Friday, 22 April 2011

What's best: Web of Science, Scopus or Publish or Perish?

The answer to this question posed in this title depends on what you want to know but it has to be understood that these three methods of tracking citations and measuring your h-index are not the same.

Web of science

Web of Science (WoS) which is available through Web of Knowledge via your institution's library pages - provided they subscribe - is run by the same company, Thomson Reuters, who award impact factors to journals.  Therefore, only journals with an impact factor awarded by Thomson Reuters appear in this database.  This puts some subjects - mainly those in the humanities and some social sciences, including nursing - at a disadvantage.  One feature of WoS is the facility to create your own ResearcherID webpage whereby you are given a unique ID number and, thereafter, can easily track your own papers and citations and check up on your h-index.  My experience is that WoS is the most conservative estimate of your citations and h-index and, despite the imperfections of the impact factor system, you are clear on the standards expected of the journals that are included.  My view is that WoS is the 'gold standard'.


Scopus  is run by Elsevier  who are a major publishing house.  It includes most of the journals on WoS, not only Elsevier journals, but will include all Elsevier journals and some more that do not have an impact factor.  Thus, it tends to include more journals than Web of Science and, as Elsevier are major publishers of health and nursing, is advantageous to some subjects, especially nursing.  Your library will have to subscribe to Scopus.  Scopus has one feature missing in WoS which is that you can generate an h-index with and without self-citations.  WoS allows you to remove self-citations but does not generate and h-index.  My experience is that Scopus awards an h-index 2 points higher than WoS when self-citations are included and reduces this by 1 point when self-citations are excluded.

Harzing's Publish or Perish

Harzing’s Publish or Perish (PoP) is available free through public domain down-loadable software that trawls Google for your publications.  It is very inclusive, including anything that is available on the Internet and found by Google.  Therefore, it includes journals, books, chapters, conference proceedings and reports.  At one level it is very easy to use: type in your name and press 'Enter'; however, if you have a very common name then it will find everything by everyone with that name and this can mean checking through hundreds, perhaps thousands, of hits and also checking for duplicates.  Clearly, with such inclusivity, PoP tends to be very generous in assessing your citations and h-index.  It does provide other measures of citation such as the g-index.  In my experience it is unstable, providing vastly different estimates of h-index on different occasions.

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