As a Social Scientist, my single biggest concern with the focus on research metrics is that ISI citations drawn from the ISI General search function (and their derivatives, such as the ISI h-index) are still the most commonly used metric. As the analysis in this chapter shows, this seriously disadvantages academics in both Engineering/Computer Science and the Social Sciences and Humanities as it underestimates citations records in these fields.
We started out our story with our professors in Science out-performing our professors in the Social Sciences and Humanities to a staggering extent, by having 17 times as many ISI citations. At the end of our story, we find that when using the most comprehensive data source and correcting for the number of co-authors and the length of the academics publishing career, academics in the Social Sciences and Humanities on average out-perform academics in the Sciences.
The underestimation of research impact in the Social Sciences and Humanities might be even more pronounced in terms of research effort. A typical article in the Social Sciences and Humanities is 20 pages long and often requires three time-consuming rounds of revisions before it is accepted for a major journal. A typical paper in Medicine/Sciences is only 2-5 pages long and requires fewer revisions before it is accepted for a journal.
In addition, many academics in the Social Sciences and Humanities publish books that might run to 500 pages (still counting for only one publication). In fact, all of our Social Science and Humanities academics had published at least two books, which were generally amongst their most-cited works. Hence, even when one corrects for the number of co-authors, it is still not fair to compare the number of publications across disciplines.
On the other hand, one could argue that research in the Sciences generally requires larger amounts of funding. Hence academics in the Sciences might be forced to spend a large part of their time writing up grant applications rather than writing up articles, thus limiting their output.
So the inescapable conclusion is that one should not attempt to compare research performance across disciplines. However, I argue that the current emphasis on research metrics and the fact that most University administrators only know the ISI General search function seriously disadvantages the Social Sciences and Humanities. This chapter has established that with the correct benchmarks academics in the Social Sciences and Humanities perform at least as well, if not better, than academics in the Sciences.