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Surveying Russell Group University Use of Google Scholar Citations

Posted by Brian Kelly on 24 Nov 2011

Measuring Take-up of Google Scholar Citations

A recent post gave some “Thoughts on Google Scholar Citations“. I concluded by suggesting that researchers could find it useful to claim their account on Google Scholar Citations and  ensure that the details of their papers are accurate but speculated on whether there would be barriers to researchers doing this. In order to investigate the level of usage of Google Scholar Citations in the UK higher education sector a survey of its usage across the twenty Russell Group Universities has been carried out and the findings published in this post. The institution’s name, as listed in the first column, was used as a search term.  The number of entries gives the current number of researchers found, with a link provided to the current final page of results.  In addition in order to investigate whether the service is being used by new researchers, who are likely to have a low number of citations or well-established researchers with large numbers of citations, a summary of the top three researchers having the largest numbers of citations is give, with links to the researchers profile together with details of the numbers of citations for the three researchers having the lowest numbers of citations. The results are given in the following table.  The survey was carried out on Tuesday 22 November 2011

Institution Nos. of entries Highest Citations Lowest Citations
University of Birmingham    33 *  (18,989)* – 5,817 –  5,7704,243  13 – 15 – 16
University of Bristol 40   21,761 –  9,223  –   8,271   0  –  0  –  6
University of Cambridge 73   46,12118,272 –  17,806   0  –  0  –  0
Cardiff University 20    6,665 –   6,142  –   3,823   0  –  0  –  1
University of Edinburgh 68   13,844 – 12,158  –   9,082   0  –  0  –  0
University of Glasgow 64   13,22811,718  –   5,773   0  –  0  –  1
Imperial College 71   31,261 –   9,630  –   9,303   0  –  4  –  4
Kings College London 23     6,052  – 6,030  –    4,513   0  –  0  –  0
University of Leeds 30   12,686 –  6,780  –    6,732   0  –  1  –  4
University of Liverpool 15   34,49920,014  –  14,717   1  –  1  –  8
London School of Economics 17   14,191 –  9,222  –    6,303   0  –  0  –  0
University of Manchester 73   19,57218,155 –  13,708   1  –  1  –  2
Newcastle University    44 *   11,18510,679  –   3,111   0  –  1  –  4
University of Nottingham  40   11,506 –   9,084  –   5,661   0  –  0  –  0
University of Oxford 109   25,36324,311 –  16,639   0  –  0  –  0
Queen’s University Belfast  15    2,357  –  1,913  –   1,667   1 – 24 – 37
University of Sheffield  32    5,735  –  3,318  –   2,980   0  –  1 –   1
University of Southampton  39   42,197  –  9,009  –  4,708   0  –  0  –  4
University College London 145   31,44030,842 –  20,058   0  –  0  –  0
University of Warwick  23     3,194 –  2,923  –   1,850   0  –  0  –  0
Total      974 * **

* It was noted that the first entry for a search for the University of Birmingham referred to Mary Vignolo Wheatley from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The numbers of Google Scholar Citation entries is therefore overstated for the University of Birmingham and potentially for the other institutions which are listed. ** I was informed after publication of this post that of the 44 citations quoted for Newcastle, 11 are actually for the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. Such errors could creep in for other institutions for which there are name clashes (e.g. York University and New York University). This highlights the need for globally unique institutional identifiers – but such discussions are outs the scope of this post. It was also noticed that the third entry for the University of Cambridge referred to Alan Turing, the English mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, and computer scientist who, as described in Wikipedia, lived from 1912-1954.  Unsurprisingly his Google Scholar Citation entry states that his email address has not been verified!


In a recent discussion about Google Scholar Citations I have been told about the difficulties in claiming authorship of papers after one has left one’s host institution and no longer has an institutional email address.  A second discussion I heard from one person who claimed his Google Scholar  account shortly before leaving his host institution who provided an alternative email account which could be used one his institutional email account had been deleted. The first example highlights a potential difficulty in asserting authorship of papers after one has left the host institution and the second example describes one way in which such potential problems can be addressed.  It would therefore appear sensible for researchers to claim a Google Scholar account while they are in a position to associate it with papers published in their host institution. An interesting issue, therefore, will be who should take responsibility for advising researchers on best practices for using services such as Google Scholar Citations.  Should the library include such advice in its training courses for new researchers?


A recent post by Wouter Gerritsma, subject librarian and bibliometrician at Wageningen UR Library described “How Google Scholar Citations passes the competition left and right“. Wouter’s post concluded:

Google Scholar is only about five years old. Give them another five years and they will have changed the market for abstracting and indexing database totally. If only 20 percent of all scientists make their publication lists correct (also editing of the references which can be done to improve the mistakes Google has made) even without making them publically available, Google sits on a treasure trove of high quality metadata. Really interesting to see how this story will develop.

It will be interesting to see how this story develops.  And as the launch of Google Scholar Citations was only announced a week ago today, we do have an opportunity to observe its take-up within our institutions from its early days.  Monitoring the take-up of the service, the approaches taken in managing the information and understanding difficulties in such management activities will be valuable not only in developing plans for use with other services in this space. Hmm, I wonder if Google Scholar Citations has APIs which will enable such monitoring approaches to be implemented in a scalable way?

15 Responses to “Surveying Russell Group University Use of Google Scholar Citations”

  1. The answer to the API question is no, and there are no plans to do so. It’s simply not something that is on their roadmap. My personal view is that that means GS will have its breakfast eaten by Microsoft Academic Search once they get down to making it easier to clean up the data. Once that data starts being pull at scale from one main, openly accessible source, that will be the place we go to keep things up to date. ORCID has a shot at it if it can move fast enough but GS seems to have no interest in that space at all, they are exclusively focused on services for individual researchers. MAS seem like they have the clearest shot at it at the moment

  2. An interesting article. I was able to obtain a Google Scholar Citations page when the service was first launched earlier this year. I already have both an Imperial College personal homepage that describes my academic work and a publications page that list my publications (Imperial College London & Imperial College London publications). These are useful sites but I find the extra functionality in Google Scholar Citations very useful in tracking citations. The ability to view citation metrics is helpful, as are the charts the service can produce. I’ve now encouraged my colleagues in the Department of Primary Care & Public Health to also sign up for the Google Scholar Citations service.

  3. David said

    You can eliminate some of the problems by putting quotations around the search term. For example: “University of York”

  4. […] Surveying Russell Group University Use of Google Scholar Citations […]

  5. […] Surveying Russell Group University Use of Google Scholar Citations […]

  6. […] to a heads up from Brian Kelly, I’ve been having a look at the latest improvements to Google Scholar, a search engine for […]

  7. Your survey is not correct for the University of Manchester.

    The top three are

    and the values are 19621 18199 16248.

    Please correct.

    • Thanks for the comment. The survey was a snapshot of usage which, as mentioned in the post, was carried out on Tuesday 22 November 2011. It is not intended to provide updates on the findings. Note that your results, in any case, are now also out-of-date: the top three results for the University of Manchester are now (on Monday 5 December 2011) 35,739, 19,641 and, for your papers, 18,211.

      • My guess is that on the 22 November, the numbers of citations for my entry were closer to 18,000 than to 13,000 (the figure you have in your table for Manchester). I think, most likely your original search had problems and did not pick up all entries for the University of Manchester. The conclusion is that its still
        beta and we have to wait and see until we have a decent coverage of most members of UK universities. Only then a survey of the type you presented will make sense.

      • Thanks for the response. In a post on Paradata for Online Surveys I commented on the potential difficulties in reproducing survey findings – I discovered, for example, that there were different numbers of results foe a search for the “University of Bath” and “Bath University” and also differences for other searches with and without quotes. That post concluded that there was a need to document the paradata for the survey.

  8. […] [8] Surveying Russell Group University Use of Google Scholar Citations.… […]

  9. […] at the University of Warwick. Her post included a reference to one of my posts which profiled Russell Group university use of Google Scholar Citations. I am now able to build on Jenny’s work by using some of the survey methodology techniques […]

  10. […] and academic services; similarly, search services such as Google Scholar (see the study in this blog post) and Microsoft Academic Search have also started to offer identifiers (see this blog post). There […]

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