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The Merits of Using Citations to Measure Research Output in Economics Departments: The New Zealand Case

By David L. Anderson and John Tressler

Abstract

In this paper we explore the merits of utilizing citation counts to measure research output in economics in the context of a nation-wide research evaluation scheme. We selected one such system for study: the New Zealand government’s Programme-Based Research Fund (PBRF). Citations were collected for all refereed papers produced by New Zealand’s academic economists over the period 2000 to 2008 using the databases of the ISI/Web of Science and, to a limited extent, Google Scholar. These data allowed us to estimate the time lags in economics between publication of an article and the flow of citations; to demonstrate the impact of alternative definitions of ‘economics-relevant’ journals on citation counts; and to assess the impact of direct citation measures and alternative schemes on departmental and individual performance. Our findings suggest that the time-lags between publication and citing are such that it would be difficult to rely on citations counts to produce a meaningful measure of output in a PBRF-like research evaluation framework, especially one based explicitly on individual assessment.citations; economics departments; journal weighting schemes; PBRF; research output

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