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Who's Citing Me?: Understanding Metrics

Types of Metrics

Interpreting Data and Cautionary Tales

Citation metrics are often criticized as an assessment tool.  The following are some frequently stated concerns:

  • The metric is only as accurate as the information used to generate it, if any publications or citations are excluded the resulting metric will be inaccurate leading to undervaluation.
  • Relying on citation counts for assessment may lead emerging scholars and their works to be undervalued as it often takes several years for a publication to become highly cited.
  • All disciplines and publication types do not receive equal coverage by the citation tools.  Books and international publications are often excluded.
  • Citation counts may include erroneous or negative citations. They may also contain repeated self-citations.
  • Subscriptions to bibliographic databases vary among institutions.
  • It can be difficult to distinguish scholars, particularly those with common surnames, due to a lack of a unique identifier.
  • The purely quantitative approach lacks nuance as it does not consider other ways a scholar may contribute to their field.


The following papers and reports present more detailed perspectives on the appropriate use of bibliometrics:

Visualization of Citation Flow

visualization of citation flow

Visualization of the citation flow for the journal Nature. A cooperation between the Eigenfactor Project and Moritz Stefaner.