Metrics for Measuring Research Outputs

There are many metrics that researchers and associated administrator use to measure and report success. Here are 6 that might be useful for you:

  1. Impact Factor – average citation count per article per journal over a rolling 2-year period
  2. Citation count – absolute number of citations for an individual article.
  3. H-index – maximum number of citations for same number of publications.
  4. RG Score – Restricted to ResearchGate measuring your participation on research gate, including uploaded and referenced articles. Can be directly compared to all ResearchGate members.
  5. ResearchInterest – Restricted to ResearchGate. Includes RG score, but also more weight given to citations and publications. Can be directly compared to all ResearchGate members.
  6. Altmertic – Combines citations from a range of sources across the web – social media, government reports, as well as academic journals.


Hi there, bakers, writers, and rock stars! The last few weeks, I’ve been doing some posts about measuring success and reporting your success, and this week the post is all about some indices that you might use to look at your journal publication output in particular. Peer-reviewed journal output I’m generally talking about here.

So, the first one is an obvious one, it’s impact factor. If you’ve not heard of this before just Google impact factor. There are lots of lists which basically is a measure of the number of citations per article. Generally speaking, it’s aggregated across an entire journal. Generally, it’s aggregated over 2 years, and so journals tend to have impact factors about them. Generally, people then aggregate them. Make a table that says, “Here’s all the journals in my discipline”. “Here’s the highest impact factor journal.” So, you get a bit of an indication of where your journal is relative to the best in the field.

People generally don’t like this measure because it doesn’t really take into account highly cited articles or lowly cited articles. Essentially, the data can be skewed quite easily. More one like using the same data but now just applying it to your journal article itself is citation count. So, this data is good for papers that are published a little bit of time ago because obviously it gives time for your article to be cited. Not really great for junior researchers. Obviously, if you’ve only just published one paper and you published it last week, the chances are getting a high citation count is going to be difficult. But if you published ages ago and there’s a fair few citations for your article mentioning citation count might be useful, and certainly mentioning citation count might be useful if the article came out a month ago and you’ve already got 3 citations.

The next index is the h-index. It’s a bit more of a complex index, but ultimately it measures the performance of an individual researcher rather than journal articles or journals themselves. It looks at the number of citations you’ve had per article where the maximum number you can have as a h-index is equal to the maximum number of articles you have published. So, if you publish more frequently and your articles get cited frequently, you’ll have a high h-index. If you publish frequently but don’t get cited, you’ll have a low h-index or if you’ve published infrequently and even though you’ve got highly cited, you’ll still have a low h-index. So, again more useful for more established researchers. Probably in my view of the ones that I’ve mentioned so far, I think impact factor as much as people don’t like it, if you can publish in a good impact factor journal or if you can demonstrate your journal is highly ranked relative to its peers, then that’s probably a useful metric for early career researchers and PhD students to use to demonstrate the value of their research.

There are 3 others that you might want to try. The first is the RG Score. It’s created by ResearchGate. You need a ResearchGate account to have it. One of the good things about this score is that it measures, that it gives you a positioning relative to your other people on ResearchGate. Now that’s useful obviously, because you can kind of see how you’re tracking the less useful part about this. It doesn’t just measure journal publications; it also measures general participation on ResearchGate which might not be something that you’re interested in.

Another ResearchGate metric is ResearchInterest this is again only on ResearchGate but it is just restricted to publications. It is a bit of a black box in terms of a metric. It’s unclear how the metric is built. Some people have tried to reverse engineer it and in doing so have come to the conclusion that it heavily relies on impact factor of journals. So, that might be a tough one for some of you out there.

The 6th and final metric that you might use is another proprietary one by called Altmetric which looks essentially at all of the mentions of your article online. So, most articles are published with a unique identifier called a digital object identifier or DOI. That’s a really useful way of measuring progress. Capturing mentions of your article. So, for example, mention could be tweets, LinkedIn posts, Facebook posts, etc. Now bear in mind it needs to actually refer to the DOI. It can’t just talk about the title or talk about the authors. It needs to actually reference the DOI in order for that to be captured but that’s another useful metric. If your research has good practical value or you’ve created a research report that is then used by for example, government but it never goes out as peer-reviewed, this Altmetric is a useful way of capturing that. Again, it’s got to have a DOI. It’s got to have that unique identifier.

So, there you have it. Six ways that you can potentially measure your research outputs. Let me know how you go.