16 sept 2015

Improvements in Google Scholar Citations are for the summer: creating an institutional affiliation link feature

It seems that the Mountain View’s company has a special fondness for the summer to make changes to its flagship products. If last year it announced on August 21st a 'Fresh Look of Scholar Profiles", this 2015 we have learnt almost at the same time -not from the official Google Scholar blog which has not provided any information but from a Tweet by Isidro Aguillo tthat "Google Scholar Citations add links to institution`s names (incl acronyms) in correct-built affiliations of profiles".

We definitely welcome this new initiative that represents an improvement in the product since it allows having a new and easy way to search information from scholars belonging to a specific institution. Previously specific searches by the institution name or the email domain in the open box were required for this, a tedious and very unfriendly process. Now, just clicking on the name of the institution we can identify all scholars belonging to an organization as well as the global scientific interest and thematic focus of the corresponding institution. Incidentally it will facilitate the morbid – as well as dangerous - evaluative exercises that some institutions have already performed from them.

At the end, Google has implemented a new information search feature under the form of an authority control tool for institutional affiliations that lies halfway between the classic controlled search and the natural language.

Always vigilant to the changes Google introduces in its products, we have prepared a report where we explore the current implementation of this new feature. First, this new tool is described, pointing out its main characteristics and functioning. Next, the coverage and precision of the tool are evaluated. Two special cases (Google Inc. and Spanish Universities) are briefly treated with the purpose of illustrating some aspects about the accuracy of the tool for the task of gathering authors within their appropriate institution. Finally, some inconsistencies, errors and malfunctioning are identified, categorized and described. The report finishes by providing some suggestions to improve the feature. The general conclusion is that the standardized institutional affiliation link provided by Google Scholar Citations, despite working pretty well for a large number of institutions (especially Anglo-Saxon universities) still has a number of shortcomings and pitfalls which need to be addressed in order to make this authority control tool fully useful worldwide, both for searching purposes and for metric tasks

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