Bibliometric research: Authors

Note: This tutorial was originally written for Publish or Perish version 4 and all screenshots come from this version. However, the information as such is also applicable for the latest Publish or Perish version 5.

Publish or Perish can be used to do systematic bibliometric research for authors. The key question in this type of study is what population of authors to include. Of course this is largely dependent on your research question.

Comparing data sources and metrics across disciplines

If your aim is to study the impact of different data sources or different metrics for comparisons across disciplines, you will obviously need to select academics from a broad range of disciplines. This is what we did in this paper where we compared 146 academics across the Sciences, Life Sciences, Engineering, Social Sciences and Humanities.

The screenshot below shows a small part of the multi-query centre folders that were created for this project.


Creating rankings of individual academics

However, most academics that are using Publish or Perish to do bibliometric research intend to create some sort of ranking of individual academics. This necessitates a more focused population. The following options are possible.

Pick a specific discipline

In order for a ranking to make any sense to your readers, it is usually best to limit your population by discipline. However, even within disciplines there can be very substantial differences in typical citation scores. Hence your definition of discipline might need to be fairly narrow. Nosek (2010) and his co-authors analysed citation data for more than 600 academics in the field of Social Psychology in the US and Canada, using Google scholar and Publish or Perish to gather their data.

The authors’ data management and search procedures are exemplary. Anyone wanting to conduct bibliometric research on authors would be well advised to read their paper. The paper also has an excellent supplementary page with career-stage impact calculators, additional analyses and search tips.

  • Nosek, B. A., Graham, J., Lindner, N. M., Kesebir, S., Hawkins, C. B., Hahn, C., ... & Tenney, E. R. (2010). Cumulative and career-stage citation impact of social-personality psychology programs and their members. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36(10), 1283-1300.

Pick a specific country

An additional way to narrow down your population is by country. This both limits the scope of the data collection effort and reduces differences caused by different research traditions in different countries. As most studies aim to produce norm scores of some sort, this is a good thing. Obviously, if your research question is to compare the impact of different research traditions on citation patterns, your choice would be different.

Pick academics who share specific attributes

As even narrowing down the population by discipline or country can leave you with a very large number of academics, most studies narrow down their field even further by studying academics that share specific attributes. These attributes could for instance be:

  • Working at the top 5/10/20 universities (however defined) in the country
  • Being a fellow of one of the major professional association in the discipline
  • Being editor or editorial board member of one of journals in the discipline
  • Having been president of a major professional association in the field
  • Having won a major research award (e.g. dissertation award, Nobel prize)
  • Having done their PhD at a specific set of institutions.

Obviously, your selection would need to make sense in the context of your research questions. There are only so many simple exploratory ranking studies that can be published, even if you are personally very interested in the results.

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