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Titel / Title Counting research publications, citations, and topics: A critical assessment of the empirical basis of scientometrics and research evaluation.
Author / Autor Stock, W. G., Dorsch, I., Reichmann, G., & Schlögl, C.
Source / Quelle Journal of Information Science Theory and Practice, 2023, 11(2) 37-66
Language / Sprache English/Englisch



Scientometrics and research evaluation describe and analyze research publications when conducting publication, citation, and topic analyses. However, what exactly is a (scientific, academic, scholarly or research) publication? This article demonstrates that there are many problems when it comes to looking in detail at quantitative publication analyses, citation analyses, altmetric analyses, and topic analyses. When is a document a publication and when is it not? We discuss authorship and contribution, formally and informally published documents, as well as documents in between (preprints, research data) and the characteristics of references, citations, and topics. What is a research publication? Is there a commonly accepted criterion for distinguishing between research and non-research? How complete and unbiased are data sources for research publications and sources for altmetrics? What is one research publication? What is the unit of a publication that causes us to count it as “1?” In this regard, we report problems related to multi-author publications and their counting, weighted document types, the unit and weighting of citations and references, the unit of topics, and counting problems—not only at the article and individual researcher level (micro-level), but also at the meso-level (e.g., institutions) and macro-level (e.g., countries). Our results suggest that scientometric counting units are not reliable and clear. Many scientometric and research evaluation studies must therefore be used with the utmost caution.