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Lee, Soo Jeung; Schneijderberg, Christian; Kim, Yangson; Steinhardt, Isabel (2021): Have Academics’ Citation Patterns Changed in Response to the Rise of World University Rankings? A Test Using First-Citation Speeds. In: Sustainability 13 (17), Article 9515.

Academics may actively respond to the expectations of the academic status market, which have largely been shaped by the World University Rankings (WURs). This study empirically examines how academics’ citation patterns have changed in response to the rise of an “evaluation environment” in academia. We regard the WURs to be a macro-level trigger for cementing a bibliometric-based evaluation environment in academia. Our analyses of citation patterns in papers published in two higher education journals explicitly considered three distinct periods: the pre-WURs (1990–2003), the period of WURs implementation (2004–2010), and the period of adaption to WURs (2011–2017). We applied the nonparametric Kaplan–Meier method to compare first-citation speeds of papers published across the three periods. We found that not only has first-citation speed become faster, but first-citation probability has also increased following the emergence of the WURs. Applying Cox proportional hazard models to first-citation probabilities, we identified journal impact factors and third-party funding as factors influencing first-citation probability, while other author- and paper-related factors showed limited effects. We also found that the general effects of different factors on first-citation speeds have changed with the emergence of the WURs. The findings expand our understanding of the citation patterns of academics in the rise of WURs and provide practical grounds for research policy as well as higher education policy

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