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The role of baseline granularity for benchmarking citation impact. The case of CSS profiles

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In this paper we study the effect of granularity on Characteristic Scores and Scales (CSS). Unlike the traditional indicators that are mostly based on means and quantiles, CSS require the reduction of the citation distributions collaboration of the underlying reference population to four states (classes) and thus higher a different level of granularity. While the question of the choice of granularity is at higher levels of aggregation usually not critical since countries and university have rather multidisciplinary profiles, at lower aggregation levels specialisation becomes more typical. Inappropriate granularity might not warrant the depiction of the publication profiles at these levels in a correct and adequate manner and thus not add accurate citation profiles either. In order to be able to process one complete annual volume of the Web of Science, we decided to calculate CSS thresholds and classes for two levels of granularity, namely sub-fields and WoS Subject Categories. With about 5% deviation, we did not find a real significance. However, we identified journals with similar impact measures but different citation profiles, independently of the granularity. Finally, we have pointed to the limitations in the choice of granularity—in terms of both too broad and too narrow subjects.

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Fig. 1

(Data sourced from Clarivate Analytics Web of Science Core Collection)

Fig. 2

(Data sourced from Clarivate Analytics Web of Science Core Collection)


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The present study is an extended version of an article presented at the 16th International Conference on Scientometrics and Informetrics, Wuhan (China), 16–20 October 2017 (Glänzel and Thijs 2017). In particular, the paper has been extended by adding a new option based on new data and results, which are presented in a new section on topic-based granularity. Figure 1 has been reproduced from Glänzel et al. (2009) with permission of the publisher. Table 1 presents data on subfield-based journal indicators shared with figures of Table 9 in Glänzel et al. (2018).

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Correspondence to Wolfgang Glänzel.

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Glänzel, W., Thijs, B. The role of baseline granularity for benchmarking citation impact. The case of CSS profiles. Scientometrics 116, 521–536 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-018-2747-1

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  • Granularity
  • Citation impact
  • Characteristic scores and scales
  • Journal citation measures