The use and misuse of bibliometric indices in evaluating scholarly performance

Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics (ESEP), Vol. 8, No. 1, 2008.

Quantifying the relative performance of individual scholars, groups of scholars, departments, institutions, provinces/states/regions and countries has become an integral part of decision-making over research policy, funding allocations, awarding of grants, faculty hirings, and claims for promotion and tenure. Bibliometric indices (based mainly upon citation counts), such as the h-index and the journal impact factor, are heavily relied upon in such assessments. There is a growing consensus, and a deep concern, that these indices — more-and-more often used as a replacement for the informed judgement of peers — are misunderstood and are, therefore, often misinterpreted and misused. The articles in this ESEP Theme Section present a range of perspectives on these issues. Alternative approaches, tools and metrics that will hopefully lead to a more balanced role for these instruments are presented.

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