first_img Email Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) What makes some scientists’ careers take off whereas others’ stagnate? There are personal factors, of course: Some run clever experiments, have good collaborating skills, and are eloquent in communicating their work. But there’s also just dumb luck. Sometimes doing the right experiment at the right time makes all the difference in publishing a paper that wins lots of attention.Indeed, randomness appears to play the predominant role in determining which of a scientist’s papers get cited the most, concludes a study out today in Science. But there’s also something else—the authors call it Q—that appears to predict just how much more successful one scientist will be compared with another, at least in terms of citations to their work.In 2013, a group led by statistical physicist Albert-László Barabási of Northeastern University in Boston found that they could predict the future citation rate of any given paper by calculating the trajectory of its existing citations. That made them wonder: Could they predict the citation fate of every paper a scientist will ever publish, thus forecasting his or her personal success?center_img Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe The most time-consuming step in attacking that question wasn’t creating the computer model or crunching the numbers, says Roberta Sinatra, a statistical physicist at Central European University in Budapest and the lead author of the new paper. Instead, it was the “dirty data cleaning.” Those data came from scouring the journals of the American Physical Society as well as Web of Science, a citation database. After disambiguating the names of more than 10,000 scientists who had conducted at least 20 years of research and published 10 papers, they had a list of 514,896 papers. Then they mapped out the millions of citations to those papers, and searched for a statistical model that best predicted scientists’ future success based on their early publication history.The first surprise to pop out was the randomness of success. You might guess that, over time, a scientist matures and produces better work, with later papers earning more citations. But no such trend emerged. Instead, a scientific paper looks more like a lottery ticket, Sinatra says, with the number of citations a paper receives mostly due to luck. “So publishing more papers is like buying more tickets,” she says. “And that’s why you have a bigger impact during your more productive years” as a scientist.But not all scientific careers are alike. Some people who publish the same number of papers—even in the very same journals—get more citations than chance alone can explain. All of those nonrandom differences between people—eloquence, team-building skills, and creativity—boiled down to a parameter in the model called Q. The authors found that calculating a scientist’s Q-factor requires at least 20 papers and 10 years of citations. With that in hand, however, they found that they could accurately predict the number of citations earned by that scientist’s 40th paper with 80% accuracy.The finding that luck plays a big role in citations makes sense to Lucas Carey, a systems biologist at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain, who was not involved with the study. “To get a hit [paper], you have to publish often, even for high Q(uality) authors,” he wrote in an email. “This is a great and most likely correct take home message.” But universities probably won’t be using Q-factors anytime soon for hiring decisions, he says, considering that it isn’t very predictive until later in a scientist’s career.Oren Etzioni, a computer scientist at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Seattle, Washington, also not involved with the study, wants to see more validation of the power of Q for “addressing the age-old question: What’s a scientist’s influence now, and in the future?” But he calls it “a valuable addition” to the already crowded toolbox of metrics for sizing up scientists, such Semantic Scholar, an artificial intelligence tool for analyzing scientific careers that he debuted earlier this year.Sinatra, meanwhile, says she hasn’t calculated her own Q-factor. “I’m not that old yet,” she points out. “I only have 14 papers.” And when the time comes, she vows she still won’t calculate it. “I don’t like attaching numbers to humans.”last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *