How to Measure the Impact of Scholarship

Stemming from a conversation with one of my faculty members, I began trying to define, explain, and provide support to the concepts of impact factors or other journal/article evaluation tools.  Being a smaller, more instruction-focused campus, we don’t currently use impact factor ratings as part of the scholarship evaluation of our faculty.  However, more and more my faculty are collaborating with researchers at other institutions, so they (and I) need to know how to speak the language of modern scholarly communication.  To help expedite your questions in the area, here are a few key terms to be familiar with and tools you can use to support your curious faculty.

Impact factor

  • measures the number of citations from the average article in a journal over a span of about 2 years
  • started in the 1960s by Thompson Reuters
  • originally used as a collection development tool to help identify most popular journals for library purchasing
  • impact factor for a journal is now incorporated as a way to evaluate individual article impact, influencing where authors try to publish
  • Problem: peaked around the 1990s, as the advent and increased utilization of the internet has moved people away from using print resources and only having scholarly communication in journals
Further Readings

The Thomson Reuters Impact Factor

The Demise of the Impact Factor

The Weakening Relationship between the Impact Factor and Papers’ Citations in the Digital Age

Other Factors

Eigenfactor – “measure of the journal’s total importance to the scientific community” – aka big journals=big scores

Altmetrics – tracking system that attempts to note not just the electronic article usage in digital forms like Twitter or CiteULike, but also other information resources like datasets or blogs.  This is tough to tackle but the various tools below are starting to develop some interesting methodologies

So, like many things, the digital age, the increased retrieve-and-shareability of research is changing how we consider the value of research.  In the full circle of things, I wonder how these other metrics, particularly Altmetrics, can impact our collection development, too.  I look forward to discussing these concepts and more at the ACRL Scholarly Communications Roadshow at JMU.

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