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Fraud, h-index, etc.

Rui Huang's picture

This is an interesting article: Fraud, the h-index and Pasternak. How do we evaluate ourselves and others, especially those not in our own fields? We may not have to find an answer as an individual researcher, but the univeristy adminstrators have to.


Zhigang Suo's picture

Here is the amusing article cited by the author:

James R. Willamson, My h-index turns 40:  my midlife crisis of impact.

Mike Ciavarella's picture

Yes we can argue forever about this.

Funny that Hirsch himself will be most likely remembered for his H-index paper, which today is already at 1569 citations, top of his list (so increasing his own h-index by one)!

The name Hirsch himself is similar to the top "cited" live artist today, Damien Hirst, which reminds me that scientists are more naif than artists, since as the author suggests, it may be disputable to reduce Van Gogh impact to the high cost of his paintings, yet some lucky artists make millions out of their art work!  Hirst is one of the wealthiest individuals in Britain and Ireland: Sunday Times Rich List, placed Hirst at joint number 238 with a net worth of £235m.

It would be worth looking at the Rich list - is there any scientist?

Roberto Ballarini's picture

Hi all:

 academics are their own worst enemies. They complain that Deans, Provosts, etc. only know how to count, and that decisions are made based on numbers and not necessarily quality research and teaching. But then many of these academics post on their own webpages or resumes things like  their h-indices, number of citations, etc. Why? Because of vanity. This practice reinforces the approach taken by the bean counters, and if it continues, then indeed quality will suffer, fraud will increase, etc..

Quality and impact can be judged in a number of ways. One is time; the papers written by the great mechanicians that we use today as the foundations of new research have been judged by time and ourselves as being excellent. They would be excellent even if the h-index did not exist. In our Department we struggle with these issues every time the promotion and tenure committee meets. The best way of judging quality is to hire high quality individuals that are capable of recognizing quality and recognizing junk. How to do this would require additional discussion.



Mike Ciavarella's picture


you seem to suggest the following alternative to metrics

1. stand the test of time.  For example, today you would most likely hire Timoshenko than Swain, given the former has made quite an impact, whereas the second, despite being a well known professor at Harvard at his time, is mostly forgotten today, except for the error he made on the hole problem - see Zhigang, here a "clear description" of Swain/Timoshenko discuss.  However, it may be too late now!

2. "The best way of judging quality is to hire high quality individuals that are capable of recognizing quality and recognizing junk" .  This sounds a little recursive! It raises 2 questions. Are all high quality individual able to recognize quality? If so, are they always willing to do it?  On the contrary, if bad people are NOT able to recognize quality, how can they do it (if not with the help of metrics?), and if so, how to make them willing to do it?

I suspect anyway that even top people tend to have better opinion of themselves than of others, and are willing to "reproduce" their school of thought in a Darwinian sense. So this may lead to strange phenomena, so that consensuas as measured by impact may not be the unique standard.  An even clearer example is in the election of politicians.  How to "measure" their quality?  You must admit that a h-index for politician would be useful.

Anyway two interesting contributions from italian friends on these subjects are the following, and they have been quite sensational in USA, where people strongly beleive in meritocrazy, and they have received the Ignobel prize -- much less scandal in Italy, where our friends, despite high impact and consensus, continue to have a not remarkable career!


Accidental politicians: how randomly selected legislators can improve Parliament efficiency 


Efficient  promotion stategies in  hierarchical organizations

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