Most of us are familiar with the metric known as the h-Index. Developed by Jorge Hirsch, the h-index is a measure that says that if you have an index of h, you have published h papers each of which has been cited at least h times.
Higher Education Strategy Associates (HESA) has apparently been busy compiling a bibliometric database that estimates the h-index for over 60,000 Canadian university professors at 71 universities in all fields of study except medicine given the difficulty of separating out clinical and teaching faculty at medical schools. Some of you might recall the publication in the March 27th issue of the Globe and Mail of researchers with the top 3 h-index scores by discipline. In economics, these were John Whalley (Western) at 42, W. Erwin Diewert (UBC) at 42 and Christian Gourieroux (UofT) at 39. On Wednesday, what will be released will be the results by individual discipline but the main results by broad field have been provided by HESA in their daily “One Thought to Start Your Day” and are shown in the accompanying figure. Mean h-index scores are highest in science, engineering and agriculture and lowest in fine arts, design and architecture and humanities. Economists based on the scores for business and social science should be somewhere between 3.8 and 5.2.
Figure 1 (Source: HESA)
What is more intriguing is what does this mean for universities and the professoriate? Are university administrators going to be accessing the database to see how faculty are performing on an individual level and use it as a factor in tenure decisions or to assign pay increments? Will governments in Canada start moving to more of a UK model to assign funding to universities and use the h-index scores to assign research funding? Will people with high h-index scores become the object of bidding wars in a world where h-index scores are important determinants of university performance and rankings? Should such scores be used in this manner? It looks like an interesting new future.