May 18, 2022

Research Article: “Comparison of Bibliographic Data Sources: Implications For the Robustness of University Rankings”

The following article was recently published by Quantitative Science Studies.


Bibliographic Data Sources: Implications For The Robustness Of University Rankings


Chun-Kai (Karl) Huang
Curtin University, Australia

Cameron Neylon
Curtin University, Australia

Chloe Brookes-Kenworthy
Curtin University, Australia

Richard Hosking
Curtin University, Australia


Quantitative Science Studies.
Volume 1, Issue 2 (Spring 2020)
DOI: 10.1162/qss_a_00031


Universities are increasingly evaluated on the basis of their outputs. These are often converted to simple and contested rankings with substantial implications for recruitment, income, and perceived prestige. Such evaluation usually relies on a single data source to define the set of outputs for a university. However, few studies have explored differences across data sources and their implications for metrics and rankings at the institutional scale. We address this gap by performing detailed bibliographic comparisons between Web of Science (WoS), Scopus, and Microsoft Academic (MSA) at the institutional level and supplement this with a manual analysis of 15 universities. We further construct two simple rankings based on citation count and open access status. Our results show that there are significant differences across databases. These differences contribute to drastic changes in rank positions of universities, which are most prevalent for non-English-speaking universities and those outside the top positions in international university rankings. Overall, MSA has greater coverage than Scopus and WoS, but with less complete affiliation metadata. We suggest that robust evaluation measures need to consider the effect of choice of data sources and recommend an approach where data from multiple sources is integrated to provide a more robust data set.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.