Skip to Main Content

Research Impact Metrics

A guide for those wanting to use research impact metrics for evaluation, analytics, and reviews, e.g., promotion & tenure.

Publication Counts


Total number of publications for an individual, a group of researchers, department, college, institution, etc.

Data sources

All bibliographic data sources index slightly different academic publications, and many of these sources have significant overlap and are based on selection practices. In addition, most bibliographic sources lack diverse coverage of scholarship, especially from the Global South and in non-English languages.

Platforms /

Many sources can be used to calculate the total number of publications, e.g., Google Scholar Profile, ORCID (multiple sources, managed by individual researchers), Web of Science, Scopus, Microsoft Academic. The calculation will be slightly different depending on the source of the data and its coverage for a specific field, document type, and geographic region.


Total number of publications can be a rough proxy for researcher productivity, especially over a longer period of time (e.g., approx. more than ten years and for someone not taking on additional academic responsibilities, such as in university administration, to detract from their research focuses). 

Limitations and
cautionary uses

Since publishing even one paper usually takes years, the total number of publications disadvantages early-career academics. It should not be used as a key performance indicator (KPI) to assess impact or productivity or for crucial decision making, such as promotion, tenure, grants, or hiring. It could be used in conjunction with other metrics and to enhance qualitative assessment. 

Information in this table comes from the Metrics Toolkit, CC BY. Please note: this page / metric no longer exists on the Toolkit.