13 Sep 2012

Predicting your future research impact

There's an interesting article in this week’s Nature which examines whether certain variables can predict the future h-index of researchers. The h-index is a popular measure of research impact which aims to incorporate both quality (citations) and quantity (number) of papers: a h-index of n means an author has published n articles receiving at least n citations each.

The authors' model is based on five variables:
  • Number of articles written; 
  • Current h-index; 
  • Years since publishing first article; 
  • Number of distinct journals published in; 
  • Number of articles in top tier journals (In this case, the journal titles also happen to include Nature and related titles. This could be adapted depending on the discipline, although the authors clearly state that this model is derived specifically for neuroscience so may not be transferable)

Unsurprisingly, the equation for predicting next year’s h-index depends strongly on the current h-index (a coefficient of 0.97) but this influence lessens as the forecasting horizon extends. Conversely the significance of the number of distinct journals an author has published in typically increases over time as a predictive factor – indicative perhaps that the researcher in question has broader expertise and a wider influence, and thus a potentially higher h-index.

There is also an online calculator you can use which predicts your future h-index based on the above variables.

Future impact: Predicting scientific success. Daniel E. Acuna, Stefano Allesina, & Konrad P. Kording Nature 489,201–202 (13 September 2012) doi:10.1038/489201a

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