What are research metrics?

Research metrics or indicators are quantitative measures designed to help evaluate research outputs. Find out more about the different metrics available and how to use them responsibly.

Bibliometrics or citation metrics use traditional citation counts – the number of times an item has been referenced in other publications – to give an indication of research impact. Alternative metrics seek to do the same using likes, shares, mentions and other indicators of attention in the news, social media, and other platforms.

Responsible metrics

Metrics alone cannot give a full picture of research impact: qualitative assessments must be used alongside quantitative indicators, and traditional metrics will only reflect academic citations, so may not reflect valuable industry or other non-academic impact.

Citation patterns differ significantly across disciplines, both in terms of absolute numbers of citation and the rate at which they accumulate. As a result, raw citation counts cannot be used to compare researchers in different disciplines, research areas, or career stages. If comparisons of this type are required, use normalised or field-weighted indicators. Normalised indicators attempt to correct for differences in citation patterns and publication age.

The source and accuracy of citation data also have a significant impact on quantitative metrics. Most metrics tools use a single source of citation data, so consider whether this source contains enough of your papers to give an accurate picture or your research output, and whether those papers are correctly attributed. See Cleaning up your researcher profile for information on how to make sure your papers are contributing to your profile and metrics.

The University of Bristol is committed to using a broad range of qualitative and quantitative measures to evaluate research impact, and is a signatory to the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment. For more information on the University's position on responsible research assessment see Responsible Metrics.

Common research metrics

Research metrics may apply at article, author, journal or institution level, and should ideally be calculated in a transparent, standardised manner.  The University of Bristol is a founding member of the Snowball Metrics group, which seeks to agree metrics that are data source- and system-agnostic (not tied to any particular provider or tool).  See below for a glossary of common metrics, or use the Metrics Toolkit for a more in-depth examination of what different metrics mean and how to apply them.

Article level indicators

Author level indicators

Journal level indicators

Institutional indicators

Institution level metrics seek to rank universities by various criteria, which may include bibliometric metrics. Common ranking systems are THE World University Rankings, Academic Ranking of World Universities, and QS World University Rankings.

Request help

Email lib-metrics@bristol.ac.uk for support and to request SciVal deskside training

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