A new metric measures the influence of scientific research

A new metric measures the influence of scientific research

Researchers and funders now have a new way to quantify the influence of a scientific research article. The new metric, called the Relative Citation Ratio (RCR), makes use of reference lists of articles that cite the article in question, known as a co-citation network. This new method could improve identification of particularly influential manuscripts in any scientific field.

Measuring a research article’s influence helps scientists demonstrate the importance of their findings and can inform decisions on funding and promotions. Historically, an article’s influence was largely determined by measuring the overall influence of the journal in which it was published, and did not accurately demonstrate the influence of the individual article. To address this issue, Article-Level Metrics (ALMs) were developed as a way to quantify the reach of an article by combining traditional measurements, such as citations, with new data sources such as news coverage and download statistics.

The RCR is a new ALM approach that works by using the co-citation network of an article to compare the citation rate of an article to that of other articles in the same scientific field. The RCR is also benchmarked to a peer comparison group, so that it is easy to determine the relative influence of an article.

A recent study conducted by researchers from the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Portfolio Analysis found that RCR values of papers authored by NIH awardees correlate well with the opinions of other experts in biomedical research. The findings, published in PLOS Biology, suggest that this approach could be applied to articles in all areas of science.

George Santangelo, an author of the study, says the RCR can assist in “the dissemination of a dynamic way to measure the influence of articles on their respective fields.”

While the RCR represents an advance in the way research influence is measured, the study authors acknowledge that it shouldn’t be used as a substitute for expert opinion.

The beta version of a web tool for calculating RCR values for individual articles can be found at https://icite.od.nih.gov/

Research Article: Hutchins BI, Yuan X, Anderson JM, Santangelo GM (2016) Relative Citation Ratio (RCR): A New Metric That Uses Citation Rates to Measure Influence at the Article Level. PLoS Biol 14(9): e1002541. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1002541

Image Credit: Ian Hutchins and George Santangelo




Jen is the Editorial Media Manager at PLOS. Before her time at PLOS, she's worked in broadcast news, radio and online media.

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