A fairer way to compare researchers at any career stage and in any discipline using open-access citation data

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The pursuit of simple, yet fair, unbiased, and objective measures of researcher performance has occupied bibliometricians and the research community as a whole for decades. However, despite the diversity of available metrics, most are either complex to calculate or not readily applied in the most common assessment exercises (e.g., grant assessment, job applications). The ubiquity of metrics like the h-index (h papers with at least h citations) and its time-corrected variant, the m-quotient (h-index number of years publishing) therefore reflect the ease of use rather than their capacity to differentiate researchers fairly among disciplines, career stage, or gender. We address this problem here by defining an easily calculated index based on publicly available citation data (Google Scholar) that corrects for most biases and allows assessors to compare researchers at any stage of their career and from any discipline on the same scale. Our ε0-index violates fewer statistical assumptions relative to other metrics when comparing groups of researchers, and can be easily modified to remove inherent gender biases in citation data. We demonstrate the utility of the ε0-index using a sample of 480 researchers with Google Scholar profiles, stratified evenly into eight disciplines (archaeology, chemistry, ecology, evolution and development, geology, microbiology, ophthalmology, palaeontology), three career stages (early, mid-, late-career), and two genders. We advocate the use of the ε0-index whenever assessors must compare research performance among researchers of different backgrounds, but emphasize that no single index should be used exclusively to rank researcher capability.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0257141
Number of pages15
JournalPLoS One
Volume16
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sep 2021

Keywords

  • researchers
  • career
  • open access
  • h-index
  • performance
  • bibliometricians
  • metrics

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