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Classifications of science and their effects on bibliometric evaluations


Disciplinary classification of science is essential to bibliometric analyses. Given the conceptual and technical difficulties in classifying individual papers into disciplines and specialties, most classifications systems are implemented at the journal level, which affects the classification of papers published in multidisciplinary journals. In order to investigate the effect of the different classification systems on bibliometric evaluations, this study compares the rankings of the most productive institutions and most productive authors using the two types of classifications. Results show that the classification of papers has less influence on rankings at the institutional level than at the individual level. Implications for bibliometric evaluations are discussed.

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  1. 1.

    In this study, China refers to mainland China, which is the geopolitical area under the direct jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China, excluding Hong Kong and Macau.

  2. 2.

    Since no level 2 discipline is under General Social Science, General Natural Science, Transportation, Aviation and Aerospace, and Multidiscipline, these five level 1 disciplines will also be investigated as level 2 disciplines.

  3. 3.

    Although the number of top 1‰ and tied authors is less than 10 in some disciplines, we set the minimum denominator as 10 to avoid the outliers.

  4. 4.

    The number of papers were under investigation in a given discipline was calculated as A + B − O as shown in Fig. 2.


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This study is supported by SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship (75620190196) and Social Sciences Foundation of China (19ZDA348).

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Junping Qiu.


Appendix 1

See Table 4.

Table 4 Overlap rate between journal classification and paper classification on the top institutions and authors

Appendix 2

See Table 5.

Table 5 Disciplines by difference between journal and paper classification

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Shu, F., Ma, Y., Qiu, J. et al. Classifications of science and their effects on bibliometric evaluations. Scientometrics 125, 2727–2744 (2020).

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  • Classification of science
  • Chinese Library Classification
  • Research evaluation
  • Institution
  • Author