Databases and citations
“The goal of bibliographic databases is the collection of scientific literature as a means of disseminating knowledge…”1
I was recently part of a three-person team undertaking a project with Elsevier Mexico to unify Scopus profiles, especially those belonging to members of the National System of Researchers (SNI). This includes about 12,000 researchers. (I should also note that a similar number of researchers in Mexico, an estimated 12,000, are not SNI members, which involves meeting requirements to obtain certain benefits including financial aid. Therefore, work remains to be done to reconcile non-SNI profiles as well.)
As the team member with responsibility for the final stage of the project, I was in charge of collecting all the information and resolving issues pertaining to clarity of records. By unifying profiles, we are supporting an important process for researchers and research centers — analyzing citations for purposes of determining and assessing the impact of research.
The importance of uniform names and research profiles
Our goal was to ensure each author who was part of the SNI during 2012 only had one author profile. Although programs do have algorithms to identify matching profiles with similar names, themes, co-authors, or institutions, they cannot identify all discrepancies. And although it is a manual process, there is often uncertainty about some of the multiple profiles.
Scopus profile of Dr. Guillermo Torre Amione, a 2012 Scopus Elsevier-CONACyT Award winner.
This may be due to:
a) Authors who have used variations of their names or changed their names because of marriage or other reasons
b) Editors who mistake first names for surnames or vice versa
c) Mistakes by journals or databases when capturing the names
d) Differences in transliteration of names, which may occur when researchers’ native languages use a different alphabet or naming structure than the language of publication
In Mexico, the most common issue was researchers having two surnames, while they publish under a single surname. As you can imagine with common surnames like Gomez, Sanchez, Garcia, López, etc. this may be tricky.
All of these factors can affect citations, which may be missed or incomplete and take a much longer time to determine. In turn, calculations such as h-index, Impact Factor, citation counts, or some other bibliometric measure will be inaccurate. These measures may be a factor in tenure, funding or like decisions. For example, in conjunction with Mexico’s National Council of Science and Technology (CONACyT), Elsevier presents Scopus Elsevier-CONACyT Awards2 to researchers in seven subject areas. Selection criteria include number of citations (eliminating auto citations), the number of documents published, h-index and the individual research discipline.
The analysis and unification process
To start the unification process, we made a list of SNI members, reaching a total of 11,751 authors to analyze. Out of 11,751 SNI researchers, 73 percent had a single profile (all papers for an individual were under a single name). The rest, 3,208 researchers, had papers under two or more names or profiles.
Authors with multiple profiles were assigned an identifying number to facilitate search and citation analysis. Previous work by librarians to assign h-indices to SNI researchers was extremely helpful. Authors with the same name, at the same institution and within the same research area were then consolidated under one profile. In some instances, I had to contact the authors to make sure that it was the correct researcher. Once the project was completed, Elsevier contacted different institutions to get feedback about researchers’ data.
1. Authors of scientific papers should aim for uniformity in the attribution of their academic works.
2. Uniformity and/or unification of authors’ names is crucial for citation analysis.
3. Collaboration among librarians can be useful in shaping commercial databases.
4. While Elsevier Mexico took the initiative for this project, we now hope to achieve similar results with researchers outside SNI.