H-index

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h-index

The h-index is an index that attempts to measure both the scientific productivity and the apparent scientific impact of a scientist. The index is based on the set of the scientist's most cited papers and the number of citations that they have received in other people's publications. The index can also be applied to the productivity and impact of a group of scientists, such as a department or university or country [1]. The index was suggested by Jorge E. Hirsch, a physicist at UCSD, as a tool for determining theoretical physicists' relative quality[2]. Although it suffers from limitations, subsequent improvements have only added to the fundamental popularity of this simple index that combines quantity (number of publications) with quality (prestige of the same publications based upon their citations)[3]. There are now at least 3 different databases from which the h-index can be calculated: 1. ISI Web of Science; 2. Scopus; 3. Google Scholar. Google Scholar is by far the largest and most accessiible, even if it contains material which is not strictly scientific, e.g. citations in newspapers etc. Using Google Scholar and a good search program, for example Mauro shows a h-index of 31, which is intermediate between the average of his Italian (or Manchester) colleagues of similar age and scientific field (ca. 20) and that of more senior or academically powerful colleagues, i.e. deans or department chairmen (around 50). Incidently, the accurate value for Mauro is 33, but can be obtained only after examining all the various versions in which his surname is cited. In this as most cases, the error in estimating the h-index is small, generally below 10% with Google Scholar. Of note, reserchers at the beginning of their career usually have an h-index below 10, while Nobel prize winners have it around 50, on average! However, only two or three Italian scientists appear to have a h-index above 100 - and they do not have a Nobel prize. The Via-academy has prepared a list with the top 300 Italian scientists based upon a robust evaluation of h-index: [4].

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