Monday, December 22, 2014

Headline: Cambridge University Press Breaks Google Scholar

Congratulations, Cambridge University Press! You have broken Google Scholar. I noticed that a paper of mine (Wymbs et al., Neuron, 2012) suddenly went from 40 citations to 70 in one Google-Scholar update. No other paper jumped so crazily this time, so I ruled out an algorithm update. It turns out that there is a recent 'target article' in Behavioral and Brain Sciences that includes much invited 'open peer commentary'.

One comment cited us, but each comment/article has a separate DOI even though they all link to the same .pdf file. 30 instant citations.

Now I wonder how much BBS inflates their impact factor by doing this... (Important note: this effect can easily be an unintended byproduct. I am just pointing out that it does indeed appear to be such a byproduct of how the website has organized the article and its associated comments. I am making no comments whatsoever about anybody's intent, because I have no idea about that.)

I am amused. (Also horrified.)


A. Avouris said...

Dr. Porter,

You have indeed discovered one of the odd quirks of BBS and its interactions with Google Scholar!

As I'm sure you know, the BBS commentary structure predates the invention of Google by some years -- and occasionally it shows. We are in discussions regarding the indexing of BBS articles and hope in the future that their representation will be a bit more straightforward.

In the mean time, I can assure you that Google's calculation of BBS citations has no influence whatsoever on the journal's Impact Factor. Thomson Reuters does not to count "citations" from commentaries to their original target article in its calculations. Were they to do so, our Impact Factor would be greatly inflated from its current position.

The BBS commentary structure remains unusual in the academic journal world. As online commentary on published articles becomes more common, we may see more nuance their representation by indexers. I certainly hope so.

A. Avouris, Publishing Editor

Mason said...

Thank you passing along this information. I appreciate the clarification.

Now can we get rid of impact factors entirely? :)