Is Google Scholar useful for bibliometrics? A webometric analysis
Google Scholar, the academic bibliographic database provided free-of-charge by the search engine giant Google, has been suggested as an alternative or complementary resource to the commercial citation databases like Web of Knowledge (ISI/Thomson) or Scopus (Elsevier). In order to check the usefulness of this database for bibliometric analysis, and especially research evaluation, a novel approach is introduced. Instead of names of authors or institutions, a webometric analysis of academic web domains is performed. The bibliographic records for 225 top level web domains (TLD), 19,240 university and 6,380 research centres institutional web domains have been collected from the Google Scholar database. About 63.8% of the records are hosted in generic domains like .com or .org, confirming that most of the Scholar data come from large commercial or non-profit sources. Considering only institutions with at least one record, one-third of the other items (10.6% from the global) are hosted by the 10,442 universities, while 3,901 research centres amount for an additional 7.9% from the total. The individual analysis show that universities from China, Brazil, Spain, Taiwan or Indonesia are far better ranked than expected. In some cases, large international or national databases, or repositories are responsible for the high numbers found. However, in many others, the local contents, including papers in low impact journals, popular scientific literature, and unpublished reports or teaching supporting materials are clearly overrepresented. Google Scholar lacks the quality control needed for its use as a bibliometric tool; the larger coverage it provides consists in some cases of items not comparable with those provided by other similar databases.