h-index = the quality of a scientist?

Do you know h-index? To find out what’s h-index, just click the link below.


Easily, h is the number of manuscripts greater than h that have at least h citations. For example, an h-index of 20 means that there are 20 items that have 20 citations or more.

Well, now you’ll understand that the h-index is an instrument to determine the quality of a scientist. Many argue that the h-index is not important, particularly those someone who claims himself to be a scientist, but do not have h-index value or possess a low value of h-index.

Prof. J. E. Hirsch, a physicist who proposed the h-index to evaluate the quality of scientists, wrote in his paper entitled “An index to quantify an individual’s scientific research output“:

From inspection of the citation records of many physicists, I conclude:
(1) A value m ~ 1, i.e. an h-index of 20 after 20 years of scientific activity, characterizes a successful scientist. (2) A value m ~ 2, i.e. an h-index of 40 after 20 years of scientific activity, characterizes outstanding scientists, likely to be found only at the top universities or major research laboratories. (3) A value m ~ 3 or higher, i.e. an h-index of 60 after 20 years, or 90 after 30 years, characterizes truly unique individuals. The m-parameter ceases to be useful if a scientist does not maintain his/her level of productivity, while the h parameter remains useful as a measure of cumulative achievement that may continue to increase over time even long after the scientist has stopped publishing altogether. Based on typical h and m values found, I suggest that (with large error bars) for faculty at major research universities h ~ 10 to 12 might be a typical value for advancement to tenure (associate professor), and h ~ 18 for advancement to full professor. Fellowship in the American Physical Society might occur typically for h ~ 15 to 20. Membership in the US National Academy of Sciences may typically be associated with h ~ 45 and higher except in exceptional circumstances.

So, how do we evaluate our scientists? What are the criteria? In my opinion, this is an important aspect to be considered, especially in giving the award in the field of science and technology.


Chemistry Nobel laureate (1991), Prof. Richard R. Ernst, a high-quality scientist, paid a rare and special visit to the NMR laboratory of Ibnu Sina Institute for Fundamental Science Studies, UTM.