Research Impact/Bibliometrics

This guide provides an introduction to using Web of Science, Scopus and other resources to determine journal impact, individual researcher impact, and article impact.

Library Research Guide

Author Disambiguation Defined

Author name disambiguation is a means to distinguish yourself from other researchers or authors when publishing scholarly works. There are methods you can employ to ensure that your researcher identity is distinguished from others who share the same or a similar name.

When two authors share the same name or when a single author has more than one version of his/her name, publications may get incorrectly assigned to the wrong author. For example, John David Smith could have the following versions of his name: 

  • J.D. Smith
  • John D. Smith
  • John Smith
  • John David Smith
  • J. Smith

In addition, numerous authors could also have the same name with the same variations. Author disambiguation helps to solve these problems and ensure that authors get appropriate credit for all of their publications

Silhouette of unknown or generic individual with a question mark superimposed
Image courtesy of Tobias Schumann, CC-BY-SA

Importance of Author Disambiguation

Authors often have numerous publications and research outputs, such as journal articles, book chapters, book reviews, conference presentation slides, presentation videos, technical reports, and datasets, to name a few.

The different types of research outputs with examples in a hierarchical infographic

Image created by Rachel Miles, CC BY-NC-SA.

Data providers, such as Web of Science, Scopus, Google Scholar, and, track downloads, page views, online mentions, and citation counts to research outputs, such as journal articles.

Research outputs may be tracked accurately by data providers, but sometimes, the authors are not accurately identified and associated with the outputs, which results in inaccurate author impact metrics, such as the author h-index. This can especially be a problem when authors are gathering evidence of their research impact, such as for tenure and promotion dossiers.

Research impact metrics, whether traditional or alternative, tell a story about research outputs and the researchers who produce them. When they are inaccurate, they tell an inaccurate story about the attention that research receives from academics and from the public.

Instances of Author Confusion

Author confusion can occur on any database, whether it's free or subscription-based. Data entry errors can often be the source of the problem, so it's important to check your publication and citation report information on the most predominantly used databases for citation counts, reports, and analysis such as Web of Science, Scopus, and Google Scholar. Check out the blog post below for more information on this topic.

You can monitor your citations by finding your publications on the databases mentioned above, checking the accuracy of the author attribution, and either submitting data change reports or updating your profile with the free databases (such as in the case of Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic). 

Take Action

If you discover inaccuracies in your citation counts or your h-index, such as on Web of Science or Google Scholar, you can contact the data provider directly to correct the inaccuracies, but you may have to contact several data service providers. The error could be internal to the data provider or the error could be more prominent, especially since data providers are generally tracking the same research outputs.

However, the best solution is to have a proactive approach and have a unique author ID, such as an ORCID iD. If you have not done so already, you can register for an ORCID iD now, but if you have discovered inaccuracies, you may need to contact the data provider(s) to correct the error(s) and have them update your author name or ID with your ORCID iD.