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Predicting winners

01 July 2014

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Professor David Stern is an economist with an interdisciplinary background in geography and economics. His research has focused on understanding the relationship between resource use and economic growth and development. He currently teaches Energy Economics (IDEC8089).

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A study of almost 12,000 social science academic articles has revealed that citations received in the first two years after publication are strongly predictive of their future success – in an outcome that could have implications for the Government’s Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) exercise.

It has traditionally been assumed that academic citations accumulate too slowly in the social sciences to be useful for short-term research impact assessment. For this reason, the ERA process uses peer review in most social science disciplines, but uses citations in the natural sciences.

But the new study by Crawford School’s Professor David Stern has found that the accumulation of citations in social science disciplines such as economics and political science is every bit as predictable as those in natural sciences. His results are published in a new working paper.

“The peer review process used by ERA seems to me to be a wasteful duplication of effort to review research outputs that have already passed through a peer review process once, and this research shows that may not be necessary,” he said.

“This work shows that, surprisingly, citations received by journal articles in the first one to two years after publications are strongly predictive for citations received in future years. By contrast, journal impact factors are mostly useful in the year of publication and their contribution to predicting citations declines rapidly after that.”

Stern added that using the same bibliometric analysis method it should also be possible to predict citations reliably in the natural sciences.
The findings could also have important implications for university’s hiring and promotion of academics.

“It means we should pay attention to the early citations received by papers when we evaluate individual academics for hiring or promotion. “

Read more about it on David Stern’s Stochastic Trend blog.

Interested in studying with David Stern? He teaches Energy Economics (IDEC8089).

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