What are indicators?

Indicators, commonly also called metrics are quantitative measures designed to help evaluate research outputs. There are a wide range of indicators available including traditional indicators like bibliometrics and newer, complementary indicators called altmetrics. These indicators however, should support and not supplant expert judgement. They provide as their name, suggests an indication of research impact and attention, for research outputs, in particular journal articles and conference proceedings.


Bibliometrics are a traditional set of indicators which use citations in academic journals as an indication of the scholarly engagement and impact of research papers. A number of bibliometric tools are available which track citation data including Scopus, Web of Science and Google Scholar. These all have varying subject and journal coverage and may provide different citation counts. The University Library has subscriptions to both Web of Science and Scopus and library staff can assist with searches and bibliometrics reports.


Altmetrics or alternative metrics are an indicator of attention and track attention through likes and shares on social media, news web sites, policy documents and academic networking sites. Altmetrics usually use the DOI (Digital Object Identifier) of an online journal article to track this attention. Altmetrics can provide more immediacy to 'buzz' or attention around research and give an indication of how it is being shared and discussed. Altmetrics data can be found in a number of databases including Scopus and Enlighten. The University Library has a subscription to Altmetric Explorer.

Responsible Metrics

At the University of Glasgow we apply fair and transparent mechanisms for monitoring and reporting research performance. This includes research outputs, research income and postgraduate research (PGR) supervision. The University uses both qualitative and quantitative indicators to assess individual and institutional performance. We acknowledge the limitations of using either approach alone: qualitative indicators can be perceived as being subjective, whereas quantitative indicators can be viewed as being unsophisticated; conversely, qualitative indicators allow the application of expert disciplinary judgement, whereas quantitative indicators allow the application of assessment methodologies that are transparent and consistent.

Help and Support

Contact us for help and training at research-enlighten@glasgow.ac.uk