Scientific utility and international diffusion of Ardeola: a bibliometric analysis

Authors: CARRASCAL, L. M. and DÍAZ, M.

Published: Volume 45(2), December 1998. Pages 221-239.

Language: Spanish

Original Title: Utilidad científica y difusión internacional de Ardeola: un anÁlisis bibliométrico

Keywords: Ardeola, authors, bibliometry, literature use, ornithology, research topics, science citation index (SCI) and Spain.


The editorial line of Ardeola has been improved from 1983 onwards to enlarge its scientific utility and international presence. We analyse the pattern of citation of the papers published by Ardeola between 1983 and 1996 according to the authors who cited them, to the reset topics of these papers, and to the use of the scientific literature by their authors. In addition, we compare these patterns with the patterns of citation of ornithological papers published by Spanish scientists in international journals included in the Journal Citation Reports (JCR). Patterns of citation of papers published in low-citation journals (SCI<0.5) and top-citation journals (SCI>1.5) were analysed separately. Our main objective was to evaluate to what extent the goal of enlarging the international diffusion and scientific utility of Ardeola, which has directed the editorial line of the journal for the last 15 years, has been reached. Also, we tried to detect the main factors which could have delayed reaching that goal, as well as to derive efficient ways to overcome them. The average impact factor (SCI) of Ardeola (computed as the number of citations received in a given year by the papers published during the two previous years both in Ardeola and in the JCR journals, divided by the number of papers published in Ardeola during the same time period) has been 0.26 citations/year. This impact factor was six times lower that the impact factor of the ornithological papers published by Spanish scientists in top-citation journals, and marginally lower than the impact factor of the papers published by Spanish ornithologists in low-citation journals (0.36 citations/year on average). The impact factor of Ardeola has decreased markedly throughout the study period (Fig. 1). This fact was due to the decreasing citation of Ardeola within Ardeola itself (71% self-citation on average, that decreased from 87% to 47%). Low citation rate was combined with a short half-life of the papers published in Ardeola (5.8 years; Fig. 2). These results indicate that Ardeola has had a low scientific utility and a narrow international relevance. Most citations of the papers published in Ardeola came from their own authors and, to a much lesser extent, from other Spanish scientists (Fig. 3). Ardeola has been barely used by foreign scientists. These patterns differed markedly from the citation patterns of the papers published by Spanish scientists in top-citation journals, since the rate of citation of these papers by foreign researchers was much higher. Patterns of citation of Ardeola papers also differed from the patterns of citation of the papers published by Spanish ornithologists in low-citation journals, but in this case the differences were due to the larger self-citation of these later papers only (Fig. 4). Hence, the use and diffusion of the papers published by Spanish scientists was not improved substantially by the publication of these papers in low-citation journals as compared to Ardeola. Ardeola was very useful for the Spanish scientists, as indicated by the high citation of Ardeola papers that was found in the papers published by such scientists in top-citation journals (1.1% of 3700 references in 89 papers). However, these citations were too delayed from the date of publication of the papers in Ardeola (6.77 years on average), so that they barely contributed to the impact factor of the journal. We detected three main factors that contributed to explain the low scientific usefulness and the narrow international diffusion of Ardeola: (1) the research topics of most papers published in Ardeola, (2) the inappropriate use of the scientific literature by their authors, and (3) the low scientific production of most authors who have published in Ardeola. Most papers published in Ardeola in 1983-1995 (51.3%; n=249) have been descriptive studies focused on selected traits of the basic natural history of one or a few bird species; most of these studies were not developed conceptually from their descriptive focus to address more general topics, ideas or hypotheses, and this fact has limited its citation by other authors (Table 1). As regards to the use of the scientific literature, the authors who have published in Ardeola have tended to employ few references (30.8 on average) from old sources (10.2% of the references were published during the two years preceding the date of publication of the paper in Ardeola) of low diffusion and international use (32.2% were references to JCR journals); these facts have hampered both the conceptual development of the papers and their possibilities of citation (Tables 2 and 3). Finally, more that half of the 271 authors who have contributed to Ardeola in 1985-1996 have published only one paper in this journal (Fig. 6). Out of these 271 authors, 87.1% did not publish any paper in top-citation journals. On the other hand, most authors of papers published in top-citation journals did not publish any paper in Ardeola (Fig. 7). Hence, Ardeola has not been able of attracting (rather it has repelled) authors of high scientific production, either Spanish or foreigners, who could have contributed a great deal to the international diffusion of the journal. The scientific utility of Ardeola lies at present within the international ornithological journals of low impact factor. Hence, there is no reason (no bibliometric reason at least) for the current exclusion of Ardeola from the JCR list. Nor is there any reason for the current lack of consideration of Ardeola papers when evaluating the scientific production of their authors. However, Ardeola has been affected by some factors which have limited its usefulness and international diffusion. It is urgent to correct them in order to reach the goal of enlarging such usefulness and diffusion, approaching at least the level already reached by the Spanish scientists who have published their works in top-citation journals. Apart from implementing efficient publicity campaigns and easy ways for consulting the contents of Ardeola (updated inclusion in databases of rapid and wide diffusion such as Current Contents, web pages, etc.), it is necessary to increase the consideration of Ardeola as an option for publication for high-level authors (inclusion of review and forum sections within the journal, rapid publication of manuscripts, etc.). Last, but by no means least, it is urgent to promote as updated and appropriate a use of the literature by prospective authors as possible, approaching it to the current use of the literature displayed by the international scientific community. This editorial policy is aimed at contributing to improve the conceptual elaboration of the papers published in Ardeola, thus also improving its potential utility and international diffusion.

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