How Google Scholar Citations passes the competition left and right

Google Scholar logoLast Thursday Google Scholar Citations went public. It was to be expected. Since August the product has been tested by a few (blogging) scientists. We only had to wait patiently for it to be released to all scientists. Last Thursday the moment was there.

Was it worth the wait? Yes it certainly was. Google Scholar Citations really excels at finding publications you completely forgot about. But even then, there are still –obscure- publications that even Google Scholar doesn’t know about. You simply log in and deselect those few publications that don’t belong to you. You can make searches to find publications that Google has overlooked. You get a comprehensive publication list quite quickly. Well when your name is not too common, that is. How it works for very common names, Korean scientists jump to my mind as well as John Smith, I don’t know yet. But so far nothing new, Ann-Will Harzing’s excellent Publish or Perish software already did this. What is new is the fact that Google Scholar Citations keeps the citations and publications automatically up to data and allows you to publish your own publication list on the Web with the citations and some crude citations metrics.

The two major competitors in this arena are Thomson Reuters with their ResearcherID and Elsevier’s Scopus which has their Scopus ID. With both services you can identify your own publications and assign them to a unique number. IN this way you can create your unique publications list with citation metrics as well. The main disadvantage compared to Google Scholar is their rather limited resource set. Thomson Reuters WoS “only” covers some 10,000 scholarly journals a set of selected proceedings and of recent only 30,000 books. Scopus has nearly double the number of journals but stays behind in proceedings and covers hardly any books. Google Scholar certainly covers more, but we still don’t understand what is included and what not and sometimes have our doubts about currentness of Google Scholar. The larger resource base, including books and book chapters, of Google Scholar makes will make this service more attractive for social scientist and scholars in arts and humanities studies.

On top of the smaller publication base on which these services are based, these two competitors each have their own particular disadvantage as well. You have to maintain you publications list in Thomson Reuters Researcher ID yourself manually. Each time you publish a new article, you have to add it to your profile yourself. Looking around, I see that most researchers are a bit sloppy in this respect. You can however, make your publication list and the citation impact publically available. see for example my meagre list. Scopus on the other hand, maintains your publication list automatically (albeit it made some serious mistakes in this area in the past, but they seem to have improved this service). But, and this is a big but, you can’t publish you properly curated publication list with citations publically on the Web. They used to have 2Collab for this, but since they stopped 2Collab they haven’t come up with an alternative mechanism to publish your publications list with citation impact on a public website. A real pity.

So Google Scholar easily beats ResearcherID since it updates automatically and Scopus ID because you can make your list with citations publically available. To make your publication list openly available is really recommended to all scientists, it helps your personal branding.

Certainly there are disadvantages to Google Scholar aswell. The most serious at this moment all kind of ghost citations. If you look at the citations to our bibliometrics analysis on top of repositories paper, Google counts three citations. But checking the Leydesdorff citations, a reference to our article is not to be found (of course it should have been there, but it isn’t). 0xDE reported a spam account in the name of Peter Taylor, where they collected various Taylors in a single profile boasting an h-index of 94. That Google Scholar can be fooled has been reported Beel & Grip (2010).

When I was interviewed for our university paper on Google Scholar Citations (in Dutch) I told them: Google Scholar is only about five years old. Give them another five years and they will have changed the market for abstracting and indexing database totally. If only 20 percent of all scientists make their publication lists correct (also editing of the references which can be done to improve the mistakes Google has made) even without making them publically available, Google sits on a treasure trove of high quality metadata. Really interesting to see how this story will develop.

Reference:
Joeran Beel and Bela Gipp. Academic search engine spam and google scholar’s resilience against it. Journal of Electronic Publishing, 13(3), December 2010.

10 thoughts on “How Google Scholar Citations passes the competition left and right

  1. Beside the two competitors mentioned, there is a relevant overlap with Google Citations and reference management applications such as Zotero and Mendeley. Especially the latter encourages its users to create profiles with their own publications (example). The more Google Citations evolves into a general citation management tool, the more it becomes a competitor to this kind of software. Ideally you should be able to sync your Google Citations account with accounts at CiteULike, Mendeley, Bibsonomy etc.

  2. Jakob,

    You’re right. But I viewed them as public listings of references and their citations. There are many other places on the Web where you can post publication lists for free. The Mendeley and Zotero examples are only a few of many others.

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