A comparison of the Web of Science and publication-level classification systems of science Articles uri icon

publication date

  • February 2017

start page

  • 32

end page

  • 45


  • 1


  • 11

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1751-1577

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1875-5879


  • In this paper, we propose a new criterion for choosing between a pair of classification systems of science that assign publications (or journals) to a set of clusters. Consider the standard target (cited-side) normalization procedure in which cluster mean citations are used as normalization factors. We recommend system A over system B whenever the standard normalization procedure based on system A performs better than the standard normalization procedure based on system B. Performance is assessed in terms of two double tests- one graphical, and one numerical- that use both classification systems for evaluation purposes. In addition, a pair of classification systems is compared using a third, independent classification system for evaluation purposes. We illustrate this strategy by comparing a Web of Science journal-level classification system, consisting of 236 journal subject categories, with two publication-level algorithmically constructed classification systems consisting of 1363 and 5119 clusters. There are two main findings. Firstly, the second publication-level system is found to dominate the first. Secondly, the publication-level system at the highest granularity level and the Web of Science journal-level system are found to be non-comparable. Nevertheless, we find reasons to recommend the publication-level option. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • Economics


  • classification systems of science; journal-level versus publication-level systems; field-normalization; citation impact indicators; field-normalization; fair