REF citations database to cover conference data

The database that will be used to help assess the quality of academics' work under the system being set up to replace the research assessment exercise is to be expanded to improve the information it provides.

The Web of Science database - which will be used to count how many times academics' work is cited by peers under the forthcoming research excellence framework - will now include conference proceedings as well as journal articles.

The company that runs the database, Thomson Reuters, was set to make the announcement this week at a conference that it is running jointly with King's College London, Beyond the RAE 2008: Bibliometrics, League Tables and the Research Excellence Framework.

The decision by the Higher Education Funding Council for England to use the Web of Science in the REF had been criticised because the system does not currently cover citations of conference proceedings, which can have a strong influence in fields such as engineering and computer science.

An analysis of responses to a recent consultation on the REF published by Hefce last week said: "Many raised concerns about the WoS coverage, especially with respect to conference proceedings."

James Pringle, Thomson Reuters vice-president of development, said that the decision to integrate the conference proceedings database was not a response to the REF per se, but would be "very helpful".

"The answer to whether disciplines like engineering and computer science, which have different patterns of scholarly communication, are being adequately served by the WoS database will be yes," he added.

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