Citation gaming induced by bibliometric evaluation: A country-level comparative analysis
Kirstine's bookmarks 2019-09-20
It is several years since national research evaluation systems around the globe started making use of quantitative indicators to measure the performance of researchers. Nevertheless, the effects on these systems on the behavior of the evaluated researchers are still largely unknown. For investigating this topic, we propose a new inwardness indicator able to gauge the degree of scientific self-referentiality of a country. Inwardness is defined as the proportion of citations coming from the country over the total number of citations gathered by the country. A comparative analysis of the trends for the G10 countries in the years 2000-2016 reveals a net increase of the Italian inwardness. Italy became, both globally and for a large majority of the research fields, the country with the highest inwardness and the lowest rate of international collaborations. The change in the Italian trend occurs in the years following the introduction in 2011 of national regulations in which key passages of professional careers are governed by bibliometric indicators. A most likely explanation of the peculiar Italian trend is a generalized strategic use of citations in the Italian scientific community, both in the form of strategic author self-citations and of citation clubs. We argue that the Italian case offers crucial insights on the constitutive effects of evaluation systems. As such, it could become a paradigmatic case in the debate about the use of indicators in science-policy contexts.