Thursday, March 31, 2011

How useful is your work?

I've spent the last couple of weeks writing an European Research Council grant application. It's taken a huge amount of time as collectively the forms come to c.15,000 words and, given the competitiveness of the process, they have to be 'good' words. One of the things that you have to do is work out the impact of your work to date by looking up the citation rates of publications (basically how many times other people's papers/books refer to your papers/books). It's a pretty disheartening process. The vast majority of academic work it seems makes practically no impact, being cited only a handful of times. I'm not too unhappy with my citation rate given how it compares to others, but it's still fairly sobering (and I'm well aware of the problems of judging academic worth using such a crude quantitative measure). I used a neat bit of free software - the aptly named Publish or Perish - to calculate the rates (it harvests the data from Google Scholar). Overall, my work has been cited in excess of 3,500 times, but the distribution of those cites is very skewed as the graph shows. I don't actually have 170+ publications - it's around 130 (some of the tail is double counts). Only 24 of my pieces are cited more than 30 times, 9 of those above 100. Those 24 pieces are 75% of the citations (the top ten pieces are 40% of the citations, and the top cited book - Mapping Cyberspace - is 13% all on its own!).

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