Elon Musk helped Roscosmos. Now, he’ll help you out with Scopus

Without a doubt, one Elon Musk is a man known by all. News about the guy just won't stop coming from all over the media. For example — just recently the head of Russian space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, made a statement about the effect that Musk and his SpaceX company had on Russian space industry. It is known that Musk is a successful businessman, famous engineer and character of popular memes. Alas, 'tis too late to stand in the line of journalists wanting for an interview, so we figured we'd immortalize his name in some other useful way. And no, we have no intention of covering the man's private life or any new projects of his. We'd much rather tell you about his not-quite-secret life as a writer of research papers. How do you like it?
In order to learn a bit more about Elon Musk (and some other people), you can make use of the  Scopus abstract and citation database. If up to this point you've never heard about such a thing, Don't Panic. Using the example of this here "Modern Day Thomas Edison", we are going to find out the purpose of Scopus and why knowing how to use it is so important.
So ah, what's Scopus for?
Well, you know how we often describe various resources that can help you with writing your very own research paper? Scopus is one of those. In order to write a decent paper capable of withstanding peer review, it is necessary to know about past and current goings-on of the scientific community. And to track that, you need a specialized database — one like Scopus — that keeps track of who wrote what and when, and every citation as well. Currently, Scopus contains about 75 million publication entries and over 1.4 billion items from references, so there's definitely a lot to uncover.
When would a database like Scopus be particularly useful?
Here are some examples:
  1. writing a thesis;
  2. writing an article for a science journal decent enough to expect you to know about the latest advances in your field;
  3. applying for a grant and having to prove your awareness of similar research in the field and that yours can contribute something of note.
Indeed, Scopus database is going to be quite useful for any and all of your research exploits.
Author details in Scopus
To start with, select the "Authors" section in the search bar and enter the author's name.
Fig. 1 The "Authors" section.
The results of the search make it easy to check for the author's information and go straight to, say, the profiles of Elon Musk or Dmitry Rogozin. Just click the link embedded in the name.
Fig. 2. Link to the author profile in the search results
Elon Musk being quite unique even when it comes to science writers, don't expect every search to lead you to the right author straight away. Numerous authors have similar names. Not to mention that most names, including those of the Russian scientists, can be written in various different ways when it comes to the Latin alphabet. If the author is not familiar to you or you are not sure how to spell their name, that can result in confusion for you and the search engine. Mostly you. On that note — people misspelling Elon Musk's name has become a meme onto itself, hasn't it? To avoid that, check out our guide on how to use Scopus' search engine, outlining its various functions.
Author's subject area
The author profile provides you with ample information to analyze. Let's try and focus on some basic details. The first thing to pay attention to is the author's subject area. Those aren't picked by the author, but are displayed at the discretion of Scopus classifier. Knowing them, you can narrow down whether the author might have any articles in a specific field, or might be interested in some related topic. Looking at Elon's profile, we can see that he doesn't limit himself to hard science and is perfectly willing to share his thoughts on social matters and entrepreneurship with the world not only on Twitter, but as a part of an academic community as well.
Fig. 3. "Subject area" data in the author profile
Author's activity
In order to find out the amount of the articles under the author's belt, as well as how long they've been working in the field, pay attention to "Documents by author", "Total citations" and "Document and citation trends" in the author profile. In addition to science articles, author's documents include books, book chapters, conference papers, reviews, etc. The amount of documents doesn't, of course, say much about the author's qualifications by itself, but at least you can find out if their output is consistent. For a better analysis, click "Analyze author output". The graphs there will let you see the author's activity better.
Fig. 4.  "Documents by author" section of the author profile
Under "Total citations" you can see how many citations author's documents got, and how many documents have those citations. The number of citations is not an accurate representation of an author's impact in the field, due to it being possible to cite a document as an example of what not to do. But neither should it be ignored, because an author with a large number of citations has undoubtedly caused a reaction in the scientific community and should have his works read, even if only for familiarization's sake. In order to learn more about citations, click "View citation overview". Here you can learn who cited the author and where, as well as find details on the topic.
When considering authors' numbers of citations, one should take into account the fact that the averages vary between different disciplines and fields of study. Something about the newest developments in biochemistry will likely get cited more than, say, ruminations on Ancient Greek comedy. Not because one field of study is better than the other. Definitely not, no siree. One reason for that could be that in biochemistry, it is much easier to publish one's findings regularly as journal articles, where as historians would often "hold back" their data for a monograph. Yup, let's go with that.
Fig. 5.  "Total citations" section of the author profile

"Document and citation trends" chart shows the author's documents and citations over the entire period of their activity. This lets you find out the times when they were at their most productive and cited.
Fig. 6. "Document and citation trends" section of the author profile
So what of Elon Musk, then? Our person of interest has twelve documents indexed by Scopus, three of which are conference papers from 2003, 2004 and 2007. Also included are books from 2013 and 2014, with two chapters written by Musk. Science articles, he started publishing in 2008 and continues doing so to this day in addition to being a successful businessman. Musk's works do get cited by the scientific community, even if not as eagerly as all the things he says to the media.
Documents cited by the author
Another topic of importance is the cited references. Those can be found in the specific document’s page. On Fig. 7 is shown how to see all documents cited in a specific article.
Fig. 7. "References" section on the document page
Always pay attention to references, because a professional author is likely to reference relevant and high quality materials that can very well become useful not just for that one document, but for your research as well.
Works written in collaboration also signify the author's professional approach, so keep in mind the "Co-authors" section. If a researcher has influential and respected co-authors, that speaks volumes of the paper's quality and their reputation in the community. Unless, of course, so-called "predatory journals" get involved, where unsuspecting scientists of note are written down as co-authors despite having had nothing to do with the research. It doesn't happen often with Scopus-indexed journals, but do keep that in mind (read more). If you are only just beginning to figure out the field, pay attention to the co-authors of the work you are reading. You might just find something good for your research.
Fig. 8.  "Co-authors" section of the author profile
Elon Musk has co-authored 3 science articles. Let's have a look at the one that got cited the most. The 2008 article, titled «NASA's approach to commercial cargo and crew transportation», was written as a part of a project aimed towards development of innovative space transportation capabilities. The SpaceX company — founded by Musk — has, alongside other corporations, announced an initiative concerning the problems of space cargo transportation. Among Musk's co-authors are representatives of NASA and companies engaged in tech development geared towards space. Another document co-written by Musk is a chapter in a book titled "Uberpreneurs: How to create innovative global businesses and transform human societies". Co-authors of that one include the founder of — Jeff Bezos, and the founder of Virgin Group — Richard Branson.
Fig. 9. Links to Musk's co-written documents on the author profile page
Journals where the author is published
A decent indicator of the author's professionalism is the journal in which their work is published. Keep note of that before you come to any conclusions about the author or their research. This will also help you orient yourself in the general professional scientific community, due to how any relevant ideas and research tend to immediately find form as articles in science journals. The more journals of good quality you find and read, the better your chances get of writing something decent.
One thing that can be difficult for uninitiated to understand is the way scientific community has accepted the practice of "ranking" journals. Let's try and concentrate on the important parts. In order to reach the journal's page on the website, click on its name in the "Source" column.

Fig. 10. Link to the journal on the author profile page
On the journal page, the main sections to watch out for are "Scopus coverage years", "Subject area", "CiteScore rank" and "Journal Homepage".
Journal's age is an important criterion for judging its quality. If a journal has long history, that is of course a good sign. After all, if the journal in question kept living up to the expectations of its authors and readers for several years, it must be doing something right. That does not mean, however, that newer journals are subpar in any way. On contrary — it's quite possible that the "new" journal will have a lot of just as new, interesting authors.
Fig. 11. "Scopus coverage years" section of the "Acta Astronautica" journal
Journal's field of study is just as important as the author's. There exist multi-disciplinary science journals as well as those that cover some or even just one discipline. Don't assume that one of these categories can be trusted over others, as they accomplish different goals. Certainly, one shouldn't look for articles with deep, focused analysis in journals known for their broad scope. But with help from such journals you could, for example, see certain authors contrast their findings against the greater scientific discussion, something that can often be quite interesting.
Fig. 12. "Subject area" section of the "Acta Astronautica" journal.
The "SiteScore rank" section might seem the least clear to understand on the entire page, but it's really not that bad. Unter CiteScore rank, you can see the journal's category, its rank in that category and its percentile, showing the journal's impact. The more citations the journal gets in its category, the higher the percentile. 
Fig. 13. The "CiteScore rank" section for the "Acta Astronautica" journal
Let's try and figure this out on the example of, yet again, Elon Musk. In the "Acta Astronautica" journal, Musk, along with his co-authors, published an article we've already checked out earlier titled  "NASA's approach to commercial cargo and crew transportation". The journal belongs to the "Aerospace Engineering" category and is ranked 14th out of 119, with its percentile being 88th. That places it in top 12% of its field. What all this tells us is that the "Acta Astronautica" journal is quite respected among other journals in that field and is highly prized by specialists. In comparison — "New Space", in which Musk has published two articles, has a broader scope and is ranked lower in the "Aerospace Engineering" category.
Fig. 14. The "CiteScore rank" section for the "New Space" journal
In order to dispel the last of your doubts regarding the journal's quality, visit its website by clicking the "Journal Homepage" link. There, you'll find detailed information about what the journal asks of its authors, as well as its staff.
Fig. 15. The "Journal Homepage" link for the "Acta Astronautica" journal
Something to note in the end — working on one's very own research paper is a grueling task, demanding attention to various factors. But as long as you begin using tools, whose express purpose is faster data search and analysis, you'll find it much easier to construct the logic of your research and express your thoughts. Those search and analysis skills you'll obtain in the process will be quite useful, no matter your future vocation. In this article we explored the necessary basics for using the Scopus database.
Now — you won't be getting more popular with media than Musk any time soon. But write more articles and get more citations clocked in Scopus — you could get started on that right now, for sure. How do you like that, Elon Musk?
Questions? Write us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Anastasia Maslova,
teaching librarian, research support department
RANEPA Academic Library, Moscow
Translated by: Evgeny Fomin