Unholy goals and flawed methods
Keywords:Bibliometrics, h-index, the Bibliometric Research Indicator, Den bibliometriske Forskningsindikator, research evaluation
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
How to Cite
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).
- When self-archiving after the article has been published, please use the published version of the article.