Organisation - December 3, 2009

Star search

It sounds like the name of a new television programme. Coming on the heels of the X-factor, Idols, and, of course, Popstars, it's now the H-index. 'Cast your vote and sms to...' Is this the umpteenth talent hunt? I encountered the term for the first time during a progress review with my supervisor: 'I have once looked at your H-index...'

Hey, I thought. What was that? I know the BMI-index of course, but what does H stand for? Helpfulness? Herwaardering (revaluation)? Or maybe simply: hersens (brains)?
But it's not any of these. It turns out to be an index defined by the physicist Hirsch and which indicates the career impact of a researcher. It is therefore a value judgement. The index combines the number of publications with the number of times that they are cited; Hirsch considers this to give a realistic picture of someone's quality as a researcher.
It is certainly of interest in these times of job performance appraisals to look up your own H-index. Simply via Web of Science. Don't stop at your own index; check out your supervisor's too, and your colleagues' and even those of the members of the Executive Board. A nice pastime during lunch break.
Speaking of lunch, my BMI is currently clearly higher than my H-index. Were I to lose about five kilos, my BMI would fall to a better weight category. If I were to do my best, I could make it. The funny thing is that the H-index actually goes up if you do your best. And the higher it is, the better you are regarded as a researcher. Afterwards, it cannot fall any more. So I'd rather aim for that H-index, especially in times of 'pepernoot' cookies and 'speculaas' biscuits. In addition, mine has already climbed beautifully to above twenty. I'm very satisfied, of course. My supervisor, too. It's just an ordinary star search anyway, but then for scientists. All it needs now is the sms-gimmick.