Pros and cons of bibliometrics

Bibliometrics can be useful but they are also contentious. Here we explore their pros and cons:


  • They are a quantitative way of measuring your research impact, so are seen as objective. This also means research impact can be compared more readily than with peer review, which is seen as subjective
  • The procedure is transparent and results can be reproduced using the same method
  • They are inexpensive to produce and use
  • They take relatively little time to produce and use
  • They are scalable. You can look at bibliometrics on an individual, institutional, national or international level
  • Some familiarity with bibliometrics may help in relation to REF (Research Excellence Framework) cycles, as bibliometrics have been used to support evaluation in some sub-panels.


  • Metrics distinguish between what is cited and what is not cited, not what is necessarily of good quality. It is perfectly possible for articles to be cited a lot but for negative reasons
  • Metrics can be gamed i.e. exploited by researchers and journals to artificially boost their bibliometric scores
  • Some people feel bibliometrics skew research by encouraging people to write papers they think will be cited more, not what is valuable in research terms
  • Variations between areas of study need taking into account as publication frequency and citation cultures differ. It is not reasonable, for example, to compare articles from medicine and the arts

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