Unholy goals and flawed methods
A problematic practice has evolved, which is threatening to undermine research in the social sciences and humanities. Bibliometrics is often claimed to be able to measure researchers’ efficiency. We find this quite problematic and, in this article, we illustrate this point by discussing two different bibliometric practices. One is the so-called h-index, the other the so-called BFI-points (Den bibliometriske Forskningsindikator, The Bibliometric Research Indicator). The BFI was never intended to be used for evaluating individual researchers and their productivity. Yet since its introduction in 2008 especially the social sciences and the humanities experience a pressure to deliver “BFI points” and academic job advertisements within the social sciences and the humanities increasingly mention expectations for people’s past and/or future production of BFI points.
The h-index is even more problematic because no one academic database covers all the research publications in the world. The whole thing is completely disorganized, and as many as five different h-indexes exist for each researcher. What makes the h-index even more useless is that it will not let you make comparisons across disciplines. Furthermore, like other simple measurements, it is liable to be manipulated and misinterpreted. On that background, it is remarkable that numbers extracted from incomplete databases are used for describing the quality of researchers and their institutions.
Originally published in Weekend Avisen (in Danish, Toll Access) on February 14, 2020. English abstract freely available at: https://librarygazette.net/2020/02/17/an-unnecessary-evil
Daniella Bayle Deutz, Thea Marie Drachen, Dorte Drongstrup, Niels Opstrup og Charlotte Wien (2020) “Quantitative quality: A study on how performance-based measures may change the publication patterns of Danish researchers”, forthcoming
Copyright (c) 2020 Charlotte Wien, Bertil Fabricius Dorch
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