Observer Forum

The h in Roediger

I read with great interest the recent column by Roddy Roediger on the use of the h index to assess the scientific impact of psychologists. My experiences with the h index over the past year indicate that its strengths far outweigh its weaknesses, for reasons clearly explained by Roddy.

I do want to point out that Cited Reference Search can be used with the author’s name as the only search key. Used in this way, Cited Reference Search lists all cited works by the author in the ISI databases, including book chapters, articles published prior to the starting date of a database (1990 for SSCI at my institution), and even incorrect references (e.g., wrong page number), thereby providing better coverage and more accurate citation counts than General Reference Search.

Unfortunately, Cited Reference Search does not have a sort function. To compute h, one must copy and paste the results into a spreadsheet, where they can be easily sorted. This extra step is not unduly burdensome in my experience.

For example, I obtained a value of 41 for Roddy’s h index when I used Cited Reference Search in this way. I suspect that this estimate is lower than the value of 43 obtained by Roddy when he obtained citation counts for each publication individually because I did not correct for misreferenced articles. Using Cited Reference Search with the scholar’s name as the search key is much quicker than tallying citation counts for scores of articles (even with the necessary step of copying and pasting into a spreadsheet) and does not require access to a vita.

Timothy P. McNamara
Vanderbilt University

Observer Vol.19, No.6 June, 2006

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