Where quality counts

British Journal of Comparative Research Measurement
Volume 26. No. 143 November 2007
Author: Gordon Lapping BA, University of Poppleton
"Whither bibliometric quality measurements? The case for the use of citations as an index of research quality"

November 16, 2007


In recent years, some degree of dissatisfaction has been expressed with the current methods of evaluating research quality in the UK (Lapping 2005). Such dissatisfaction has now led the heads of funding councils to propose a move towards "per paper" citations as an index of research quality. (Lapping 2007).

This paper will initially evaluate the relative advantages and disadvantages of citations over other forms of bibliometric measurement and conclude that this is indeed a wholly admirable method of determining research quality (Lapping 2001, Lapping 2002, Lapping 2004).

It will then address the claims that the use of citations as an index of quality may in certain circumstances lead to distorting effects upon the behaviour of academics (Lapping and Lapping 2003). Particular attention will be paid to recent research from the Netherlands (Lapping 2006), where the introduction of such a system led to an "exceptional rise" in the number of citations for Dutch academics and in the country's overall share of citations (Lapping and Lapping 2007). All this compelling statistical evidence will be casually dismissed as of no importance whatsoever (Lapping 2007).

Finally, the paper will turn to the complex question of whether the value of the citations index is undermined by the empirically observed tendency in such a system for academics to refer to their own work (Lapping, Lapping and Lapping 2005). This objection will be soundly refuted by referring to the recent statement by Jonathan Edwards of the consultants Evidence Ltd in which he asserted that "those who are ahead in their field will always cite their own work. To penalise these self-citations would be antithetical to research". The paper will conclude with new evidence that pigs can fly (Lapping and Lapping 2007).

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