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IMU report cautions against use of citation statistics to gauge research quality -

The International Mathematical Union (IMU), in cooperation with the International Council on Industrial and Applied Mathematics and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, has released a report on the use of citations in assessing research quality. The report, titled Citation Statistics, is written from a mathematical perspective and strongly cautions against the over-reliance on citation statistics such as impact factor and h-index. These are often promoted because of the belief in their accuracy, objectivity and simplicity, but these beliefs are unfounded, says the report.

According to the report, statistics may prove inaccurate when they are improperly used - statistics can mislead when they are misused or misunderstood. It states that the objectivity of citations is illusory because the meaning of citations is not well-understood. Its meaning can be very far from 'impact'. While having a single number to judge quality is indeed simple, it can lead to a shallow understanding of something as complicated as research. Numbers are not inherently superior to sound judgments.

The report promotes the sensible use of citation statistics in evaluating research and points out several common misuses. It is written by mathematical scientists about a widespread application of mathematics. While the authors of the report recognise that assessment must be practical and that easily-derived citation statistics will be part of the process, they caution that citations provide only a limited and incomplete view of research quality. Research is too important, they say, for its value to be measured with only a single coarse tool.


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