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14 March 2004 / erikduval

Web citation index

This announcement was long overdue… Edupage mentions that “Thomson ISI, which collects data on the use of academic work, said it will begin compiling data for online scholarship in addition to that in print. The new Web Citation Index will track online-only citations of scholarly writing as well as references in printed material to online-only sources. Statistics in Thomson ISI databases are generally regarded as highly influential, especially in the sciences, for promotion and tenure decisions. Though the Web Citation Index will be maintained separately from the company’s other databases, some observers said the new index is likely to encourage scholars to publish online or to use preprint servers, which are databases containing work that has not yet passed peer review. Others commented that peer-reviewed journals will remain the primary vehicle for scholarship and that the new index will not have a significant impact on scholarly publishing.
Chronicle of Higher Education, 12 March 2004 (sub. req’d)”

Some of you may know that I am quite concerned about the lack of relevant measurements for scientific quality in our field. Traditional journal citations are not relevant measures, IMHO. Even today, I got an email inviting me to submit to a conference as an “invited VIP speaker”, with the guarantee that my paper would be republished in a journal. No peer review required, thank you. What we really ought to try and measure includes more subtle things, like

  • how useful was this publication for others?
  • how much effect did it actually have on the field?
  • etc.

Of course, this is much harder to measure – though the answers to both questions above would be “not at all” and “none whatsoever” for the great majority of publications, I am afraid. Questions like those above hint at much more relevant issues, I believe, but it seems like we prefer ease of measurement over relevancy…

And before I forget: we should of course also develop a “web citation index” for learning objects. And then we should try to measure how much learning the learning object really caused, for the individual, as well as for the organization. Or we should really focus on how much that learning contributed to society. OK, that will take some effort, but at least we should focus on those issues, rather than on publishing yet another paper or learning objects that will and should be forgotten even before it is published!

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