  The publications analysed are usually, but not exclusively, journal articles.  

Research metrics can be divided into the following:

Citation metrics (bibliometrics)

Citation metrics count and analyse the number of times other researchers refer to (cite) a given publication and can be a useful measure of the level of attention and impact within scholarly publishing. They can be generated on article, author, publication or institutional level, and some are normalised for discipline, type and age of paper.  Citation metrics can be obtained from three sources - Web of ScienceScopus and Google Scholar.  The SciVal research analytics tool is built upon Scopus data and can be used for more detailed analysis and benchmarking.  

Smart Citation Platforms such as Scite and Semantic Scholar use artificial intelligence to provide more context to citations, for example which section of the article has been cited, and whether a citation is supporting or disputing.  

Alternative metrics ("altmetrics") 

Altmetrics summarise the level of attention received in social media and other platforms, offering useful information about impact outside scholarly publishing, and also serving as early indicators of possible intentions to cite a publication.  Altmetric badges are increasingly available in discovery and publisher platforms, and Birmingham researchers can also obtain altmetrics from Plum (embedded within Scopus) and   

Further help

Library Services' Research Skills Team offers online training on research metrics via our Influential Researcher Canvas Course

For one-to-one appointments and bespoke workshops, contact the Research Skills Team in Library Services.


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