Quantifying the Evolution of Individual Scientific Impact

R. Sinatra, D. Wang, P. Deville, C. Song, A.-L. Barabasi
Science
4: 354, 6312 (2016)
November 4, 2016

Abstract

Despite the  frequent use of numerous quantitative indicators to gauge the professional  impact of a scientist, little is known about how scientific impact emerges  and evolves in time. Here, we quantify the changes in impact and productivity  throughout a career in science, finding that impact, as measured by  influential publications, is distributed randomly within a scientist’s  sequence of publications. This random-impact rule allows us to formulate a  stochastic model that uncouples the effects of productivity, individual  ability, and luck and unveils the existence of universal patterns governing  the emergence of scientific success. The model assigns a unique individual  parameter Q to each scientist, which is stable during a career, and it  accurately predicts the evolution of a scientist’s impact, from the h-index  to cumulative citations, and independent recognitions, such as prizes.

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