Changing authorship patterns mean that the h-index is no longer an effective way to gauge a scientist’s impact, according to a new study by data scientists at technology giant Intel.
We need a complete rethink of how we gauge scientific careers, impact and excellence. It is time to acknowledge researchers that contribute to positive practice and research culture, not rely on the sausage factory that rewards quantity over quality. We have included links to 10 related items.
Due to its relative simplicity, the h-index has become a widely used tool to quantify scientists’ impact in their fields. But its use has always been controversial. ‘Since its introduction, it has been highly criticised by professional bibliometricians,’ says Lutz Bornmann, an expert on research evaluation based at the Max Planck Society in Munich, Germany.
Critics of the h-index point out that it unfairly penalises early-career researchers, who have had less time than their older colleagues to publish papers and build up citations. The metric also fails to account for differing publishing rates across academic fields and can even encourage bad publishing practices, such as excessive self-citation and inclusion of authors on papers that contributed little to it. The h-index also completely ignores important aspects of academic life beyond publishing – for example leadership roles, teaching or outreach. ‘Nevertheless, it has become a popular indicator especially among amateur bibliometricians,’ says Bornmann.