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Springer Nature explores the impact of book citations – download a free copy of this whitepaper

The scholarly community has been using citations to study how journal articles are used and their influence on research for over half a century. For books it has always been a challenge to obtain and analyze citations, with data sources only becoming available in the last decade. However, assessing how books are cited offers insights into research impact and quality, as well as into the performance of various publishing programs. Moreover, authors also report that citations are an important metric in measuring the success of their books. Given the potential importance of book citations analysis Springer Nature undertook a study of Scopus book citation data and published a whitepaper. “This white paper can be seen as a step toward

a more comprehensive and more systematic understanding of the role of books in scholarly knowledge dissemination”. Ludo Waltman, Professor of Quantitative Science Studies, Centre for Science and Technology, Studies (CWTS), Leiden University

Findings and outcomes: • Scholarly books are valuable tools in research communications and progress, where citation rates are used by researchers, publishers, and libraries alike as key indicators of books’ success, quality, and/or impact within and across the disciplines.

• Books published in thematic series often earn a greater ratio of citations over their lifetime, compared to stand-alone titles.

• The overall high share of cited books highlights the importance of the book format for scientific communications – across disciplines.

• Time to peak citations varies across disciplines, highlighting how fast-moving domains, such as life and physical sciences, reach their citation half-life sooner than humanities and social science fields. This emphasizes the relevance of the book in disciplines beyond HSS.

• Book citation analysis is a relatively new area of study and, aided by a variety of book citation indices, new opportunities exist to understand how books are used to further the research lifecycle

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in the last decade into five of the sustainable development goals. What’s more, the company recently added new category filters for the seventeen goals in Dimensions, so users can filter for research relevant to these goals. Analyses revealed that of the 109 million articles in Dimensions, more than five million articles fell into one or more of the 17 UN goals. The company now intends to apply its categorisation technology across grants, patents and other data in Dimensions. ‘We’re really trying to understand the

level at which the university sector is engaging with the sustainable development goals,’ says Hook. ‘I believe that profiling institutions, understanding what contribution they are giving to an area, understanding the strengths... is going to be super-important [in the future].’ Szomszor concurs: ‘The 17 goals are

framing the wider impact of research according to a shared agenda.’ ‘We’ve been seeing lots of progress

in reporting, for example, university contribution according to these goals and there will be a continuing focus on developing metrics here,’ he adds. ‘There is an ambition to report on the sustainable development goals at a country level, an institutional level and also with the researchers themselves.’ Looking beyond UN’s all-important

markers for development, Szomszor also points out to a rising interest in the socio- economic impact of research, particularly in the social sciences. And at the same time, he also sees growing interest in knowledge exchange and commercialisation, that is, better understanding the collaborations between universities, businesses and the public sector. For example, we want to understand how you can measure the success of commercial engagement for, say, a university, or the outcomes of research that a funder has awarded,” he says. “We’re going through this period of trying to understand the data and figure out how we might be able to come up with the metrics.’

But what about the ever-thorny issue

of reproducibility? The ability to replicate the findings of a research publication is fundamental to any scientific method but in recent years issues have surfaced in many journals again and again. As such, many have been experimenting with metrics

“Of the 109 million articles in Dimensions, more than five million fell into one or more of the 17 UN goals’

to measure this all-important tenet of scientific research. One key player, Ripeta – a US start-up that joined Digital Science last year – has developed tools that use natural language processing to search research manuscripts for key reproducibility criteria. These include the presence of a data availability statement, data location, code availability and the presence of a study purpose or objective. As Ripeta chief executive officer, Leslie McIntosh, explains: ‘What we’re really looking at is the “hygiene” of a paper as that forms the foundation of reproducibility. Has the researcher shared their code and their data? With this we can then drill down into more granular areas such as is there enough information to reproduce the bench science or reproduce [the research] computationally.’ According to McIntosh, towards the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, her company used its tools to analyse 535 pre-prints on COVID-19 from medRxiv and bioRxiv servers: ‘To review these manually would have taken about 43 hours but we managed it in less than 30 minutes.’ McIntosh is also seeing her company’s

tools being widely used at manuscript’s pre-print stage, which as she says, gives the authors an opportunity to improve manuscripts. And funders are also using the tools post-publication to assess how funds have been used and how a publication is progressing. Still as the use of her reproducibility

tools and metrics in general rises, McIntosh is, like her peers, keen to see all-important context and emphasises how users need to understand the processes behind the science. ‘I want metrics to enhance science rather than derail it,’ she says. ‘We need balance and we also need to be careful because we want metrics to help to inform the science rather than drive the science.’

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