Michael S. Rosenberg’s Laboratory

Computational Evolutionary Biology & Bioinformatics

E-mail: msr@asu.edu
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h-index

The h-index (Hirsch 2005) is the most important personal impact factor one needs to be familiar with, not because it is necessarily the best, but because (1) it was the first major index of its type and most of the other indices are based on it in some way, and (2) it is the single factor with which most other people (e.g., administrators) are likely to be somewhat familiar. You may find another index which you prefer, but everything starts with h.

The h-index is defined as the largest value for which h publications have at least h citations. Put another way, a scientist has an impact factor of h if h of their publications have at least h citations and the other P - h publications have ≤ h citations. Note that h is measured in publications. In formal notation, one might write

$$h=\underset{i}{\max}\left(i\leq C_i\right).$$

These top h publications are often referred to as the “Hirsch core.”

One way to graphically visualize h is to imagine a plot of citation count versus rank for all publications (often called the citation curve). By definition, this plot will generally trend from upper left (highest ranked publications with most citations, to lower right (lowest ranked publications with fewest citations), depending on the precise citation distribution of the author. If one were to add a (threshold) line with a slope of one to this plot, the point where the threshold line crosses the citation curve (truncated to an integer) is h. Alternatively, one can visualize h as the size (length of sides) of the largest square that one can fit under the citation curve.

Example

Publications are ordered by number of citations, from highest to lowest.

Citations (Ci)42361411993222111000
Rank (i)12345678910111213141516
h = 6

The largest rank where i ≤ Ci is 6.

History

Yearh
19971
19982
19993
20005
20016
20027
20039
200411
200513
200615
200717
200819
200923
201024
201126
201227
201329
201432
201534
201635
201735

References