The h-index, originally described in 2005 by its namesake Jorge Hirsch, is a measurement that aims to describe the scientific productivity and impact of a researcher.  Like all metrics, the h-index is not perfect; however, it addresses many of the problems associated with impact factors and the publication process in general and enables some very interesting analyses.


“The h-index “gives an estimate of the importance, significance, and broad impact of a scientist’s cumulative research contributions”


“A scientist has an index h if h of his or her Np papers have at least h citations each and the other (Np – h) papers have less than or equal to h citations each.”

 H-indexs calculation

A researcher’s h-index can be calculated manually by locating citation counts for all published papers and ranking them numerically by the number of times cited. However, Web of Science, Scopus and Google Scholar can also be used to calculate an h-index.

Key h-index tools      

  • Scopus – multi-disciplinary citation database of peer-reviewed literature with tools to track, analyze and visualize research
  • Web of Science – use the Author Finder option to search this multi-disciplinary citation database of peer-reviewed literature with tools to track, analyze and visualize research
  • Google Scholar Citations – provides a simple way to check who is citing your publications and graph citations over time

The advantages of the h-index

  • It relies on citations to your papers, not the journals, which is a truer measure of quality
  • It is not dramatically skewed by a single well-cited, influential paper (unlike total number of citations would be)
  • It minimizes the politics of publication.  A high-impact paper counts regardless of whether your competitor kept it from being published in the top-tier journals…
  • It’s good for comparing scientists within a field at similar stages in their careers



The weaknesses of the h-index

  • It counts a highly-cited paper regardless of why it’s being referenced- egg, for negative reasons
  • It doesn’t account for variations in average number of publications and citations in various fields (some traditionally publish and cite less than others)
  • It ignores the number and position of authors on a paper
  • It limits authors by the total number of publications, so shorter careers are at a disadvantage


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s