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Study reveals Google’s lack of rigour measuring the impact of scientific publications

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Study reveals Google’s lack of rigour measuring the impact of scientific publications
02 mayo
12:25 2014

“Google search engines specializing in searching for and measuring the impact of scientific researchers and journals are the leading impact measurement tools in the academic world”

Researchers at the universities of Navarra and Granada have shown the lack of rigour in Google’s Scholar metrics – a tool that is fast becoming the most-used around the world to assess the impact of scientific publications. Their study, published in the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology and mentioned in a Letter to the Editor in the prestigious journal Science, warns of the ease at which false articles can be indexed in Google in order to increase the number of citations for researchers, articles and scientific journals.

The study revealed that the Google Scholar Citations and Google Scholar Metrics tools, two Google search engines specializing in searching for and measuring the impact of scientific researchers and journals, which are fast becoming the leading impact measurement tools in the academic world. The study was conducted by researchers Emilio Delgado López‐Cózar, Nicolás Robinson‐García and Daniel Torres‐Salinas of the University of Granada; the latter being the technical expert in charge of the study at the FIMA (Foundation for Applied Medical Research) of the University of Navarra (Vida Universitaria, Universidad de Navarra, 10 Dec. 2013).

The authors conducted an experiment involving the preparation of a false scientific article written by a fictitious researcher named Marco Alberto Pantani-Contador. The nonsensical text was copied and pasted from the website belonging to their research group (EC3: Evaluation of Science and Scientific Communication), and translated into English using Google Translator. The researchers then divided the paper into six articles, each containing citations 129 other scientific papers.

Pantani-Contador’s paper was then uploaded to a personal website associated to the University of Granada and Google quickly indexed the paper including it in its search engines, which shows that this task is carried out automatically, without taking into consideration the content of the indexed article itself.

The authors cited by Pantani-Contador in the fictitious article then saw how their citations in Google Scholar grew substantially, especially among the youngest researchers, who saw their article citations increase by a factor of six, noticeably raising their research profile in Google Scholar Citations. In addition, scholar metrics for all three authors increased substantially and 47 researchers and 52 journals saw an increase in number of citations.

As the main author of this study explains, “this experiment shows how easy it is for anyone with some computer knowledge to manipulate products offered by Google Scholar, a tool that is widely used in the world of scientific communication” (Science, 342)

Study reveals Google’s lack of rigour measuring the impact of scientific publications
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SINOPSIS: This experiment shows how easy it is for anyone with some computer knowledge to manipulate products offered by Google Scholar, a tool that is widely used in the world of scientific communication

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