Much has been written about the potential and pitfalls of macroscopic Web‐based link analysis, yet there have been no studies that have provided clear statistical evidence that any of the proposed calculations can produce results over large areas of the Web that correlate with phenomena external to the Internet. This article attempts to provide such evidence through an evaluation of Ingwersen's (1998) proposed external Web Impact Factor (WIF) for the original use of the Web: the interlinking of academic research. In particular, it studies the case of the relationship between academic hyperlinks and research activity for universities in Britain, a country chosen for its variety of institutions and the existence of an official government rating exercise for research. After reviewing the numerous reasons why link counts may be unreliable, it demonstrates that four different WIFs do, in fact, correlate with the conventional academic research measures. The WIF delivering the greatest correlation with research rankings was the ratio of Web pages with links pointing at research‐based pages to faculty numbers. The scarcity of links to electronic academic papers in the data set suggests that, in contrast to citation analysis, this WIF is measuring the reputations of universities and their scholars, rather than the quality of their publications.
Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2001
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