Perception of the importance of chemistry research papers and comparison to citation rates
peter.suber's bookmarks 2018-05-14
Abstract: Chemistry researchers are frequently evaluated on the perceived significance of their work with the citation count as the most commonly-used metric for gauging this property. Recent studies have called for a broader evaluation of significance that includes more nuanced bibliometrics as well as altmetrics to more completely evaluate scientific research. To better understand the relationship between metrics and peer judgements of significance in chemistry, we have conducted a survey of chemists to investigate their perceptions of previously published research. Focusing on a specific issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society published in 2003, respondents were asked to select which articles they thought best matched importance and significance given several contexts: highest number of citations, most significant (subjectively defined), most likely to share among chemists, and most likely to share with a broader audience. The answers to the survey can be summed up in several observations. The ability of respondents to predict the citation counts of established research is markedly lower than the ability of those counts to be predicted by the h-index of the corresponding author of each article. This observation is conserved even when only considering responses from chemists whose expertise falls within the subdiscipline that best describes the work performed in an article. Respondents view both cited papers and significant papers differently than papers that should be shared with chemists. We conclude from our results that peer judgements of importance and significance differ from metrics-based measurements, and that chemists should work with bibliometricians to develop metrics that better capture the nuance of opinions on the importance of a given piece of research.