Normalizing Citations – Beyond the H-index

The proper metric for an academic’s influence on the academic world of academic publishing is academic citations. An academic might make many (say 100) small contributions, each cited a small number (say 10) of times, or one contribution cited widely (say 1000) times. Neither is inherently superior, despite claims to the contrary, a

Citation needed. Source: Unknown.
Citation needed. Source: Unknown.

nd for the academic in question, it was probably easier to write one widely cited piece than 100 smaller ones, but that was unpredictable at the time.

Academic citations are cumulative distribution function, they can never go down (they can with retractions, but we will neglect that). So by this measure on average senior academics appear more influential than younger academics, which they of course are. But this is not a useful measure for filtering prospective candidates for hiring and promotion, which is why these metrics exist, to sort people based on productivity and establish a social hierarchy.

So to begin, we have two corrections to make. First, senior academics have more opportunities to write papers. A junior academic simply has not had the cumulative time to author 100 papers. Second, the senior academic’s papers have had more time to accumulate citations. So I suggest dividing total citations by Years^2 to account for these two temporal accumulating factors.

But which “Years”? Years since terminal degree? — This favors the young who start publishing before their degree. Years since they began their degree? Almost no one has any paper in year 1 of their graduate career. So we can estimate and split the difference and say years since graduation with terminal degree +2, on the theory that by the time you graduate you should have had at least 3 papers, and that means you started about 2 years before graduation. Still this is highly sensitive to assumptions for younger academics, it will wash out for the older academics. Domains will vary of course in terms of publishing culture.

There are other problems, for instance, co-authorship. At the extreme, all 108 billion people who ever lived have contributed fractionally to every paper, but they don’t all get co-authorship (except on experimental physics papers). But someone who puts all of their PhDs on all of their group’s papers is gaming the system to the detriment of those who assign more individually authored papers. So each citation should be divided by the fraction of authorship that the academic in question deserves. While this is impossible to assess, (promotion files sometimes ask for percentages on co-authored papers, but this is never systematically estimated or consistent). Computing an average dividing by the number of authors on the paper is a good surrogate.

I am not in this business of bibliometrics, I will leave that to others. But hopefully someone in the industry (Scopus, Web of Science, Google Scholar) can run the proposed corrections on these databases and produce a normalized citation measure as a standard output.

How you want your books

Since I am preparing several manuscripts for release soon, I did a series of Twitter polls on the preferred format of release. The results are as follows below. While these are not ‘scientific’, unlike say, nothing, they seem right, and while results no doubt vary by field, this seems mostly right.






In short, for paper, you clearly want softcover AND color. You probably want cheaper paper, but I suspect this really depends. A slim majority prefer PDF to ePub format at the same price.

So you will get softcover AND color, and I will fret about whether the paper/image quality from the higher cost is worthwhile. If there is demand, there may be hardcover too, but I don’t think anyone but my mom and maybe a library will get it.

You will get PDF, and maybe ePub too if I’m feeling either generous or obsessive.


Measuring Winners and Losers from the new I-35W Mississippi River Bridge | FREE Viewing

Finally printed, (after more than a year in “online first” purgatory presumably WinnerLoser_ByO_2accumulating citations so the journal can juice it’s impact factor) now available for FREE Viewing, but not downloading, thanks to the new initiative below. While not perfect, this seems a reasonable step on the path towards full open-access.


Springer nature 2x Shared it

Dear Author,

Congratulations on publishing “Measuring winners and losers from the new I-35W Mississippi River Bridge” in Transportation. As part of the Springer Nature SharedIt initiative, you can now publicly share a full-text view-only version of your paper by using the link below. If you have selected an Open Access option for your paper, or where an individual can view content via a personal or institutional subscription, recipients of the link will also be able to download and print the PDF. All readers of your article via the shared link will also be able to use Enhanced PDF features such as annotation tools, one-click supplements, citation file exports and article metrics.

We encourage you to forward this link to your co-authors, as sharing your paper is a great way to improve the visibility of your work. There are no restrictions on the number of people you may share this link with, how many times they can view the linked article or where you can post the link online.

More information on Springer Nature’s commitment to content sharing is available here.

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Current and Future Publishing Practices Forum – JTLU

I will be at Current and Future Publishing Practices discussing the Journal of Transport and Land Use

What: Current and Future Publishing Practices: An event especially for, but not exclusive to, faculty editors. Presented by the University of Minnesota Libraries and the Office of the Vice President for Research.

When: Thursday, December 2, 2010 • 2:00-4:00 p.m.

Where: 120 Elmer L. Andersen Library

Free and open to the public.

If you cannot attend, the event will be streamed online live

My slides can be downloaded here