Bibliometrics as a tool for supporting prospective R&D decision-making in the health sciences

Strengths, weaknesses and options for future development

by Sharif Ismail, Edward Nason, Sonja Marjanovic, Jonathan Grant

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Bibliometric analysis is an increasingly important part of a broader 'toolbox' of evaluation methods available to R&D policymakers to support decision-making. In the US, UK and Australia, for example, there is evidence of gradual convergence over the past ten years towards a model of university research assessment and ranking incorporating the use of bibliometric measures. In Britain, the Department of Health (England) has shown growing interest in using bibliometric analysis to support prospective R&D decision-making, and has engaged RAND Europe's expertise in this area through a number of exercises since 2005. These range from the macro-level selection of potentially high impact institutions, to micro-level selection of high impact individuals for the National Institute for Health Research's faculty of researchers.The aim of this document is to be an accessible, 'beginner's guide' to bibliometric theory and application in the area of health research and development (R&D) decision-making. The report also aims to identify future directions and possible next steps in this area, based on RAND Europe's work with the Department of Health to date. It is targeted at a range of audiences, and will be of interest to health and biomedical researchers, as well as R&D decision-makers in the UK and elsewhere. The report was produced with funding support from RAND Europe's Health R&D Policy Research Unit with the Department of Health.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Structuring bibliometric analyses

  • Chapter Three

    Using bibliometrics for selection procedures

  • Chapter Four

    Assessing bibliometric techniques: strengths, weaknesses and caveats

  • Chapter Five

    Options for the future

  • Appendix A

    Understanding 'impact', 'quality' and 'excellence' in research evaluation

  • Appendix B

    Applying bibliometrics in other contexts — two examples

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The research described in this report was prepared for the Department of Health England and conducted by RAND Europe.

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