We are proud to unveil the foreCite Index a new bibliometric indicator that we have developed from our rigorous studies of the statistics of citations.
Extensive research by our lab has demonstrated that the distribution of the asymptotic number of citations to primary papers in a set of “related” publications – such as the publications of a researcher, or of the researchers in an academic department, or published in a single journal – can be well-described by discrete lognormal distributions. Stringer et al. demonstrated that the distribution of the number of citations to papers published in a given journal t years after publication converges to a practically stationary functional form when t > 10 years. Thus, we refer to the number of citations ten or more years after publication as the asymptotic number of citations of a paper. Stringer et al. reported that, for the vast majority of journals, we cannot reject the hypothesis that the distribution of the asymptotic number of citations to papers published in a journal is consistent with a discrete lognormal model. Moreira et al. have now extended this results to researchers and academic departments.
Consider papers published in a given, well-established, journal. Authors, reviewers, and editors have an idea of the expected quality of the papers published in the journal. For this reason, authors would be foolish to submit papers that clearly are unlikely to be accepted for publications. If lower quality papers are submitted, then referees and editors are likely to reject the paper. These forces will act to maintain published papers within a range of qualities. Unfortunately, the quality of a submitted, or even published, paper is not directly measurable, that is, it remains a hidden (latent) variable. We denote this hidden variable the citability of a paper.
We hypothesize that the citability results from the interplay of several, possibly independent, variables such as timeliness of the work, originality of approach, strength of conclusion, reputation of authors and journals, and potential for generalization to other disciplines. If we further assume that the citability is additive in all these factors, then the central limit theorem imposes that it will be a Gaussian variable.
We find that the mean citability typically takes values in the range 0 – 2. This range does not make for a particularly enlightening scale. In order to create a bibliometric indicator whose value is clear across disciplines, we must define discipline-specific scales. To this end, we identify for each discipline a reference journal. We then use this reference journal to define the foreCite index for a department, journal, or researcher in a discipline.