Are downloads and readership data a substitute for citations? The case of a scholarly journal

Christian Schloegl, Juan Gorraiz, Christian Gumpenberger, Kris Jack, Peter Kraker


With the advent of e-journals more than one decade ago and the increasing use of social media also by academics in recent years, cita­tions are not the only data anymore for measuring scholarly com­mu­ni­cation. Indeed, so-called altme­trics are a further source for metering science.

In our previous research we have already ex­plored commonalities of and differences between citations, downloads and so-called readership data from Mendeley for two information systems journals. This contribution presents a replication of the previous study for a linguistics journal inves­tigating the following research questions:

  • Is there a strong correlation between cita­tions, downloads and readership frequen­cies? Could downloads and readership counts be a substitute for citations, or do they measure complementary aspects of schol­arly communication?
  • Do citations and downloads have differ­ent obsolescence characteristics? Are there other aspects in which citations, down­loads and readership data differ?

The comparison of the results for the linguistic journal with those of the information systems jour­nals enables us to identify also possible disci­pli­­nary differ­ences.

We used a scientometric approach when ana­lyzing cita­tions, downloads and readership data, which were provided at article level. The major results show that there is a clear but not a very high rank correlation between citations and down­loads (r=0.59) which was lower between down­loads and readership counts (r=0.53) and between citations and readership counts (r=0.51). Citations and downloads have different obsoles­cence char­acteristics. While the download maxi­mum usually occurs for recent articles, it takes several years after publication until the citation max­i­­mum is reached. The correlations were slight­ly higher for the information systems jour­nals. Interestingly, older articles were more often downloaded for them than for Journal of Phonetics.


Keywords: citations, downloads, Mendeley, alt­metrics, linguistics, Journal of Phonetics.



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