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It’s that time of year again – time to spruce up the CV, brush off that research statement, and tweak my teaching philosophy in preparation for the impending start of the next hiring cycle.

One of the key elements of any application where there’s some involvement in research is the list of publications, and related individual metrics.  Like it or not, hiring committees care about how much and where you publish, and how often those papers are cited (or at least we’re told they do).  Besides listing publications on your CV, I thought I’d pass along a handy tip – use the profile tool in Google Scholar.

This lets you add in your publications, and keep track of the citations, but more importantly, you can link to it on your CV.  In my case, I created a custom URL using tinyurl.com so that instead of random characters, anyone can see my profile by typing http://tinyurl.com/ScholarALB.

But why would you want to do this in the first place?  If, like me, you’re on the job market, it’s a quick, independent way to check a candidate’s publication record.  It’s easy to “embellish” a CV, and a Google Scholar profile is often on the first page or two of results when someone searches my name in Google (i.e., perfect for a search committee).  It also helps a search committee look at the individual-level metrics.  Sure, I may have published in the West-central Podunk Journal of Ecology (impact factor < 0), but perhaps that’s a highly-cited paper, though some search committee members might not know the journal.  Similarly, I may have an article in the journal Science from 2003 that hasn’t been cited once.  Remember that search committees may not necessarily know the relative reputations of journals in one’s field – yet another plus of individual-level metrics.

Sure, there are lots of other services that provide these metrics, including most article indexing services like Scopus and Web of Knowledge, but not all institutions subscribe to those (often expensive) resources.  The program Publish or Perish also gives individual-level metrics, but Google Scholar is free for anyone to see, and can be accessed with a single click.

Be warned though – not all these services are created equal.  Scopus, WOK (and its well-known component Biological Abstracts) each index different sets of journals, and so come up with different numbers.  Publish or Perish uses a combination of Google Scholar, and the less well known Microsoft Academic Search to get its citation data, but at the moment is Windows-only, and needs to be downloaded & installed.

As an example of how these can differ, below are some summary stats of my own

Metric Google Scholar Scopus Web of Knowledge Publish or Perish
# publications 38 30 29 18
# citations 233 254 142 217
h-index 8 7 7 8
i10-index 8 6 5 8
h-index = the number of papers, n, that have been cited n times. In other words, I have 8 papers that have been cited at least 8 times.
i10-index = the number of papers cited at least 10 times.

They’re all in the same ballpark (though Web of Knowledge is noticeably lower), but Google Scholar is the most accessible.  That said, Google has cut more popular services (most notably Google Reader), so who knows how long Scholar will stay around.

I don’t particularly care for using Scholar when doing a broad literature search (mostly because of the lack of sorting options for the results), but as an online freely-accessible source of individual scientists’ publishing metrics, it’s not bad (though the system can be gamed to bump up citation counts).  Still, at this point, I think the benefits, especially to early-career researchers who are on the job market, outweigh the potential costs.

Lastly, here are a few tips to bring your Google Scholar profile beyond the default:

  • Add a profile picture / head shot
  • Set up alerts for when new articles are added to your profile automatically, and edit / adjust if needed:
    • All-caps vs. sentence case titles
    • odd characters that are the result of formatting
    • Journal title / abbreviations
  • Add non-indexed items yourself (e.g., book chapters, monographs, reports)