WG 3. Databases and uses of data for understanding SSH research


International bibliographic databases like Web of Science and Scopus are limited in their coverage of SSH research (even if said coverage has been improving in the last decade). Hence, careless use of these databases for evaluation of SSH research is bound to yield misleading results. For similar reasons, SSH research is often underrepresented and underused in, e.g., rankings of universities.

Confronted by the limitations of the current databases with regard to SSH research (which is circulated in a large variety of languages and often published in other outlets than international peer-reviewed journals), some countries have chosen to develop their own national current research information systems, with complete bibliographic coverage of the scholarly output at research institutions, like CRISTIN in Norway, and VABB-SHW in Flanders.

More recently, similar initiatives have been taken in other European countries, including Italy (CINECA), United Kingdom (“Research Outcomes System”), or Slovenia (SICRIS). A larger initiative was undertaken in 2009 within the “European Scoping Project” at the request of several research councils (Moed et al., 2009), but the recommendations of the report have as yet not been translated into reality.

While progress is made in local contexts, there is an obvious need to coordinate the initiatives in terms of standardisation and interoperability of data. Moreover, an European system aimed to a better visualisation of data about and for the SSH remains a necessity.


The main objective of working group 3 is to reflect upon the standardisation and the interoperability of current research information systems (CRIS) dedicated to research outcomes from the social sciences and humanities (SSH).

The WG is focused on information systems, databases and repositories for publications and other outcomes of SSH research. The goals of the WG include comparison across SSH disciplines, countries and publication channels, as well as exploration of the feasibility of further streamlining (by developing shared procedures for building and maintaining databases and by designing a roadmap for a European database).


  1. Confront productivity and structure of outputs in various SSH disciplines, using data from existing national information systems or other databases and repositories (identify dissemination profiles, clusters and hybrids).
  2. Analyse characteristics of diverse dissemination channels used in the SSH.
  3. Develop common rules and procedures for building the databases.
  4. Design a roadmap for a European bibliometric database.
  5. Develop alternative metrics for the SSH.


  • A best practices manual for research database developers.
  • Training school for research information systems developers, library managers, and bibliometricians.
  • Recommendations for evaluation agencies on the construction of perimeters of scientificity (nationally “indexed” journals and publishers, classification of journals and publishers).
  • A proposal for a distributed research infrastructure to be included in ESFRI agenda.

People involved

At the moment, there are 33 participants involved in the working group from 21 different countries. For 20 participants, WG3 is their main working group, meaning that they intend to focus the majority of their efforts in the COST action there.

Working group chair: Tim Engels (U. Antwerp), assisted by Raf Guns (U. Antwerp)

What is the WG currently working on?

The WG is creating a comprehensive overview of databases of SSH research output across Europe. For this, a ‘database fact sheet’ (a survey) was made, which consists of two main parts: a part about the general context and a part specific to national databases. It was sent out to representatives of all 36 countries included in the COST action. The results will form the input to a policy brief and a research paper giving an overview of the European landscape of SSH research outcome databases.

At the same time, several more specific research projects have been initiated:

  • The fact sheets also provide the first input to a study coordinated by Sven Hug, on the context and proposed uses of databases. This way evidence can be found for intended as well as unintended effects of such databases.
  • An extension of the article ‘Taking scholarly books into account’ to other countries will be written. This effort will be coordinated by Elea Giménez Toledo and Jorge Mañana Rodríguez.
  • The 2005-2009 comparison of the evolution of publication patterns in Flanders and Norway will be extended to 2005-2014, with among other things an analysis of (de)concentration as a measure of internationalization.