Ad Lagendijk Ad Lagendijk 13 March 2012

Why every scientist should make his Google Scholar profile public

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Posted in High-impact journals, Web 2.0

Surviving in science these days is all about high impact. How is this impact being measured? Managers, deans,  operators, science editors and grant officers, to mention just a few non-active scientists, know the answer exactly. They judge the scientist by the:

  1. number of papers published in refereed journals
  2. number of papers in high-impact journals
  3. number of citations, and more specifically by the h-index

To remind you: if the h-index of a scientist is 20 the scientist has coauthored 20 papers with at least 20 citations.

The majority of scientists that have a AAA-rating according to the above criteria find these criteria good indicators. The majority of scientists that have a poor rating on this scale will find all type of arguments why the above rating says nothing about the quality of a scientist. In my opinion the criteria only test marginal quality, that is to say scientists that have an exceptionally low rating on all three of the list, are not performing well.

Of course there are a number of possible comments to make on the criteria, like neglect of  age of scientist, neglect of  number of coauthors, difference in social status of scientist (director of a hierarchically organized institute), difference in culture of scientific fields. The purpose of this post is however, we have better get the numbers right, before we discuss their relevance.

ISI Web of Knowledge
The ISI Web of Knowledge  had a monopoly on supplying the above three numbers.  However, there are a lot of problems with the database of the ISI:

  1. Many people interested in science and scientists do not have access to the Web of Knowledge, as one has to pay for this access. Scientists working in universities in western countries tend to forget that even a lot scientists, notably those not working in western countries, do not have access to these data.
  2. The ISI data is of poor quality as it is quite difficult to disentangle authors that have common names. Otto wrote a great article on the ReseracherID as a solution to this problem.
  3. The web site is if poor quality, awkward to use and with strange capitalization of names.

As a result the h-index of a scientist inferred from the Web of Knowledge is often polluted, partly caused by the fact that the person who extracts that number does not know how to correct for theses flaws.

ISI lacks privacy
The ISI has a peculiar privacy policy, viz.: no privacy policy. Anybody having access to the database can extract the list of publications, number of citations, h-index etc. of just anybody. For young students and junior scientists considering leaving their country access to these numbers might be very useful for them. A good reader of a publication and citation list of a group leader can easily infer the social structure of the group led by that scientist.

Google Scholar
A number of commercial enterprises is to compete with the ISI and were until recently not very successfully with it. Years ago I checked Google Scholar and discovered that my own publication list was very poorly represented. That impression stuck in my mind until a few weeks ago. A colleague of mine stated that Google Scholar and in particular the Citations part was excellent. I did not agree, but it made me check Google Scholar again and I was deeply impressed. Google’s algorithms are so good that they know that “de Vries” and “DeVries” can be the same author. ISI, without ResearcherID, cannot make any connection between them.

The quality of Google’s representation of my publication list is extremely good and better than the ISI. In addition the formatting is much more pleasant.

Google Scholar’s privacy
Google is fighting worldwide with authorities about privacy violations, but in the case of Google Scholar the giant from California is unfortunately restrictive: Scientists have to make their Google Scholar profile public if they want other people to be able to have read access to it.

So my advice to scientists:  make your Google Scholar profile public. Many journalists and many applicants for junior science positions will love it. If Google Scholar Citations will be a success ISI will have to reconsider its business model and become free, open access as well.

I will be honest about my secret motive. If the h-index becomes so readily available many more scientist will play the card of h-index optimization (HIO) up to a point where the h-index becomes meaningless.

My profile
You want an example? Just check my Google Scholar Citations profile

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  1. Unregistered

    13 Mar 2012 18:52, Antonio

    I agree with the main points that non active scientists (as well as non-scientist) use to evaluate scientists. But I hope that scientist don’t use this scheme to evaluate their fellow colleagues. I expect something like your top 5 most significant publications/contributions to the current field of research, but I guess this could be discussed in another post.

    BTW, mine public Goggle Scholar Citations Profile is this.

  2. Unregistered

    13 Mar 2012 23:50, Google Scholar e outra dica (Momento R do dia) « De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum

    […] um breve texto sobre o Google Scholar. Sim, vale a pena ter seu perfil por lá. Falando de saber, ensinar e aprender, eis nossa dica […]

  3. Jacopo Bertolotti

    14 Mar 2012 12:14, Jacopo Bertolotti

    I tried Google Scholar a few years ago (~4) and I found it horrible. It found a lot of links where my name appeared but was unable to discriminate between a blog post and a full fledged paper. It was just useless.
    After reading this post I decided to give it another chance and I have to agree with the author that the improvement is spectacular. I am a relatively simple case to handle (not so large number of publications, easy to spell name, no exact homonym in any related field of science etc) but Google Scholar managed to find all my publications correctly including my Master thesis (that was never published anywhere). I am seriously considering to start using this service to check who is citing my work.

  4. Unregistered

    19 Mar 2012 22:24, Why every scientist should make his Google Scholar profile public | Publishing Science |

    […] – Today, 10:24 PM […]

  5. Unregistered

    20 Mar 2012 0:23, David Stern

    Google Scholar still has quite a lot of noise – citations which when you actually check the supposedly citing document it doesn’t cite your work and confusion between working paper versions and published articles (important in econ) but it is improving rapidly. ISI have also broadened the number of journals they track in the social sciences and introduced innovations in response to GS and Scopus but still has quite a bit of noise (Scopus has probably the least noise). Microsoft Academic Search has very high noise for people like me who have moved around a lot. Submitting corrections results in only partial changes to the profile. I think it is overly ambitious but doesn’t deliver.

  6. Ad Lagendijk

    30 Mar 2012 20:55, Ad Lagendijk

    thanks for the comments. What I find really surprising is the speed at which GS is improving. I would very much like them to develop an API so that web developers could use their results as input.

    Moving around is stimulated a lot by managers but the scientists who do so, suffer. In my country they even get their pension reduced. If scientists change subjects a few times they are also punished in terms of visibility, citations etc.

  7. Unregistered

    30 Mar 2012 23:26, David

    In the English speaking world moving usually results in promotion, increased pay, and going up the heirarchy of universities. It has for me. The main exception is in the US where those that fail to get tenure have to find another job.

  8. Unregistered

    16 May 2012 20:41, John White

    One issue on the h-index and probably other indexes as well is that patents which inevitably have a low citation index are included in the h-index. There needs to be some mechanism to remove patents from the algorithm.

  9. Unregistered

    30 May 2012 14:57, Contagem de citações e identificação de autoria – O Google Scholar Citations : A Biblioteca Informa

    […]… […]

  10. Unregistered

    29 Jul 2012 3:52, Why every scientist should make his Google Scholar profile public How to become a successful scientist. » Survival Blog for Scientists | Research Tools Box |

    […] – Today, 4:52 AM Rescoop […]

  11. Unregistered

    11 Sep 2012 9:45, What metrics miss « Carlo Ierna's Blog

    […] data at all, assigning me an H-index of 2. Since it makes me look so much better, comparatively, making my Google profile public turned out to be a good idea indeed […]

  12. Unregistered

    11 Mar 2013 12:37, Elammari

    I agree that google scholar is very powerful, but there are still some problems with it. Some scientific papers are available on google but are not indexed in google scholar. The algorithm used still needs some work.

  13. Unregistered

    30 Apr 2013 10:41, Bingo Crepiscule

    Thanks for the advice. Google Scholar appears indeed quite powerful in finding and regularly updating citations. What I would like is an option to filter out self-citations. That is important in calculating H-indices and the like.

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