Beki Grinter

H-Index versus Your Index

In academia, computer science, discipline, HCI on June 2, 2011 at 10:49 am

The h-index is a metric for assessing the impact of scholarly contributions using the number of times each paper has been cited (until that number is smaller than the number of the paper on a list that starts 1,2,3,… ).

My question, if you had to pick the papers that formed your h-index, or to make it easier are the top three most cited of your papers, would you pick the same ones.

No offense to my collaborators on those highly cited papers, but I am disappointed that a couple of papers that have had more influence on me have missed the list. There’s a paper I wrote with Jim Herbsleb called “Conceptual Simplicity meets Organizational Complexity“. It was a write up of our research focused on a corporate-wide metrics program.

I think it’s the paper I’ve written about most in this blog. Why? Because I think metrics are pervasive and many of the problems we found in the paper appear in other settings. For example, I wrote about the apparent difficulty of computing University ranking metrics, and it echoes so much of what we saw in our research. Frequently there’s a gulf between those who want and decide the metrics and those who are the object of those metrics, that gulf is responsible for poor metrics. And just like the technically oriented corporation we studied, I’ve seen it in the engineering oriented University¬†I am in. We are seduced by numbers, because they are readily computable, but like the professor who asked the question about quality, I hear far less of whether they are the right things to know. Just because you can know them doesn’t mean that they are the right thing to know.

And so I return to the h-index. The reason that this paper is not on the list is because citations are a measure of something, but they are not the most effective measure of personal-professional development. The paper on metrics has been very influential in my thinking, about my research and about how I navigate academia. So, what would be in your top ranked papers and why?

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