Do you know your Hirsch number?

The Hirsch number tries to quantify the (scientific) productivity of a scientist. The Hirsch number was first described by the physicist J.E. Hirsch in a 2005 PNAS paper: An index to quantify an individual’s scientific research output. Hirsch says:

I propose the index h, defined as the number of papers with citation number h, as a useful index to characterize the scientific output of a researcher.

Thus, in contrast to the widely used impact factor, the Hirsch number measures the productivity of an individual scientist and not the journal he publishes in. The Hirsch number tries to factor in both the number of papers and the number of citations of these papers.

Your personal Hirsch number should be equal or greater the number of years you have already spent in science. Again in contrast to the impact factor, you can calculate your Hirsch number with freely available tools. You can look up your papers in Google Scholar and write down the citations for each paper. Or, use online tools such as scHolar index to do the work for you.

Using a simple number to measure the productivity of scientist is a dangerous undertaking. But if numbers are needed (e.g. grant or job applications), the Hirsch number is a good tool. Widespread use of the Hirsch number could have broad implications, as authors would more carefully consider which journals would give them the highest number of citations.

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8 Responses to Do you know your Hirsch number?

  1. Matt Brown says:

    Nice. I’d not heard of this.
    Maybe we should factor in blog posts as well 😉

  2. Random Walker says:

    Web of Science can do that now and gives an accurate index…sometimes googlescholar is not trustworth…

  3. Martin Fenner says:

    “Web of Science”: is of course the gold standard, but it is not freely accessible. And why is “Pubmed”: not providing citation numbers – or have I missed this feature?

  4. Corie Lok says:

    There’s an “article”: from last week’s Nature about the h-index. It talks about how Hirsch compared the h-indices of 50 scientists with their career performance since the 1980s to see how well the number predicted career success, compared with other metrics like citation counts. He found that the h-index was a bit more accurate than the # of citations, and much more accurate than the # of publications. The article goes on to say that despite some criticism, the use of the h-index is becoming more popular.

  5. Martin Fenner says:

    Thanks Corie. The Hirsch article can be found at “”:

  6. Hilary Spencer says:

    Peter Vinkler has some interesting thoughts on the flaws of the Hirsch index in the Journal of Information Science:
    “Eminence of scientists in the light of the h-index and other scientometric indicators”:

  7. Leonidas Akritidis says:

    You can use “QuadSearch”:
    Apart from h-index, there are charts that are produced dynamically (cites vs articles and articles vs dates).
    Also there is a scientist database where you can add/find information about any scientist.
    Finally, there is a compare scientists mode, where two scinetists are being compared.

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