Do researchers know what the h-index is? And how do they estimate its importance?

Authors : Pantea Kamrani, Isabelle Dorsch, Wolfgang G. Stock

The h-index is a widely used scientometric indicator on the researcher level working with a simple combination of publication and citation counts. In this article, we pursue two goals, namely the collection of empirical data about researchers’ personal estimations of the importance of the h-index for themselves as well as for their academic disciplines, and on the researchers’ concrete knowledge on the h-index and the way of its calculation.

We worked with an online survey (including a knowledge test on the calculation of the h-index), which was finished by 1081 German university professors. We distinguished between the results for all participants, and, additionally, the results by gender, generation, and field of knowledge.

We found a clear binary division between the academic knowledge fields: For the sciences and medicine the h-index is important for the researchers themselves and for their disciplines, while for the humanities and social sciences, economics, and law the h-index is considerably less important.

Two fifths of the professors do not know details on the h-index or wrongly deem to know what the h-index is and failed our test. The researchers’ knowledge on the h-index is much smaller in the academic branches of the humanities and the social sciences.

As the h-index is important for many researchers and as not all researchers are very knowledgeable about this author-specific indicator, it seems to be necessary to make researchers more aware of scholarly metrics literacy.

URL : Do researchers know what the h-index is? And how do they estimate its importance?