IMU on Citation Statistics

A report from the International Mathematical Union on the use and misuse of citation statistics. Highly relevant with the proposed move toward citations counts as a basis for the new Research Evaluation Framework (REF, the successor to the Research Assessment Exercise, or RAE).
  • Relying on statistics is not more accurate when the statistics are improperly used. Indeed, statistics can mislead when they are misapplied or misunderstood. Much of modern bibliometrics seems to rely on experience and intuition about the interpretation and validity of citation statistics.
  • While numbers appear to be "objective", their objectivity can be illusory. The meaning of a citation can be even more subjective than peer review. Because this subjectivity is less obvious for citations, those who use citation data are less likely to understand their limitations.
  • The sole reliance on citation data provides at best an incomplete and often shallow understanding of research—an understanding that is valid only when reinforced by other judgments. Numbers are not inherently superior to sound judgments.

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