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Albert S. Cook Library

Research Metrics

A guide for understanding and analyzing research metrics.

Carrie Price, Research Impact & Health Professions Librarian

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Carrie Price

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Cook Library
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Towson, MD 21252

What are Research Metrics?

Research metrics are quantitative measurements designed to help authors evaluate their impact in their fields. Metrics can include things like:

  • citations
  • h-index and other author metrics
  • social media mentions
  • peer reviews
  • journal impact measures
  • site downloads or user reads

The field is constantly evolving. This guide is designed to assist you in understanding common metrics and using available tools to do your own analyses.

Responsible Use and Ethics

The Leiden Manifesto

The Leiden Manifesto for Research Metrics was published in 2015 by five experts urging responsible use in metrics, named after the conference where the idea came to fruition. They promote the following ten principles to guide research evaluation:

  1. Quantitative evaluation should support qualitative, expert assessment.
  2. Measure performance against the research missions of the institution, group, or researcher.
  3. Protect excellence in locally relevant research.
  4. Keep data collection and analytical processes open, transparent, and simple.
  5. Allow those evaluated to verify data and analysis.
  6. Account for variation by field in publication and citation practices.
  7. Base assessment of individual researchers on a qualitative judgment of their portfolio.
  8. Avoid misplaced concreteness and false precision.
  9. Recognize the systemic effects of assessment and indicators.
  10. Scrutinize indicators regularly and update them.
Hicks, D., Wouters, P., Waltman, L., de Rijcke, S., & Rafols, I. (2015). Bibliometrics: The Leiden Manifesto for research metrics. Nature News 520(7548), 429–431.

The Metric Tide Report

The Metric Tide Report, published in 2015 and commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (UK), is a report of the independent review of the role of metrics in research assessment and management. Traditional metrics have long been used as indicators for research and researcher impact. Their use can be problematic when taken out of context with uncritical acceptance. Responsible metrics should be considered and understood in the following dimensions:

  • Robustness - Is the metric using the best available and accurate data?
  • Humility - Quantitative evaluation can complement, but not replace, expert assessment. 
  • Transparency - Is the collection of data and its analysis open to scrutiny?
  • Diversity - Does the metric represent the landscape of research in any given field, and use appropriate indicators to support research and researchers?
  • Reflexivity - Is the use of bibliometric analysis dynamic and open to change?

The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (SF DORA)

The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (SF DORA) recognizes the need to improve the ways in which the outputs of scholarly research are evaluated. The declaration was developed in 2012 during the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology.

The DORA roadmap for the next two years will focus on three strategic goals to enable signatories to take action:

  1. Increase awareness of the need to develop credible alternatives to the inappropriate uses of metrics in research assessment.
  2. Research and promote tools and processes that facilitate best practice in research assessment.
  3. Extend the reach and impact of DORA’s work across scholarly disciplines and in new areas of the world.

From SF DORA at