Reviewers' ratings and bibliometric indicators: hand in hand when assessing over research proposals?

PLoS One. 2013 Jun 28;8(6):e68258. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0068258. Print 2013.


Background: The peer review system has been traditionally challenged due to its many limitations especially for allocating funding. Bibliometric indicators may well present themselves as a complement.

Objective: We analyze the relationship between peers' ratings and bibliometric indicators for Spanish researchers in the 2007 National R&D Plan for 23 research fields.

Methods and materials: We analyze peers' ratings for 2333 applications. We also gathered principal investigators' research output and impact and studied the differences between accepted and rejected applications. We used the Web of Science database and focused on the 2002-2006 period. First, we analyzed the distribution of granted and rejected proposals considering a given set of bibliometric indicators to test if there are significant differences. Then, we applied a multiple logistic regression analysis to determine if bibliometric indicators can explain by themselves the concession of grant proposals.

Results: 63.4% of the applications were funded. Bibliometric indicators for accepted proposals showed a better previous performance than for those rejected; however the correlation between peer review and bibliometric indicators is very heterogeneous among most areas. The logistic regression analysis showed that the main bibliometric indicators that explain the granting of research proposals in most cases are the output (number of published articles) and the number of papers published in journals that belong to the first quartile ranking of the Journal Citations Report.

Discussion: Bibliometric indicators predict the concession of grant proposals at least as well as peer ratings. Social Sciences and Education are the only areas where no relation was found, although this may be due to the limitations of the Web of Science's coverage. These findings encourage the use of bibliometric indicators as a complement to peer review in most of the analyzed areas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bibliometrics*
  • Biomedical Research*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Financing, Organized
  • Humans
  • Publications*
  • Publishing*
  • Research Design*
  • Research Personnel*
  • Spain

Grant support

This work was supported by the National R&D Plan 2008 (research project Parameterization of citation indicators at a national level according with the ANEP categories [TIN2008-03180-E]. Nicolás Robinson-García is currently supported by a FPU Grant of the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad of the Spanish Government. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.