The need to develop tailored tools for improving the quality of thematic bibliometric analyses: Evidence from papers published in Sustainability and Scientometrics

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Purpose: The aim of this article is to explore up to seven parameters related to the methodological quality and reproducibility of thematic bibliometric research published in the two most productive journals in bibliometrics, Sustainability (a journal outside the discipline) and Scientometrics, the flagship journal in the field. Design/methodology/approach: The study identifies the need for developing tailored tools for improving the quality of thematic bibliometric analyses, and presents a framework that can guide the development of such tools. A total of 508 papers are analysed, 77% of Sustainability, and 23% published in Scientometrics, for the 2019-2021 period. Findings: An average of 2.6 shortcomings per paper was found for the whole sample, with an almost identical number of flaws in both journals. Sustainability has more flaws than Scientometrics in four of the seven parameters studied, while Scientometrics has more shortcomings in the remaining three variables. Research limitations: The first limitation of this work is that it is a study of two scientific journals, so the results cannot be directly extrapolated to the set of thematic bibliometric analyses published in journals from all fields. Practical implications: We propose the adoption of protocols, guidelines, and other similar tools, adapted to bibliometric practice, which could increase the thoroughness, transparency, and reproducibility of this type of research. Originality/value: These results show considerable room for improvement in terms of the adequate use and breakdown of methodological procedures in thematic bibliometric research, both in journals in the Information Science area and journals outside the discipline.
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A very preliminary version of this paper (“Methodological shortcomings of bibliometric papers published in the journal Sustainability (2019-2020)”) was presented at the 26th International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators (STI 2022). We are grateful for the ideas and suggestions expressed by several of the attendees, which have contributed to significantly deepening and broadening the initial study.
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Journal of Data and Information Science, 8(4), 10–35.
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