Interview with Dr. Sybille Hinze

What I enjoy most about my work is that it links to science policy, says Sybille Hinze. For me, bibliometrics is not a purely academic endeavour. It’s a way to inform priority setting and decision making about research that influences science quality, funding and accessibility. For example, we have used bibliometrics to look at Germany’s strengths and weaknesses in specific fields of interest, identifying dynamically growing fields, and helping policy makers decide whether to make our strong fields stronger, or balance out our weaknesses by investing more in those areas.

Hinze distinguishes three streams of bibliometrics – exploratory, evaluative and reflexive.

Exploratory bibliometrics attempts to identify cognitive structures and describe phenomena in a specific region – e.g., discovering that co-authorship is on the rise in Germany.

Evaluative bibliometrics derives indicators that enable meaningful comparisons, such as the relative contributions of each author to a specific paper. Reflexive bibliometrics examines how the application of evaluative bibliometrics affects research behavior – that is, authors may react by striving to achieve more credit per paper by being named first author.

Simply put, bibliometrics is complex and encompasses far more than numbers, in isolation, can convey. Looking at numbers alone – e.g., published articles, citations --without context, can lead to misinterpretations , Hinze stresses.

Hinze’s passion for bibliometrics has propelled her to leadership positions in major initiatives aimed at enhancing metrics literacy and data transparency, and developing and sharing best practices. She is a member of the steering committee of the European Summer School for Scientometrics, secretary (since September 2013) of the European Network of Indicator Designers, and was appointed chair (November 2014) of the German Competence Centre for Bibliometrics. She also is the German representative to the Association for European Cooperation in Science & Technology (COST) scientific committee (since 2017) and serves as European editor of the journal Science and Public Policy.

Hinze feels strongly that offering training and education to everyone -- from PhD students interested in bibliometrics and bibliometrics research to university department managers charged with providing data for evaluation and assessment -- will enable all stakeholders to handle and interpret data appropriately.

Along those lines, as a member of the ICSR Advisory Board, Hinze will advocate for more research that combines quantitative data with qualitative approaches to improve our understanding about what the data actually tell us, and what the impacts are.

Portrait of dr Sybille Hinze

Sybille Hinze is Deputy Head of Research System and Science Dynamics at the German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies in Hannover, Germany. She earned her PhD from Leiden University’s Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS), the Netherlands.