A Measured Method

Deciphering different bibliometric service models

March 1, 2023

Do you feel a bit late out of the gate when it comes to bibliometrics? You’re probably not alone. Bibliometrics are the quantitative ways that scholarly books, journals, and other publications can be analyzed to show their impact in their respective fields, thus helping institutions decide what research to invest in. Investments in building technical skills, establishing new positions, hiring new staff, subscribing to expensive tools, or all the above require resources, governance decisions, and establishing partnerships. So where do you begin?

First, bear in mind that service models will depend on existing structures at your institution, but they are also fluid and can evolve. Your organization will have to consider both immediate and long-term needs. Second, be aware that bibliometrics services often take a long time to establish and even longer to become integrated into the way an organization functions. At University of Waterloo in Ontario, conversations about bibliometrics began as early as 2009. We’re only now just finding our stride, and we still have a long way to go. Here are three bibliometric service models that may provide guidance:

Collaborative bibliometric services. Within this model, bibliometric work is often distributed across several units and can be characterized by (1) a shared governance or strong interconnectedness in decision making, and (2) a focus on institutional-level bibliometric analysis services rather than individual researchers’ profile analyses. This model often forms out of a mutual understanding of the value and impact bibliometric services have within and outside of the individual units. This can encourage a collective commitment and responsibility, as well as collaboration on tools and expertise. Caveats include the risk of confusion around resourcing and potential territoriality of responsibilities.

Centralized bibliometric services in the library. This model still involves significant collaboration with other units, but these collaborations aren’t often formalized through shared governance of a service. This model leverages the expertise of existing liaison librarians or specialized, team-based structures that focus on individual or departmental-level supports and analysis. Because bibliometric services tend to diffuse through an institution as they gain traction, a library with mature bibliometric services may see them distributed throughout the institution, regardless of model. As bibliometric analysis skills become recognized, the library can identify and capitalize on aligned values and priorities with other units. However, libraries engaging in this model will likely face familiar challenges, such as the need to repeatedly prove the value of the service to the broader institution and clarify ownership of resources, decision making, and tasks.

Centralized bibliometric services outside the library. Although considerably more difficult to characterize because of the lack of publicly available information, this model includes individuals who are highly skilled in bibliometric analysis or have access to and administer bibliometric tools. Their roles are typically within units that are highly interested in tracking the outputs and impacts of research. They can be more reactive to specific operational goals, such as increasing funding in a specific research area, increasing a university’s performance in international rankings, or taking part in a larger industry integration or business intelligence service.

The bibliometrics service model that exists at your institution should inform what tools you’ll engage with. This may lead your library to consider expanding expertise, access to additional bibliometrics tools (such as SciVal, Dimensions, and InCites), and then services. Alternatively, deeper expertise and resource investment would be needed for broad, institutional-level bibliometric services. This is an area of growth for many libraries with an exciting road ahead.

Adapted from “The Current and Evolving Landscape of Bibliometric Tools and Technologies,” Library Technology Reports vol. 58, no. 8. (Nov./Dec. 2022).


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