Losing faith in Google Scholar for citation counts

Posted: February 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

I mostly like Google Scholar for altmetrics; it’s quick to check out any recent citations to my work and it updates much more rapidly than Web of Science (WoS). The downside (or the upside…), of course, has always been that Google Scholar tends to give higher citation counts than WoS by including things like dissertations, non-English language publications, books, etc. (basically anything published under an institutional domain as far as I understand; which can be gamed quite easily apparently, as discussed here). So the absolute numbers for Google Scholar always have to be taken with a grain of salt, but a recent change in the citations to one of my papers suggest that the citation counts should be taken with more like a 1kg bucket of NaCl.

I have a nice review article I published back in the hey day of my PhD which has garnered a decent number of citations. However, a couple of weeks ago I noticed that the citation count quickly increased by about 30. I didn’t think the paper all of a sudden became a blockbuster, so I did a little snooping. Turns out the boost in citations is from a book published back in 2010 that has several chapters (about 30), one or two of which pertain directly to the topic of my review and probably cited it. What is disturbing, however, is that it looks like every single individual chapter in this book is also included as a citation to my review article. Are the algorithms for Google Scholar really this poorly designed? Seems a bit ludicrous and really shakes my faith in Google Scholar as a reasonable (if inflated) source of citation counts. 

I’ve emailed Google Scholar to point out the issue, but I doubt it will even be read by a human being, let alone considered. I’ve emailed them in the past when Google Scholar was in beta to make suggestions and never heard/saw anything…just another small ripple in the salt filled sea that is Google Scholar…

  1. Alkemy says:

    Chapters in a book are often written by many different authors and groups, where the book is collected together by some editors. In this case I think it is fair that each chapter have separate citations. If the book is a collection of chapters written by the same authors, then this is wrong I think!

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