Citations, Open Access and University Rankings

Citations, Open Access and University Rankings

Clive Baldock (University of Tasmania, Australia)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0819-9.ch007
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The citation impact of research articles contributes to the assessment of the research performance of universities in some international university ranking systems either as the number of citations per paper, number of citations per faculty, total number of citations, number of highly cited papers or percentage of highly cited papers. Publishing research articles in Open Access (OA) journals has the potential for increasing the citation impact of research articles and in so doing improve an institutions position in university rankings. This chapter reviews the evidence for an increase in citations through publishing in Open Access publications.
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Over hundreds of years, and generally throughout their existence, the role of universities in society has continued to evolve. Many universities that were originally institutions of learning have over time, and particularly over the last century or so, evolved to undertake and promote research as a significant feature of their activities alongside both undergraduate and postgraduate teaching.

For many universities in the higher education arena, a significant tension arises from the pressure to favour research over teaching and use revenue from student fees to cross-subsidise the non-teaching activities of institutions, such as research, which includes the non-teaching, research component of academic staff salaries. To give this some context, a recently published report in Australia (Norton 2015) indicated that surpluses from the teaching enterprise significantly subside the research enterprise in Australian universities with the suggestion that universities earn up to $3.2 billion more from students than they spend on teaching with, conservatively, one dollar in five that is spent on research coming from the surpluses on teaching.

Students expect to gain some benefit from investment in their education by way of small classes and more personalised teaching and assistance. However, there are significant incentives for universities to spend extra money on research. The argument is often made that there is the accepted understanding of synergies between teaching and research, often referred to as the teaching-research nexus with the expectation that teaching and research activities mutually support each other in that students will receive a better education for learning in a research environment and research will benefit from student input.

Regardless of whether students benefit from attending a university with synergies in the teaching-research nexus, for many, enrolling in high-prestige universities has the potential to improve social status and employment prospects. Further, for international students the level of the prestige of a specific university is often considered to be a function of the institution’s performance in the various university rankings which are significantly influenced by both research performance. To this end, there is significant interest in the quality of research with regards to the global assessment of higher education institutions articulated through university rankings.

In this chapter aspects of university rankings is explored with emphasis on the role of citations resulting from research publications and more specifically on the role that Open Access publishing may play.

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