This spring, we conducted a survey of faculty and graduate students in order to better understand how they use and rely upon citation indexes like Web of Science & Scopus. We wanted to ensure that we would be aware of any loss of critical functions that could result from a cancellation. An email including the survey link was sent to all faculty and graduate students in early April and the survey was closed at the end of May, 2020.
There were a total of 75 completed responses.
Just over 40% of respondents identified themselves as core Web of Science users;
Another 40% identified themselves as core Google Scholar users:
The rest identified themselves as either core Scopus users or as people who didn’t use any one product exclusively
By discipline, Web of Science and Scopus showed similar sets of users (mostly from STEM fields), whereas Google Scholar had a slightly larger percentage of users from the Social Sciences.
The functions people use and rely upon heavily - with backward and forward citation searching and finding impact factors or h-indices being at the top - appear to be remarkably similar across all the tools.
Significant Take Aways
Respondents' Comfort Level with Canceling Web of Science:
Just under two-thirds (62%) of core Web of Science users indicated either that they could do everything they needed with Scopus or were not familiar enough with the tool to say they couldn’t.
Those few who indicated Scopus would not meet their needs made up just 20% of all respondents.
Even among those who indicated Scopus would be insufficient, only about half provided any examples, when prompted. Of the examples that were given, the majority called out functionality that is actually provided by both tools. Those that identified actual gaps between the two tools mentioned:
Issue: Web of Science’s superior historical backfile. Answer: UA Libraries owns the Web of Science’s historical backfile (1900-2020).
Issue: Differences in journal coverage between the two products. Answer: While it is true that 7% of the journals actively indexed in Web of Science are not also indexed by Scopus, the reverse is much more significant, with 51% of Scopus titles not being indexed in Web of Science.
Issue: Scopus’ more “glitchy” integration with EndNote. Answer: Because Web of Science and EndNote are owned by the same company, their integration is indeed better than the integration with Scopus (which in turn integrates more seamlessly with Mendeley, a freely-available citation management product developed by Elsevier).
From this survey, it appears that canceling Web of Science, while unpopular, should not leave our users without the critical functionality or information they need to do their work. Such a cancellation, though, would be disruptive and, for some, demoralizing. Looking broadly across all textual comments and responses, the two major underlying themes that are important to note are:
A concern over the time and effort that will be needed for users of Web of Science learn a new tool,
A concern that the cancellation of Web of Science will result in a loss in stature for the University of Arizona, and
That the elimination of a tool highly valued by many in STEM fields is a leading indicator of a reduction in support for research by the University as a whole
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