Research unpacked

I have spent most of the week fiddling about with details of publications and grant codes in Excel, in an effort to make us look good present an accurate picture of my Institute’s publications and matching them up with our research programmes over the last three years. These will all go into MRC’s new e-Val system (also now on Twitter ).

Love them or hate them – and most people hate them – research impact indicators Ref1 are a feature of today’s research world. John Suslston may say that journal-based metrics “are the disease of our times” but funders still insist on research impact and have devised systems to gather in data. There has been a buzz for more than a year around the RAE being replaced by the REF and adopting a bibliometric approach. Recently it was revealed that HEFCE are backing away from bibliometrics in the REF, but this doesn’t seem to have stemmed the tide of interest in metrics. I mean, indicators.
A little while back Richard blogged on this topic, generating a very interesting comments thread. he mentioned the recent ALPSP meeting on research impact. Richard will be co-presenting a session on this topic at the Science Online meeting on Saturday.
The one indicator that seems most significant to me is the amount of publisher interest in developing indicators. Thomson of course have long been the great wizards of bibliometrics and continue to be major players, particularly since their acquisition of Evidence Ltd. I have had presentations recently about two new or forthcoming products from newer entrants into this market – Elsevier’s SciVal Spotlight and NPG’s still gestating Nature Trends. Both promised interesting new ways to look at research outputs (i.e. publications). They are aimed at Universities rather than specialist research institutes, though NPG’s product looked to be the more flexible. Whether I could ever justify spending scarce funds on these kind of products is another matter. I believe that Richard is also working on some kind of research impact project over at F1000. He has hinted this but not explicitly said as much. It would certainly make a lot of sense for F1000 to move into that territory.
Next on my agenda will be helping to prepare for our QuinQuennial Review (QQR), which starts this autumn. I just downloaded the Publish or Perish programme and tried it out. It looks fun, providing all kinds of magic numbers in an instant. Unfortunately it will take me about two days to figure out what all the different numbers mean, if they mean anything at all.

1 Note I call them indicators not metrics, following Jonathan Adams’ usage – he insists that “metrics” is a misnomer.

About Frank Norman

I am a retired librarian. I spent 40 years working in biomedical research libraries.
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