Archive for the 'Metrics' Category

Metric Mental

April 26, 2007

It seems that it is insufficient merely to obtain funding and produce publications as an academic scientist.  One’s greatness must be somehow assessed, conjuring images of an early scene in Dead Poet’s Society where the greatness of a poem is obtained from a graph.  The Hirsch Index (h-index) was discussed when it was unveiled a while ago on many a blog and internet site.  The RSC has recently publicised a listing of 2000 living chemists based on this calculation.[1]

Hirsch Index calculations for the uninitiated:

A scientist has index h if h of his Np papers have at least h citations each, and the other (Np – h) papers have at most h citations each.[2]

So if h=100, we can expect a scientist to have 100 papers with 100 or more citations, and the remainder with less than 100 citations.  Previous metrics have involved quantifying the number of citations or publications only, this gives some measure of relative merit of papers.  There is a web program [3] available to calculate h indices if you feel so inclined.  It also allows distinction between scientists with a couple of great, highly cited papers in their careers, and those who have made broader impact with many well cited papers.

So who is on the chemistry list?[4]  Unsurprisingly the top three are:

1.  E. J. Corey, h = 132, Organic Chemistry
2.  G. M. Whitesides, h=131, Organic Chemistry
3.  M. Karplus, h=127, Theoretical

The list is a work in progress (only 2000 chemists so far, but is interesting reading).  Particularly due to the distribution of Nobel Laureates throughout the list…

[1] Royal Society of Chemistry, Chemistry World News Article, Chemistry World Blog Article
[2] Wikipedia Article on h-index; Nature Article on h-index
[3] Web Program
[4] PDF of Chemistry List (from RSC Website)