In previous blogs, we talked about citation measures as one metric for scientific productivity. Raw citation counts are inherently problematic – different fields cite at different rates, and citation counts rise and fall in the months to years after a publication appears. Therefore, a number of bibliometric scholars have focused on developing methods that measure citation impact while also accounting for field of study and time of publication. We are pleased to report that on September 6, PLoS Biology published a paper from our NIH colleagues in the Office of Portfolio Analysis on “The Relative Citation Ratio: A New Metric that Uses Citation Rates to Measure Influence at the Article Level.” Before we delve into the details and look at some real data, ….
NIH grants reflect research investments that we hope will lead to advancement of fundamental knowledge and/or application of that knowledge to efforts to improve health and well-being. In February, we published a blog on the publication impact of NIH funded research. We were gratified to hear your many thoughtful comments and questions. Some of you suggested that we should not only focus on output (e.g. highly cited papers), but also on cost – or as one of you mentioned “citations per dollar.” Indeed, my colleagues and I have previously taken a preliminary look at this question in the world of cardiovascular research. Today I’d like to share our exploration of citations per dollar using a sample of R01 grants across NIH’s research portfolio. What we found has an interesting policy implication for maximizing NIH’s return on investment in research. ….
In a recent PNAS commentary, Daniel Shapiro and Kent Vrana of Pennsylvania State University, argue that “Celebrating R and D expenditures badly misses the point.” Instead of focusing on how much money is spent, the research enterprise should instead focus on its outcomes – its discoveries that advance knowledge and lead to improvements in health.
Of course, as we’ve noted before, measuring research impact is hard, and there is no gold standard. But for now, let’s take a look at one measure of productivity, namely the publication of highly-cited papers. Some in the research community suggest that a research paper citation is a nod to the impact and significance of the findings reported in that paper – in other words, more highly-cited papers are indicative of highly regarded and impactful research.
If considering highly-cited papers as a proxy for productivity, it’s not enough that we simply count citations, because publication and citation behaviors differ greatly among fields – some fields generate many more citations per paper. ….