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Measuring Scholarly Impact

December 7, 2016

Think of all the people who say you changed their life for the better. That is one analogy to describe the impact of a single scholar on their discipline: by tracking and analyzing the citations to all the articles that scholar has ever written. Now also think to say that Drexel improved the lives of people challenged by any number of problems in the world - problems addressed by the extensive research undertaken here. It is possible to measure the impact of the whole university by tracking citations to research publications written by Drexel faculty. In the past, that was a daunting task, but now it is becoming fairly straightforward using various analytic tools, such as InCites, available through Drexel University Libraries. InCites uses data from the Web of Science citation indexes, enabling a form of analysis called 'evaluative bibliometrics.'

Bibliometrics emerged in the 1960s as an innovative application of statistical methods to the study of bibliographic data. In simple terms, counting publications [books and articles] is used to describe research output. In turn, counting the number of times a publication has been cited by others is used to measure the impact of that research. In the 1970s, more sophisticated analyses such as looking at trends over time and relations across institutions introduced evaluative bibliometrics tools that are used to assess the quality of research output. West Philadelphia - with researchers at Drexel, the University of Pennsylvania and entrepreneurial information science companies - was a site of much of the pioneering work behind the development of this field. The principles of citation analysis are far-reaching, with applications in many fields and products today, including the development of algorithms used in visualizations of patent relationships and Google's PageRank, for example.

For Drexel researchers working in the STEM disciplines, InCites provides new ways to look at the impact of research from a number of different perspectives. For example, InCites can be used to look at which federal funding agencies are funding high-impact (highly cited) research in a particular area. Organizations can, in turn, use this information to identify new sources of research funding. InCites analyses can be useful in identifying current research collaborators and in uncovering new ones - by individual or institution - at both the national and global levels. Using InCites, faculty and administrators can produce reports on Drexel's research publications with the ability to analyze by discipline, funder, collaborating partner or publication.

Drexel librarians are developing expertise in utilizing these and other tools to help prepare evidence of the University's improving connections to scholarship and rankings among research institutions. Producing this type of analysis can also provide insight for accreditation reviews. Similarly, it can help benchmark Drexel's performance with its peer universities.

Faculty and administrators can explore InCites using the link from the top line menu in the Web of Science, using their Web of Science log-in credentials. Consultation with a Liaison Librarian or use of the Scholarly Impact Measures Libguide will offer tips on getting started or digging into more complex analyses. Anyone may read a Libguide, but links to some further references are limited to Drexel students, faculty and employees.

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