Thursday, April 2, 2009

Science metrics: the h-index

Nick Oswald at BiteSize Bio has recently published a post explaining the basic pros and cons of the H-index (or Hirsch number, named after his creator Jorge E. Hirsch), one of the many metrics developed to asses the apparent scientific impact of a scientist [Does Your h-index Measure Up?]. Although no single number can "give more than a rough approximation to an individual’s multifaceted profile" (as Jorge Hirsch wisely puts it1), the H-index has been gaining adepts worldwide and it's increasingly being used as the metric of choice for many committees (I'm not saying that I agree with using such numbers for giving grants or for tenure evaluation, though).

Briefly, the advantage of the h-index is that it combines productivity and impact in a single number.

Nick's article is very interesting and enlighting in the sense of explaining the advantages, but also pointing out the limitations, of the h-index.

I encourage everyone to read it.

1Hirsch JE(2005)An index to quantify an individual's scientific research output. PNAS 102 (46): 16569–16572.