Sources of metrics

Numerous sources of academic metrics are now available. Which you should use will depend on your discipline and the question you're trying to answer, but we've presented a summary of the databases we use most often below.

Internal databases

myPublications is the is the University's research information management system. myPublications allows researchers to curate their publications profile from automatic searches of a range of sources including Scopus, Web of Science and PubMed, as well as from manual entries and uploads for outputs not covered by these databases. This is the most comprehensive source of information about researchers at the university, provided that they have kept their profiles up to date.

External databases

Subscription abstract and citation databases

The University subscribes to the largest commercially-available databases, Elsevier's Scopus and Clarivate Analytics' Web of Science and Digital Science's Dimensions, as well as the metrics analysis tools Journal Citations Reports and Essential Sciences Indicators from Clarivate. Dimensions also offers aggregated metrics for institutions, authors and groups of publications.

These databases contain data from thousands of peer-reviewed sources. There is significant overlap between the three databases but there are some differences in coverage. For STEM subjects, most publications can be found in each of the databases. Scopus and Dimensions may have better coverage for some Social Sciences and Humanities disciplines. In addition to this, coverage differs for:

  • Patents: Dimensions and Web of Science index patents, but Scopus does not.
  • Books: currently Dimensions has the best coverage for books (both Web of Science and Scopus have programmes to improve their coverage of academic books, particularly in the Humanities), coverage here is driven by whether providers can make commercial agreements with book publishers and remains patchy.

When looking at automatically-created author profiles, we find Scopus is better than Web of Science and Dimensions at assigning publications to authors correctly, but no database is infallible. Scopus allows you to correct your author profile if anything is incorrect (instructions can be found here). It's worth checking publication numbers for these profiles with a human-curated source, such as myPublications or a researcher's webpage if their profiles are not linked to ORCID.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar uses web-based sources to track publications and citations. The criteria for what is included in the database are less transparent than the subscription databases. As well as the articles from peer reviewed sources that can be found in Scopus, Web of Science or Dimensions, Google Scholar includes many pre-prints and publications in institutional repositories. It also includes citations from non-peer-reviewed sources such as working papers, student handbooks and reading lists. This means that metrics sourced from Google Scholar are typically higher than the equivalents from Scopus of Web of Science.

Google Scholar's database has less human curation than Scopus, Web of Science or Dimensions and there can be quality issues with some of the data - for example, duplicate copies of publications can result in multiple entries in the database for the same publication and citations from some less-than-reputable sources can be included. As a result, it's easier to game Google Scholar than the subscription databases, so it's worth treating metrics from Google Scholar with a critical mind.

News and social media mentions

We subscribe to Altmetric Explorer, which tracks various online sources including online news, blogs, social media and policy documents for mentions of academic publications. It produces a single Altmetric score for each publication, but also allows a researcher to drill down to discover how and where their outputs have been mentioned.

This complements more traditional bibliometrics:

  • Altmetric scores can capture the attention your publications are receiving much sooner than academic citations
  • Altmetric scores show the attention received by your publications outside of academia, whereas academic citations generally come from within academia.
  • Coverage of policy documents and news media can be used to demonstrate where your publications have produced real-world impact

However, it's worth remembering that Altmetric Explorer only tracks mentions of your research that include a direct link to your publication. The database doesn't cover every single online news source and blog and one of the methods used to track news sources only works in the English language.