My Google Scholar profile: automatically generated bibliographic garbage

Some years ago I acquired a Google Scholar profile. I added a photograph of myself, a brief CV, and some keywords describing my research interests. Google Scholar now builds a list of all my publications and on an ongoing basis it updates the number of citation to each. It also calculates an h-index and an i10-index, and lists such of my co-authors as have appeared in my references publications. All quite cool. The idea behind it is to increase exposure to my work. If people are searching for my work on Google, my profile is supposed to come up prominently in their search results and they can more easily find relevant publications of mine. Google Scholar collects citations to my publications on an ongoing basis. It gave me the choice of allowing it to update my publications list automatically, or to check additions and changes myself before they are added.

I decided for the latter, and now I’m in a bind.

Every few weeks Google Scholar pops up with an e-mail message, “Time to update your articles”. This happens when Google Scholar has found some new citations or picked up a new publication of mine, and tells me that it has suggested updates for my profile. Here is where the system is less than cool. Almost every time I am asked to allow a reasonably good bibliographic reference to be overwritten by a garbled version produced by someone who was not taught reference technique in high school. Unfortunately, Google Scholar’s algorithm is not able to distinguish between accurate, complete and well-constructed references and those found at the end of D-rated student assignments. Should it give precedence to a reference contributed by its author? Hmmm. Not every author creates good references, even to own work. Maybe references created by librarians should receive automatic precedence? Same reservation here.

I have no choice but to inspect and correct the new citations, lest my list of references become infested with automatically generated garbage.

All of which reminds me that it is quite some time since I last updated my list of publications on this site. I had to update it recently, so here it is, along with a list of unpublished papers. They are not perfect either, having been built up over several versions of citation management software. The latter is a story for another post.


About Peter Lor

Peter Johan Lor is a Netherlands-born South African librarian and academic. In retirement he continues to pursue scholarly interests as a research fellow in the Department of Information Science at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.
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