The University of Leeds position clearly states that expert judgement is the primary way to assess the contribution to knowledge that a piece of research provides. However, reference to research metrics can be a useful supplementary way to assess the impact that your work is having.
There are several things to consider when using metrics. Whilst you might want to analyse your own metric data, you must always be mindful of comparing yourself with other researchers. Researchers may be at different career stages, have had different career trajectories or backgrounds, work in different disciplines, have had different workload balances or have had different opportunities. In reality, a healthier approach is to use metrics as a way to periodically track your own progress and the impact of your work.
Relative impact of your work
Possible metrics that may help you to track the relative impact of your work include the:
- average number of citations per publication
- outputs in top citation percentiles
- outputs in top journal quartiles.
These values may vary from year to year, so you may find it useful to track your progress over a number of years. The true impact of the work can take time to emerge as some research may pick up citations quickly, particularly if it focuses on a current hot topic, yet other research may take time to be read, absorbed and cited. It is also important to note that high quality, innovative, rigorous research has the potential to attract a high number of citations, but a direct correlation to high quality should not be assumed.
International reach of your research
You may also find it useful to use metrics that demonstrate the international reach of your research, these can include:
- international collaboration rates
- collaboration impact
- number of citing countries.
Data sources have limitations
Finally, be aware that the databases you use to find metric data (Google scholar, Scopus, Web of Science, SciVal etc.) will have different strengths and weaknesses. For example, certain databases may have limited coverage of:
- specific subject areas
- scholarly documents other than journal articles
- literature written in languages other than English.
Therefore it is good practice to explore different databases and be aware of the limitations of the tools.
We have produced 2 guides showing how to check whether a specific research output or source has been indexed in Scopus or Web of Science:
- Checking whether a research output or source is indexed in Scopus and requesting new content be added
- Checking whether a research output or source is indexed in Web of Science and requesting new content be added
See Bibliometric measures for more information on data sources and using metrics.