ATG Original: Scopus at 15: Part 2 – Elsevier Gets New Leadership and Direction

by | May 18, 2020 | 0 comments

by Nancy K. Herther (writer, consultant and Sociology/Anthropology Librarian, University of Minnesota Libraries

Kumsal Bayazit

For her first major presentation to the library/information industry, Elsevier CEO Kumsal Bayazit chose to speak at last November’s Charleston Conference. She began by thanking the Conference for inviting her to speak, “As I know it was not a popular decision with everybody….My hope and ambition for Elsevier is to work constructively with all the stakeholders in the ecosystem of research to tackle the ‘Grand Challenges’ that our society faces, and to evolve our services for a better future.”

Speaking directly to librarians in her audience, Bayazit noted that “While you continue your critical role as guardians of the quality of knowledge and knowledge dissemination, the way you do this is also evolving and very much focused on delivering the mission of your institutions. I knew coming into this role that Elsevier had a reputational challenge, but in the last nine months, the thing that has surprised me most pertains to trust. As the CEO of Elsevier, I have had strikingly different experiences with different customers.

Kumsal Bayazit

To close out on the topic of trust, all companies have supporters and critics, as do we, but I have been genuinely saddened by the deep frustration of our critics. I am sorry for causing this frustration,” Bayazit explained. “I am fully committed to earning the trust of the research community by working through and solving as many of these issues as possible. I appreciate that this will take time, and will happen through our actions, not our words. In my short time leading the company, what I have seen is that where we build bridges through mutual engagement, commitment, openness, flexibility and pragmatism, we also build trust, and from there we can build the future.

As research becomes more interdisciplinary, we will develop advanced recommendation tools to seamlessly surface relevant content from adjacent fields that help researchers connect the dots across disciplines….We will co-develop the next generation of tools for researchers, leveraging our 70+ partnerships with academic institutions around the world as we do so.

As researchers increasingly need to demonstrate their impact on society,” she continued, “we will move beyond publication and citation metrics to develop new indicators, collaborating with the International Centre for the Study of Research that we launched this summer where experts from the community can set these standards. We will look to the community to set the standards.

And we will systematically work on improving inclusion and diversity in research, with a focus on eliminating obstacles preventing gender equality. For example, we will deploy our analytics capabilities to measure progress and participation issues to drive balance in our editorial boards, conferences and peer reviewers and increasingly find ways to ensure gender is factored into the science. We are also launching an Advisory Board on Inclusion and Diversity with leading researchers providing guidance for us. In all the above,” she  stressed, “we see librarians as key partners in moving to an ever-more frictionless research information system. We will co-invest and partner with you where, in your judgment, it will help us all go further faster.”

In a recent Forbes interview, Bayazit expressed her vision for Elsevier this way:  “We serve professionals across very different industries, but the needs at the high level are similar. Everybody is looking for information solutions to improve the outcomes that they are trying to achieve. For scientists as they are doing research, pushing new scientific development, what can help them do that better, faster, higher quality? For lawyers to win cases, how do they do that faster, better and higher quality? So the questions are similar across segments.”


Anne-Wil Harzing

Anne-Wil Harzing, Professor of International Management at Middlesex University London, Business School, is a long time user and researcher of research citation.  Last year she published an analysis looking at Crossref and Dimensions and how they compare with Google Scholar, Microsoft Academic, Scopus and Web of Science. One of her conclusions noted that “Access to six sources for publication and citation data, four of which offer free access, with roughly equivalent publication coverage and varying levels of citation coverage offers academics with a wide array of choices for literature reviews and citation analysis.

Although I have included Scopus in comparative analyses with Google Scholar, Microsoft Academic, Dimensions, Crossref and Web of Science, I have never looked at Scopus in any detail,” Harzig admits to Against the Grain readers. “My main advice would be: Triangulate!! My free Publish or Perish software provides access to six data sources: Google Scholar, Google Scholar Profiles, Crossref, Microsoft Academic, Scopus and the Web of Science. Different data sources have very different coverage in different disciplines,” which can be seen in this article on the h-index and this article on the potential for Microsoft Academic.

Peter Kokol

In 2018, Peter Kokol, Engineering professor at the Slovenian University of Maribor, and colleagues published an interesting analysis of the role of predatory journals on citation research in the field of pediatrics. They noted that the rise of Open Access has created problems for citation analysis yet to be addressed. “These predatory journals caused a serious problem to the integrity of medical research, due to rising retraction rates, irreproducible results, and a flood of low quality publications.  

Scopus is the largest bibliometric service,” Kokol tells Against the Grain, “covering the largest number of journals and comparable number of conferences. The services are very user friendly and the system allows one to export a sufficiently larger number of records than, for example, in WoS (Web of Science). This enables the researcher much easier and more efficient use of different bibliometric tools,  i.e. VOSViewer. Scopus and Elsevier also offer different journal impact metrics like SNIP (Source Normalized Impact per Paper), JCR (Journal Citation Reports) and CiteScore, which surprisingly produce quite different journal rankings. This might seem bad (and in some instances it probably is); however, different metrics also offer a more holistic view on journals’ impact. On the other side, large journal coverage also has a bad side; some of the journals covered might be covered as shown in our paper.

In my opinion,” Kokol continues, “Scopus is comparable to WoS (Web of Science) or PubMed, and is much better than, for example, Google Scholar. However, Scholar is free and also enables reach to grey literature, but user interfaces and access to publications is much more complicated, especially if one would like to perform big data analysis. Regarding the myriad of text mining software, I believe that issues with ‘bad bibliographic data’ could be solved without many problems in the very near future, though there are two other notable issues in Scopus. First, is the lack of funding data if compared to WoS (Web of Science); and, second, is the ‘random’ problem with data in exported files which disables the use of bibliometric tools. With ‘random’ I mean that when exporting the same corpus, in most cases, the file is correct and once in a while the file is corrupted. Fortunately, that happens very rarely.”

Kokol’s advice to Elsevier?  “The growth of knowledge is exponential; thereafter, also the number of publications is growing exponentially. Concurrently,  the expertise, skills and knowledge built in the current bibliographic systems is so large that the developers of new products will have a very hard task to develop comparable products regarding quality, efficacy, efficiency … and user friendliness. The advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning will enable the addition of new services and functionalities and, again, the current system will have the advantage that they will just have to upgrade the existing platforms and use the existing resources.

Currently, Scopus, WoS (Web of Science), etc.,”  Kokol continues, “are also misused for various academic, grant, etc., purely quantitative evaluations based on the premises that ‘controlled inclusion’ of source titles into the journal/conference/books lists covered prevents the various types of misuse. At the same time, those practices prevent the current bibliographic databases from providing access to ‘grey literature’  which, like everything else, has positive and negative effects. I would wish that Scopus will enable one to access every type of knowledge (including grey, predatory, questionable) with clear indication (and warnings, black lists, etc.) of the type of knowledge.”  

Erwin Humberto Krauskopf

 “I believe that the main advantage of Scopus is its coverage of disciplines that are not covered by other databases such as WoS (Web of Science),”  Erwin Humberto Krauskopf, Poblete of Universidad Andrés Bello’s Life Sciences School, explains to Against the Grain.  In a recent published article he examined the issue of missing documents in Scopus. However, he doesn’t solely blame Scopus. “Although Elsevier is accountable for missing or incomplete information, the editorial management team of the journals are negligent as it is their responsibility to confirm that the information uploaded by Scopus is correct.  Furthermore, each researcher should be checking whether the Scopus record contains the correct/complete data.”

Many readers and researchers had ideas, tips and perspectives on citation research and Scopus to share with readers.  In Part 3 we have gathered some of their observations and recommendations on Scopus and the landscape for citation research.

Nancy K. Herther is Sociology/Anthropology Librarian at the University of Minnesota Libraries, Twin Cities campus.  [email protected]

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