Measuring the scientific impact of e-research infrastructures: a citation based approach?


This micro-level study explores the extent that citation analysis provides an accurate and representative assessment of the use and impact of bioinformatics e-research infrastructure. The bioinformatic e-research infrastructure studied offers common tools used by life scientists to analyse and interpret genetic and protein sequence information. These e-resources therefore provide an interesting example with which to explore how representative citations are as acknowledgements of knowledge in the life sciences. The examples presented here suggest that there is a relation between number of visits to these databases and number of citations; however, a parallel finding shows how citation analysis frequently underestimates acknowledged use of the resources offered on this e-research infrastructure. The paper discusses the implications of the findings for various aspects of impact measurement and also considers how appropriate citation analysis is as a measurement of knowledge claims.

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  1. 1.

    Since both databases are available on the market, the number of papers comparing them from a scientometric perspective has been growing (e.g. López-Illescas et al. 2008; Gorraiz and Schlögl 2007; Jacso 2006). Scopus covers over 19,500 titles from more than 5,000 publishers worldwide. It includes coverage of 18,500 peer-reviewed journals and over 4.9 million conference papers, 400 trade publications and 350 book series. It provides 100 % coverage of Medline. On May 1, 2012, it contained about 47 million records, 70 % with abstracts, of which 26 million records going back to 1996. (Scopus, 2012). Thomson ReutersWeb of Science covers over 12,000 research journals worldwide and provides access to “the Science Citation Index (1900-present), Social Sciences Citation Index (1956-present), Arts and Humanities Citation Index (1975-present), Index Chemicus (1993-present), and (1986-present), plus archives 1840–1985 from INPI.” (Reuters 2012).

  2. 2.

    Reviews are included in addition to articles and for this reasons they were also included in our citation analysis.

  3. 3.

    For these analyses we did not include Quicmod, Findpept, Findmod, PeptideMass, T-Coffee, Swiss-PdbViewer, RAxML and Prosite.

  4. 4.

    Bibliometric researchers, for example, often do not acknowledge the Web of Science or Scopus by including a URL in their publications, let alone a formal citation to the articles in which these databases were first introduced. Of the 518 SD publications that were found through NEXTBIO to mention the use of the Scopus databases in their full text, only 12 included the URL (though in some articles the URL may have been in the reference list, which was not analysed through NEXTBIO).


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A shorter version of this paper was presented at the ISSI 2013 conference in Vienna (Jonkers et al. 2013) and at the IWBBIO 2013 conference in Granada. The Spanish Ministry of Economics and Competitiveness funded the project of which this paper forms part through the grant: CSO2011-23508. The first three researchers also received funding from the Ramón y Cajal programme (MINECO) the JAE-DOC programme (CSIC) and the Juan de la Cierva programme (MINECO) of the Spanish Ministry of Economics and Competiveness and the Spanish Research Council (CSIC). The last author acknowledges the EC funded ViBRANT project (Grant RI-261532). SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics allowed for the use of the server web log data used for part of this analysis. We would also like to thank Felix de Moya Anegón for introducing us to the NEXTBIO application “section search” and Isidro Aguillo for advice on the use of Quest’s Funnelweb software. Researchers at the Centre for Science and Technology Studies of Leiden University (NL) provided stimulating ideas in discussions during a research stay of one of the authors. The usual disclaimer applies with respect to those contributions.


The first author worked on this article at the CSIC institute for Public Goods and Policies, but he has currently taken up work at the European Commission. The information and views set out in this chapter do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the first author’s current employer. The European Commission does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this study. Neither his current employer nor any person acting on its behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained herein.

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Correspondence to K. Jonkers.

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Jonkers, K., Derrick, G.E., Lopez-Illescas, C. et al. Measuring the scientific impact of e-research infrastructures: a citation based approach?. Scientometrics 101, 1179–1194 (2014).

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  • Citation analysis
  • Research infrastructure
  • Evaluation
  • Bioinformatics