What are bibliometrics?
Data from citation indexes can be analyzed to determine the popularity and impact of specific articles, authors, and publications.
Why are they important?
Using citation analysis to gauge the importance of one's work, for example, is a significant part of the tenure review process. Information scientists also use citation analysis to quantitatively assess the core journal titles and watershed publications in particular disciplines; interrelationships between authors from different institutions and schools of thought; and related data about the sociology of academia.
Hiring, advancment, tenure:
Author metrics, such as H-index, give you a way to measure the impact of your research. For many jobs in science academia, author metrics are used to screen applicants, and as criteria for promotion.
Altmetrics - measuring impact via social media - can help you get immediate feedback on the effect your research is having on the scientific community.
Citation metrics can affect funding for you, for your department, and even for your university. Funding agencies are increasingly requiring evidence of publishing impact.
Locating journals to publish in:
Journal metrics can help you decide which journal to publish in. Selecting the right journal can help improve your author metrics - your paper may receive more citations if you are published in a journal with a high impact factor.
Find articles on your topic:
"Cited By" features offered in Web of Science and Google Scholar can help you discover newly published research being done on your topic.
Identify seminal research:
Knowing how many times a paper has been cited can help you evaluate the importance of that paper. In additon to tools like Web of Science and Google Scholar, altmetrics is emerging as a way to evaluate the online social impact that an article or author is having.
Locating journals to read:
Journal impact factor tools like Journal Citation Report can help you identify leading journals in a field.
Being highly cited does not make an article credible. Some articles are highly cited because the research they are presenting is being questioned
Review articles tend to be more highly cited than primary research articles
Just because an article is not cited does not mean it is not widely read
Citations take time to accrue
Self citation can affect metrics
Career length can also affect metrics
Citation comparisons are only meaningful if comparing like with like - researchers in the same field of research and at similar career stages