Intended for healthcare professionals


Using bibliometrics to define the quality of primary care research

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 08 March 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d1083
  1. Alison L Weightman, associate director1,
  2. Chris C Butler, professor of primary care medicine2
  1. 1Research and Academic Engagement, Information Services, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF14 4YS, UK
  2. 2School of Medicine, Cardiff University
  1. weightmanal{at}

A useful international benchmark, but should not be used to allocate resources

In the linked bibliometric analysis (doi:10.1136/bmj.d1028), Glanville and colleagues assess the value of primary care research from the United Kingdom and five comparator countries, as measured by references or citations in later research publications. The authors found that these measures consistently placed UK researchers among the best in the world.1

Although opinions differ as to how reliable bibliometrics are as a sole measure of the quality and impact of research,2 3 4 they are increasingly used to assess peer reviewed research outputs in contexts such as local research performance indicators, grant applications, and academic appraisal processes. The Higher Education Funding Council for England’s current recommendation is that, because bibliometrics are unlikely to be free from distortion,5 the forthcoming Research Excellence Framework subpanels will be asked to decide whether they wish to use citation information to inform their review of research outputs. Some may well do so.

The decisions made by the framework will inform the distribution of public funds by the four UK higher education funding bodies and therefore influence the development of the evidence base, in one direction or another, that supports clinical decisions in the more than 300 million general practice consultations each year in the UK, which represent more than 95% of all NHS consultations. …

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