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News Feature: Bibliometrics

For some iSchools, Bibliometrics represent a staple research area, and bibliometrics have become especially important in recent decades as more and more universities use impact factors and rankings to evaluate faculty performance. This use of Bibliometrics is not free of controversy, as Retraction Watch noted in its latest edition of RW Daily “What role do bibliometrics ‘have beyond the institutional contexts in which...they were designed?’"¹

Eugenio Petrovich writes in his Blog post, which Retraction Watch references: “the numbers produced with the techniques of bibliometrics, such as the Journal Impact Factor or the h-index, have been put under the lens to better understand how they influence the behaviour of scientists and scholars and, more deeply, the very production of knowledge.”² Petrovich references a 2018 paper in arXiv called “Opium in science and society: Numbers” by Julian N. Marewski, Lutz Bornmann that says: “Which scientific author, hiring committee-member, or advisory board panelist has not been confronted with page-long ‘publication manuals’, ‘assessment reports’, ‘evaluation guidelines’, calling for p-values, citation rates, h-indices, or other statistics in order to motivate judgments about the ‘quality’ of findings, applicants, or institutions? Yet, many of those relying on and calling for statistics do not even seem to understand what information those numbers can actually convey, and what not.”³

One of the further concerns that Petrovich raises is “that journalists frequently use the IF as a quality seal for science news: the IF is presented as a warrant of scientific reliability for the news reported, without mentioning shortcomings or limitation of the IF itself.”⁴

For the iSchools community, what is interesting here is that one of our research and teaching areas plays a significant role in scholarly evaluation. Petrovich is writing primarily about Italy, but many universities in many countries have an equally strong focus on evaluation using bibliometric methods. If nothing else, it serves as a sign of the influence of information science on the academic world.



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