Quarterly News report  6 - june 2011

File: Bibliometrics:  A Key instrument for the evaluation of research


Bibliometrics refers to the metrological and statistical perspective. Used for the first time in 1933 by P. Otlet, it did not become widespread until reuse in 1969 by A. Pritchard in Britain and R. Estivals in France. Meanwhile, the term "Bibliographic Statistics " is used to define the application of statistics in bibliographic phenomenon.


This combination between bibliography and statistics can be explained by the fact that " bibliography accumulates from centuries an enormous amount of information without which we can not reconstruct historical facts, through its statistical data and its various systematic groups of books, it leads to deductions that all sciences can benefit from.» Among sciences, Sociology of knowledge is prominent, as well as Sociology of science founded by RK Merton. Thus, scientific publications become the base of studies of social processes founding issues related to productivity of the authors, their reputation and their gratification. In this respect, Derek de Solla Price outlines the concept of "Science of Science" in 1956, which is "the statistical study of long and homogenous series of objective and quantified indices (number of scientists, periodicals, articles, quotes, articles cited) of scientific activity. "

Its postulate is that science is designed in the image of a gas that we must "study its overall volume, the distribution of its molecules (scientists) according to their velocity (their fertility) modes of interaction of the molecules, the overall political and social properties of the gas (science) studied.» Hence, clear laws are deduced including the "invisible college" or the logarithmic growth of science. These were the springs of a science in gestation in 1977 called  "Scientometrics". In parallel to this contribution the Anglo-Saxon "bibliographic statistics" conceived laws including the Lotka, Bradford and Zipf laws. It also gave rise to the method of "citation analysis" in 1927 and contains in germ the principle of Science Citation Index developed in 1955 by E. Garfield. It has three indexes: the "Citation Index", the "index Source" and "Permuter subject index".

This index was completed by the Social Science Citation Index and the Arts and Humanities Citation Index in 1961.


Whatever the direction taken by the various bibliometric work and terminology borrowed, infometrics, scientometrics, webometrics, internet metrics, they are all based on the assumption that the publication is the product of individual thought and summation of a collective thought. Since production leads to consumption, said publication is the mean of apprehending the production and intellectual consumption.

Note also that the current progress of bibliometrics was allowed through IT. Thus, storage and processing capacities of current computer systems, their advanced features for computing and data representation plus the possibilities offered by disconcatenation of bibliographic data in discernible addressable fields allow any manipulation of the whole data.


The progress of bibliometrics also arises from the needs of the advanced countries scientific research systems. Thus, the needs for optimization of budgetary resources allocated to research and evaluation of its outputs are the main springs of bibliometrics development. At the extent that it has become a structural element of research systems in these countries. The current dynamics of our research system create an opportunity to build a national bibliometric system.


Research Director

Division of  Research and Development in Information Science