Are Mendeley reader counts useful impact indicators in all fields?
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Reader counts from the social reference sharing site Mendeley are known to be valuable for early research evaluation. They have strong correlations with citation counts for journal articles but appear about a year before them. There are disciplinary differences in the value of Mendeley reader counts but systematic evidence is needed at the level of narrow fields to reveal its extent. In response, this article compares Mendeley reader counts with Scopus citation counts for journal articles from 2012 in 325 narrow Scopus fields. Despite strong positive correlations in most fields, averaging 0.671, the correlations in some fields are as weak as 0.255. Technical reasons explain most weaker correlations, suggesting that the underlying relationship is almost always strong. The exceptions are caused by unusually high educational or professional use or topics of interest within countries that avoid Mendeley. The findings suggest that if care is taken then Mendeley reader counts can be used for early citation impact evidence in almost all fields and for related impact in some of the remainder. As an additional application of the results, cross-checking with Mendeley data can be used to identify indexing anomalies in citation databases.
KeywordsMendeley Readership counts Citation analysis Disciplinary differences
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