Investigating disciplinary differences in the relationships between citations and downloads
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Several studies have examined the relationships between citation and download data. Some have also analyzed disciplinary differences in the relationships by comparing a few subject areas or a few journals. To gain a deeper understanding of the disciplinary differences, we carried out a comprehensive study investigating the issue in five disciplines of science, engineering, medicine, social sciences, and humanities. We used a systematic method to select fields and journals ensuring a very broad spectrum and balanced representation of various academic fields. A total of 69 fields and 150 journals were included. We collected citation and download data for these journals from China Academic Journal Network Publishing Database, the largest Chinese academic journal database in the world. We manually filtered out non-research papers such as book reviews and editorials. We analyzed the relationships both at the journal and the paper level. The study found that social sciences and humanities are different from science, engineering, and medicine and that the pattern of differences are consistent across all measures studied. Social sciences and humanities have higher correlations between citations and downloads, higher correlations between downloads per paper and Journal Impact Factor, and higher download-to-citation ratios. The disciplinary differences mean that the accuracy or utility of download data in measuring the impact are higher in social sciences and humanities and that download data in those disciplines reflect or measure a broader impact, much more than the impact in citing authors. © 2017, Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary.