Google Scholar Citations: vanity page and the social potential

The service is now open for anyone. I was very curious to see how it performed, so I created my profile straight away. To put it back into context, this is a direct competitor to paying -and expensive !- services like Scopus. My take in a nutshell: it’s good. And the potential is really good too.

What is the main idea behind the service, then? It’s basically a follow-up of Google Scholar, focusing not on the papers but on the authors. A typical Google’s mission of organising the world’s knowledge, and this time, we are taking about academic knowledge. There are two ways to consider Google Scholar Citations.

The first one is the vanity page point of view. Researcher like to show off their long list of papers, their h, j, k or z-impact factor and so on. Google Scholar Citations is really good at this. Setting up your profile is really fast and frictionless, and Google’s also really efficient at finding your papers, as far as I can tell. It then build a table of your documents with the number of citations, which you can order and so on. Neat, convenient and efficient, but not ground-breaking, apart that it is a free service. Beside, it is finding more citations than Scopus or MS Academic, which is good for your ego. My score went from 150 (MS Academic) and 1000 (Scopus) to almost 1200 (Google) citations. Part of the reason is that Google is also taking into account proceedings. I actually discovered that some of my proceedings were cited. Cool. They are also indexing open access journals, which are not in Scopus, for instance. You can export your articles list (BibTex, Endnote and Reference Manager format) if you wish.

The second one, more interesting I think, is the social aspect. When setting up your profile, you can provide keywords to describe what you do. Once you’ve done that, try clicking on one of these keywords. You are brought to a page with a list of researcher sharing the same keyword, sorted out by their number of citations. The potentialities here are really interesting. You can imagine all sort of use from this service, from finding the most relevant person in a field (without forgetting, of course, that citations are just a part of the story), to identifying expert in a domain, whom you might want to contact. Similar to what Mendeley is offering, except that everything is automated here and you get the citations count as a bonus. Social is maybe not the right word here, it’s more about finding the connexion than interacting, since there are not tools but your profile to exchange information’s.

I’ve just finished reading Michael Nilsen’s book, a must read if you are interested in open and networked science. One of the interesting idea that comes back in the book is the fact that you can get stuck on a very specific problem out of your competences. Spend days or weeks to solve it (if you can), while someone, somewhere, with this very expertise, could do it much faster and more efficiently. The problem is to get the connexion. Having a global database of people’s profile and expertise could considerably speed up this process, by making the connexions possible. And I think that Google Scholar Citations might have the potential to do exactly that. The only problem so far is that the number of keywords you can provide is limited, which makes it difficult to get into a more detailed description of your domain of expertise, but that’s easy to fix.

Overall, I’m really excited by the potentialities offered by this new service. Let’s see how it evolves. Now go and try it yourself. Oh, and it’s already integrated in ScienceCard, by the way, which provide alternative metrics.

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