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The construct validity of the h-index

Cameron Stewart Barnes ( University of New England, Armidale, Australia)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 12 September 2016

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to show how bibliometrics would benefit from a stronger programme of construct validity.

Design/methodology/approach

The value of the construct validity concept is demonstrated by applying this approach to the evaluation of the h-index, a widely used metric.

Findings

The paper demonstrates that the h-index comprehensively fails any test of construct validity. In simple terms, the metric does not measure what it purports to measure. This conclusion suggests that the current popularity of the h-index as a topic for bibliometric research represents wasted effort, which might have been avoided if researchers had adopted the approach suggested in this paper.

Research limitations/implications

This study is based on the analysis of a single bibliometric concept.

Practical implications

The conclusion that the h-index fails any test in terms of construct validity implies that the widespread use of this metric within the higher education sector as a management tool represents poor practice, and almost certainly results in the misallocation of resources.

Social implications

This paper suggests that the current enthusiasm for the h-index within the higher education sector is misplaced. The implication is that universities, grant funding bodies and faculty administrators should abandon the use of the h-index as a management tool. Such a change would have a significant effect on current hiring, promotion and tenure practices within the sector, as well as current attitudes towards the measurement of academic performance.

Originality/value

The originality of the paper lies in the systematic application of the concept of construct validity to bibliometric enquiry.

Keywords

Citation

Barnes, C.S. (2016), "The construct validity of the h-index", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 72 No. 5, pp. 878-895. https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-10-2015-0127

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited