The Oxford Dictionary defines Bibliometrics as the statistical analysis of books, articles and other publications. They are important in scholarly publishing as they provide a means of measuring patterns of authorship, publication and the use of the literature. In other words who is writing what; what format is it published in and then who is reading it and subsequently citing it in their work. They are a quantitative measure meaning they provide counts and as such they are a basic metric.

Bibliometrics are widely used in a number of assessment exercises as reports can be easily compiled for both individuals, institutions and for countries. In this way they facilitate comparisons to be made between individuals, institutions and countries and can highlight collaborations and excellent performance in a discipline. Bibliometrics are used for individual researchers to provide evidence of publishing activity, to support applications for funding and progression and in deciding where to publish so as to achieve the maximum visibility for the research in order that it can be read and cited by others. Bibliometrics should always be used with caution but especially so when dealing with individual performance and are best used in association with other qualitative methods such as peer review, funding and awards received and patents created. 

As a measure, bibliometrics works best on journal literature and especially for the STEM disciplines. They do not work well for: Arts & Humanities whose output may tend towards books and multi format resources; for some disciplines such as Engineering or Computing which do not rely on the published journal literature but will disseminate through conference papers and they do not work well for inter-disciplinary research.

The main indicators used are publication counts, citation counts, author’s H Index and Journal Impact Factor. These measures can be used to ascertain trends, publication types, what journals are being heavily cited and highlight research fields. The citation impact can be discerned from metrics such as average citation counts, trends, normalised citation impact, share of output in the world’s top 10%, 5% and 1% in a particular discipline and can be used to highlight local and international collaborations. Institutions can use them to benchmark their research performance nationally and internationally. 

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