One of the biggest axioms of management is “what cannot be measured cannot be managed”.

Unfortunately this is a truism that effects scientists as much as the rest of the world.  The latest trend in hiring committees, tenure review, promotions, etc., is to use statistics such as the H’ Index to quantify scientific productivity.  This sounds good and reasonable, but unfortunately the main source used for this is the ISI Web of Science by Thomson-Rueters.  This database is incomplete to say the least and misses many legitimate publications entirely.

If the database you use to make these measurements is incomplete, you might as well make no measurement at all.  Mainly because, this can be just down right misleading and can actually be damaging to people’s careers!

Here is my favorite example comparing myself vs. Albert Einstein.

According to ISI, I have an H’ Index of 11 (I actually know it to be higher).  This is based on the number of times papers I have published have been cited or referenced by other others.  Basically it boils down to the fact that I have at least 11 papers that have been cited at least 11 times.  Soon another of my papers will reach the 12 citation mark and I will advance the lofty H’ index score of 12!

When you look up “Einstein A” what you get, besides a bunch of biomedical papers that are obviously a different Einstein, is 7 papers published from 1969-2006 (reprints and commentaries made by others mostly)! Only one of these papers has ever been cited, and then only 7 times.  Thus, according to ISI, Einstein has an H’ Index of 1. 

Tomorrow I will ask my manager for a raise, because obviously my short career in science has already been more productive than Albert Einstein’s.

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