Impact metrics; bibliometrics; evaluation; Google Scholar; Microsoft Academic Graph; Scopus; Web of Science
National Science Foundation
Library and Information Science | Other Social and Behavioral Sciences | Political Science | Scholarly Publishing
Virtually every evaluative task in the academy involves some sort of metric (Elkana et al. 1978; Espeland & Sauder 2016; Gingras 2016; Hix 2004; Jensenius et al. 2018; Muller 2018; Osterloh and Frey 2015; Todeschini & Baccini 2016; Van Noorden 2010; Wilsdon et al. 2015). One can decry this development, and inveigh against its abuses and its over-use (as many of the foregoing studies do). Yet, without metrics, we would be at pains to render judgments about scholars, published papers, applications (for grants, fellowships, and conferences), journals, academic presses, departments, universities, or subfields. Of course, we also undertake to judge these issues ourselves through a deliberative process that involves reading the work under evaluation. This is the traditional approach of peer review. No one would advocate a system of evaluation that is entirely metric-driven. Even so, reading is time-consuming and inherently subjective; it is, after all, the opinion of one reader (or several readers, if there is a panel of reviewers). It is also impossible to systematically compare these judgments. To be sure, one might also read, and assess, the work of other scholars, but this does not provide a systematic basis for comparison – unless, that is, a standard metric(s) of comparison is employed. Finally, judging scholars through peer review becomes logistically intractable when the task shifts from a single scholar to a large group of scholars or a large body of work, e.g., a journal, a department, a university, a subfield, or a discipline. It is impossible to read, and assess, a library of work.
Gerring, John, Sebastian Karcher, and Brendan Apfeld. 2020. “Impact Metrics.” In The Production of Knowledge: Enhancing Progress in Social Science, edited by Colin Elman, James Mahoney, and John Gerring, 371–400. Strategies for Social Inquiry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108762519.015
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