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New Metric on the Block

Even with their known flaws, bibliometric approaches are commonly used to assess researchers' productivity and the significance of their work, and to improve upon this, researchers from the US National Institutes of Health have come up with a new metric, dubbed Relative Citation Ratio (RCR).

As they report in PLOS Biology, NIH's George Santangelo and his colleagues developed a method divides the article's citation rate by an expected citation rate. That expected citation rate is based on the performance of articles in the same field and is benchmarked to a peer comparison group. The network of papers that cite the paper under evaluation defines its field. Because of that, the researchers note that papers can't be assessed too soon after they are published.

When the researchers compared the results of their RCR approach to expert opinion for assessing the influence of 311,497 research articles, they found they were largely similar.

Still, Santangelo and his colleagues say "the metric described here should be viewed not as a tool to be used as a primary criterion in funding decisions, but as one of several metrics that can provide assistance to decision makers at funding agencies or in other situations in which quantitation can be used judiciously to supplement, not substitute for, expert opinion."

They add that their web tool iCite for calculating the RCR of articles in PubMed can be found here.