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Michigan State University

Research Impact Metrics

This guide describes the different ways one can measure research impact and output through metrics that assess authors, journals, articles, and departments.

When demonstrating author productivity and impact the most common metric used is the H-Index

In order to help ensure more accurate metrics for themselves, authors would be wise to sign up for and use stable author identifier numbers like an ORCiD to help validate which publications are theirs, identify themselves uniquely among others with similar names, help track their own papers if they have had name changes, and improve the findability of other types of their outputs such as blog posts, conference papers, and posters.

Additionally, social media impact can be measured through ImpactStory.

Overton (Authorship Citations in Grey Literature)

MSU Scholars

From Institutional Research:

"MSU Scholars is Michigan State University’s instance of Academic Analytics’ public-facing version of their Research Discovery Suite.  MSU Scholars highlights the visibility and research activity of MSU faculty and academic staff, identifying experts for local, state, national, and international research and business communities.  MSU faculty and staff can login to the corresponding internal site, Faculty Insight, and search for grant funding opportunities as well as other subject experts with whom to collaborate.  Faculty Insight contains a link to FAQs and a User Guide. For questions or comments please contact Kyle Sweitzer at  "

Author Profiles & Disambiguation

Author profiles and identification numbers are the best way to disambiguate you and your citations from an author with a similar name. These profiles  are essential to calculating metrics like the H-Index and by signing up for and managing your authorial profiles you will ensure the accuracy of the citations attributed to you and the associated metric outputs.

Author Profile: ORCiD ID

Author Profile: Scopus

Author Profile: Google Scholar

Author Profile: Researcher ID


What is the H-Index?

First suggested in 2005 by Hirsch in his article Hirsch, J. E. (2005). An index to quantify an individual's scientific research output. Proceedings of the National academy of Sciences, 102(46), 16569-16572.

The H-index is a metric representing the intersection of an author's productivity (publication count) and impact (citation count).The basic formula is that : h is the number of articles greater than h that have at least h citations. For example, an h-index of 5 means that there are 5 items that have 5 citations or more.

There are major caveats to using this metric:

  • It will vary greatly for authors in different subject fields, as different fields have different publishing norms.
  • It does not take author role/contribution into account (1st, 2nd, last author placement)
  • There are statistical validity issues with the metric because h-index has a preference towards scholars who produce many moderately cited publications over those who prefer to produce a few high impact papers.
  • It should not be the only metric you use to assess impact
  • It should not be used to compare researchers except in very few instances - see the section below on Comparing Researchers for more information.

Further Reading on the H-Index

Comparing Researchers: Pitfalls and Tips

It is usually inappropriate to compare researchers to each other using the H-index.

Any kind of comparisons will have the best results only if the researchers compared are:

  1. in the same field, in the same discipline (for example, a Toxicologist in the Biochemistry Department whose research focuses on environment toxicology should not be compared with an pharmaceutical toxicologist even though both are in the Biochemistry field.)
  2. at the same stage of their career
  3. have been tenured for a similar length of time
  4. be published in similar journals

And always be aware that there are systemic reasons why two researchers may not have similar scholarly output: funding, family needs, career path, research topic choice, as well as the broader issues  and impacts of gender, racial, socio-economic, and class status.

Where to Find the H-Index

There are three providers that calculate the H-index for authors (Scopus, Web of Science, and Google Scholar).  Each one will give a different number because each has different coverage , benefits, and limitations.

The key is to choose one source and be consistent because there is no one official H-index for a person

i10 Index (Google Scholar)