IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

How to standardize (if you must)


  • Marcello D’Agostino

    () (University of Milan)

  • Valentino Dardanoni

    () (University of Palermo)

  • Roberto Ghiselli Ricci

    () (University of Ferrara)


Abstract In many situations we are interested in appraising the value of a certain characteristic for a given individual relative to the context in which this value is observed. In recent years this problem has become prominent in the evaluation of scientific productivity and impact. A popular approach to such relative valuations consists in using percentile ranks. This is a purely ordinal method that may sometimes lead to counterintuitive appraisals, in that it discards all information about the distance between the raw values within a given context. By contrast, this information is partly preserved by using standardization, i.e., by transforming the absolute values in such a way that, within the same context, the distance between the relative values is monotonically related to the distance between the absolute ones. While there are many practically useful alternatives for standardizing a given characteristic across different contexts, the general problem seems to have never been addressed from a theoretical and normative viewpoint. The main aim of this paper is to fill this gap and provide a conceptual framework that allows for this kind of systematic investigation. We then use this framework to prove that, under some rather weak assumptions, the general format of a standardization function can be determined quite sharply.

Suggested Citation

  • Marcello D’Agostino & Valentino Dardanoni & Roberto Ghiselli Ricci, 2017. "How to standardize (if you must)," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 113(2), pages 825-843, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:scient:v:113:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s11192-017-2495-7
    DOI: 10.1007/s11192-017-2495-7

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Abstract
    Download Restriction: Access to the full text of the articles in this series is restricted.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:spr:scient:v:88:y:2011:i:2:d:10.1007_s11192-011-0407-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Loet Leydesdorff & Lutz Bornmann & Rüdiger Mutz & Tobias Opthof, 2011. "Turning the tables on citation analysis one more time: Principles for comparing sets of documents," Journal of the Association for Information Science & Technology, Association for Information Science & Technology, vol. 62(7), pages 1370-1381, July.
    3. Glenn Milligan & Martha Cooper, 1988. "A study of standardization of variables in cluster analysis," Journal of Classification, Springer;The Classification Society, vol. 5(2), pages 181-204, September.
    4. repec:spr:soinre:v:134:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s11205-016-1439-6 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Lundberg, Jonas, 2007. "Lifting the crown—citation z-score," Journal of Informetrics, Elsevier, vol. 1(2), pages 145-154.
    6. Pedro Albarrán & Juan A. Crespo & Ignacio Ortuño & Javier Ruiz-Castillo, 2011. "The skewness of science in 219 sub-fields and a number of aggregates," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 88(2), pages 385-397, August.
    7. repec:spr:scient:v:57:y:2003:i:2:d:10.1023_a:1024141819302 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Ludo Waltman & Michael Schreiber, 2013. "On the calculation of percentile-based bibliometric indicators," Journal of the Association for Information Science & Technology, Association for Information Science & Technology, vol. 64(2), pages 372-379, February.
    9. Abramo, Giovanni & Cicero, Tindaro & D’Angelo, Ciriaco Andrea, 2012. "How important is choice of the scaling factor in standardizing citations?," Journal of Informetrics, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 645-654.
    10. Li, Yunrong & Radicchi, Filippo & Castellano, Claudio & Ruiz-Castillo, Javier, 2013. "Quantitative evaluation of alternative field normalization procedures," Journal of Informetrics, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 746-755.
    11. repec:spr:scient:v:54:y:2002:i:3:d:10.1023_a:1016082432660 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. van Raan, Anthony F.J. & van Leeuwen, Thed N. & Visser, Martijn S. & van Eck, Nees Jan & Waltman, Ludo, 2010. "Rivals for the crown: Reply to Opthof and Leydesdorff," Journal of Informetrics, Elsevier, vol. 4(3), pages 431-435.
    13. repec:spr:scient:v:101:y:2014:i:3:d:10.1007_s11192-014-1294-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Vinkler, Péter, 2012. "The case of scientometricians with the “absolute relative” impact indicator," Journal of Informetrics, Elsevier, vol. 6(2), pages 254-264.
    15. Montfort Mlachila & René Tapsoba & Sampawende J. A. Tapsoba, 2017. "A Quality of Growth Index for Developing Countries: A Proposal," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 134(2), pages 675-710, November.
    16. Waltman, Ludo, 2016. "A review of the literature on citation impact indicators," Journal of Informetrics, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 365-391.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:spr:scient:v:113:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s11192-017-2495-7. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sonal Shukla) or (Rebekah McClure). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.