How to assess the impact of an electronic document? And what does impact mean anyway?: Reliable usage statistics in heterogeneous repository communities

Usually the impact of research and researchers is quantified by using citation data: either by journal-centered citation data as in the case of the journal impact factor (JIF) or by author-centered citation data as in the case of the Hirsch- or h-index.This paper aims to discuss a range of impact measures, especially usage-based metrics, and to report the results of two surveys.

Design/methodology/approach – The first part of the article analyzes both citation-based and usage-based metrics.

The second part is based on the findings of the surveys: one in the form of a brainstorming session with information professionals and scientists at the OAI6 conference in Geneva, the second in the form of expert interviews, mainly with scientists.

Findings – The results of the surveys indicate an interest in the social aspects of science, like visualizations of social graphs both for persons and their publications. Furthermore, usage data are considered an appropriate measure to describe quality and coverage of scientific documents; admittedly, the consistence of usage information among repositories has to be kept in mind. The scientists who took part in the survey also asked for community services, assuming these might help to identify relevant scientific information more easily. Some of the other topics of interest were personalization or easy submission procedures.

Originality/value – This paper delineates current discussions about citation-based and usage-based metrics. Based on the results of the surveys, it depicts which functionalities could enhance repositories, what features are required by scientists and information professionals, and whether usage-based services are considered valuable. These results also outline some elements of future repository research.