Citation counts could form a key component of a slimmed-down RAE (Soapbox, THES , February 15). Citations have three merits: they reflect the view of the international academic community rather than that of a small expert panel; they are objective and transparent; and they are immune to grade inflation. Drawbacks include bias towards established researchers and against excellent work in obscure fields. Poor work may sometimes be cited in order to correct it.
We counted the citations accrued in 1998 by each permanent staff member in 37 UK psychology departments spanning the range of RAE performance. We derived the mean number of citations per person per year for each department and correlated them with RAE grades obtained by the same departments in 1996. The correlation was 0.91. The correlation with the 2001 grades was 0.85 - the slight fall is expected as citation rates are historical. Both correlations are remarkably high. Whatever the shortcomings of the RAE and citation counts, they measure broadly the same thing.
Andy Smith and Mike Eysenck
Department of psychology
Royal Holloway, University of London