Measuring the Outcome of Biomedical Research: A Systematic Literature Review

Frederique Thonon, Rym Boulkedid, Tristan Delory, Sophie Rousseau, Mahasti Saghatchian, Willem H. van Harten, Claire O'Neill, Corinne Alberti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)
64 Downloads (Pure)


There is an increasing need to evaluate the production and impact of medical research produced by institutions. Many indicators exist, yet we do not have enough information about their relevance. The objective of this systematic review was (1) to identify all the indicators that could be used to measure the output and outcome of medical research carried out in institutions and (2) enlist their methodology, use, positive and negative points.

We have searched 3 databases (Pubmed, Scopus, Web of Science) using the following keywords: [Research outcome* OR research output* OR bibliometric* OR scientometric* OR scientific production] AND [indicator* OR index* OR evaluation OR metrics]. We included articles presenting, discussing or evaluating indicators measuring the scientific production of an institution. The search was conducted by two independent authors using a standardised data extraction form. For each indicator we extracted its definition, calculation, its rationale and its positive and negative points. In order to reduce bias, data extraction and analysis was performed by two independent authors.

We included 76 articles. A total of 57 indicators were identified. We have classified those indicators into 6 categories: 9 indicators of research activity, 24 indicators of scientific production and impact, 5 indicators of collaboration, 7 indicators of industrial production, 4 indicators of dissemination, 8 indicators of health service impact. The most widely discussed and described is the h-index with 31 articles discussing it.

The majority of indicators found are bibliometric indicators of scientific production and impact. Several indicators have been developed to improve the h-index. This indicator has also inspired the creation of two indicators to measure industrial production and collaboration. Several articles propose indicators measuring research impact without detailing a methodology for calculating them. Many bibliometric indicators identified have been created but have not been used or further discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0122239
Number of pages14
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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