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Old 09-16-12, 03:50 PM   #1
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Post Scientists, what will your career look like in ten years?

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In the academic world, it's publish or perish; getting papers accepted by the right journals can make or break a researcher's career. But beyond a cushy tenured position, it's difficult to measure success. In 2005, physicist Jorge Hurst suggested the h-index, a quantitative way to measure the success of scientists via their publication record. This score takes into account both the number and the quality of papers a researcher has published, with quality measured as the number of times each paper has been cited in peer-reviewed journals. H-indices are commonly considered in tenure decisions, making this measure an important one, especially for scientists early in their career.

However, this index only measures the success a researcher achieved so far; it doesn't predict their future career trajectory. Some scientists stall out after a few big papers; others become breakthrough stars after a slow start. So how we estimate what a scientist's career will look like several years down the road? A recent article in Nature suggests that we can predict scientific success, but that we need to take into account several attributes of the researcher (such as the breadth of their research).

The authors created a dataset of over 3,000 researchers, mostly neuroscientists, who had published their first paper between five and 12 years ago. They calculated h-indices for each of these scientists for each year after they published their first paper. Then, they re-created various elements of each scientist's resume each year, such as the average number of coauthors on their papers, the number of NIH R-type grants they had, and the number of distinct journals in which they had published. The authors of the study then determined whether any of these elements could predict their success, in the form of their h-index, in later years.

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