Publish or Perish increases transparency in academic appointments

Illustrates how PoP has been used to expose nepotism and incompetence

Until the editors insisted on a more neutral title, my first ever article on Google Scholar for citation analysis in 2007 for Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics was entitled: "Google Scholar: The democratization of citation analysis". In my view Google Scholar has played a major role in “democratizing” citation analysis (see also Harzing & Mijhardt, 2015). By using the Publish or Perish software everyone with a computer and Internet access can run bibliometric searches.

Publish or Perish is everywhere

Not surprisingly, the software is used all over the world, from individual academics and librarians in more than 80 countries to governments departments (e.g. US Dept of Energy, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Agency for International Development), from grant giving agencies (e.g. SSHRC in Canada, CNRS in France) to research laboratories (e.g. Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, IBM).

Non-English language publications

Academics that publish in languages other than English need to rely on Google Scholar if they want more than incidental coverage of their work. My earlier blogpost Do Google Scholar, Scopus and the Web of Science speak your language? documented this issue in some detail. Just like East Asians, they might also find that Thomson Reuters Web of Knowledge isn’t particularly well versed in accurately distinguishing academics with non-English names (see Harzing, 2015). 


Elite as well as under-resourced universities

It is gratifying to note that the PoP software is widely used at elite universities such as Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Oxford, and Cambridge, universities that have comprehensive access to commercial alternatives. However, it is even more satisfying to see its equally high use at under-resourced universities in countries such as Armenia, Botswana, Mongolia, Paraguay, Tajikistan, and Uruguay. More generally, there are over a thousand libraries worldwide that list the software as a free alternative to Scopus and the Web of Science. Google Scholar (and more recently, Microsoft Academic Search) and Publish or Perish clearly fill a need!

Improving transparency and meritocracy

Closer to (my current) home, the software and Google Scholar are particularly popular in Italy, Greece, and Poland, countries in which many universities do not have access to Scopus or the Web of Science either. What I find particularly pleasing is that in both Italy and Greece, the software has been used regularly to promote transparency and meritocracy in university appointments.

Italian academics caught on to the potential of Publish or Perish at an early stage. The Italian newspaper Linkiesta (18 Nov 2011) used Publish or Perish to compare the academic credentials of ministers in the new Monti government with those in the old Berlusconi government. In 2012 an article published in The Italian newsmagazine l'Espresso, one of the two most prominent Italian weeklies, used Publish or Perish to expose nepotism in Italian academia.

In October 2016, an article published in România Liberă, one of the leading newspapers in Romania, suggests readers to use Publish or Perish to assess the relevance of academics and promote a more meritocratic system of appointment in universities and other academic bodies. [With special thanks to my colleague Daniela Lup for deciphering the Romanian text].


So I think my initial claim, now nearly 10 years ago, was right: Google Scholar and Publish or Perish have had a democratizing effect on citation analysis. There are now many more so-called citizen-bibliometricians. Next time, I will stick to my more provocative title!

Watch an interview on the Publish or Perish software