A new measure of scholarly output

The many issues that arise from the modern structure of science caught my attention. I became fascinated by how its organization pushes scientists to be as productive as possible, for that is the only way they have to account for the received funding. The well known “publish or perish” ideology that escorts us to work, and that afflicts many, has only been boosted by recent measures that attempt at quantifying productivity. The $h$-index, for example, which can be easily obtained from all major online citation databases, has become very popular and it is currently being used by decision makers to assess scientists all over the world. Little did I know that this fascination about the structure of science would turn into a side research project and that it would take over my free time entirely. I started thinking about a way to better measure the output of scientists, trying to disregard productivity as a variable.

The idea is quite simple, instead of relying on raw citations, we use them to quantify the number of scientists that is reached by our scientific work. The impact of a scientist is defined as $\textstyle{\iota=\left| \bigcup_{i=1}^n \Phi_i \right| \in \mathbb{{N}}_0}$, where $\Phi_i$ denotes the set of lead authors of the $i$th manuscript written by the scientist. The impact of a scientist defined above builds from that of a manuscript, and it can be extended to institutions.

The result turned into an article that was recently published in Scientific Reports, the first fully open-access journal from Nature Publishing Group. The measure will hopefully be considered as a fairer way to evaluate researchers. This enterprise also gave rise to a handful of ideas on the subject that I would like to explore in the future. The article is open to everyone, and it can be accessed on the Scientific Reports website.

Related publications

  • A. M. Aragón. "A measure for the impact of research." Scientific Reports 3 (2013), p. 1649