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NIH Scientists Publish New Metric to Measure the Influence of Scientific Research

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A new metric, known as the Relative Citation Ratio (RCR), will allow researchers to measure the influence of a scientific article, regardless of publication and scientific field. While RCR cannot replace expert review, it does overcome many of the issues faced by previous metrics. RCR was developed by scientists with the Office of Portfolio Analysis (OPA), Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiatives (DPCPSI), part of the National Institutes of Health. A description of the new metric will be published in PLOS Biology on Sept. 6, 2016.

Currently, metrics are determined at the journal level, and the influence of an article is based on the journal in which it was published. Individual articles and researcher performance are evaluated based on the assumption that all articles published in high impact journals are uniformly of high impact, and that high impact science is not published in lower impact factor journals. Researchers also recognize the importance of each other's work based on citations; however, citation practices vary between fields.

To address these issues, RCR uses a co-citation network that is formed from the reference lists of papers that cite the article in question, defining a unique field for each article. In addition, RCR is benchmarked to a peer comparison group to determine the relative influence of an article, assuming citations are a measure of influence, and to allow comparisons between similar types of articles, or output from similar institutions.

RCR is not intended to, and cannot replace, expert opinion and is not a direct measure of the relative importance of the science described in publication. iCite, a free, easy to use web tool, has offered to calculate RCR values for user-selected articles listed in PubMed.

More information: 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 Biology 14(9): e1002541. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1002541 


Last updated: September 7, 2016 

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