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Nowadays universities judge faculty based on their h-index, to be promoted from assistant to associate or to be hired as associate in some universities you need at least a h-index of 10. I am struggling to increase mine, I have tried all the tips I found online, shared my papers on social media such as Research Gate and Linked In.

How can I increase my h-index otherwise?

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  • Answers in comments and side discussions have been moved to chat. Please read this FAQ before posting another comment.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jan 16, 2020 at 9:15
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    Hint: Check your H index with and without self citations. Some hiring comittees are smart enough to know the difference, and many of your possible competitors might not look as good as you thought they do.
    – Karl
    Jan 16, 2020 at 9:22
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    It's very similar to gaining reputation on SE. Looks like you have started! ;-) Jan 17, 2020 at 12:53

7 Answers 7

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Write papers that people will want to cite. In particular:

  • When you come up with a new concept/technique, write a good explanatory section, so that people will refer to your paper for in depth explanation.

  • Make something useful, like a piece of software or a benchmark that people working in your field can use. Write a paper that people using your work can cite. For example, the introductory page of PonyGE2 contains a "how to cite PonyGE2" text.

  • When you make something people can cite, make it easy to cite it. Include snippets for BibTex and other citation systems that people can easily copy-paste. (BibTex in particular is unpleasant to do entirely by hand; so take that work off your readers' hands.)

  • Use good titles for your paper, good abstracts and pay attention to the keywords. These things matter a lot for whether people will find and decide to read your paper, and that's necessary to get them to cite it.

  • Collaborate with a lot of different people in your field. If you write something good with X, chances are X and X's colleagues are going to be citing that paper later on. Also, people looking at X's papers also get to see your paper.

  • Collaborate with famous people in your field. They probably got famous by being good at it (so learn from the best!), and they get published in the more prestigious journals. That's good for increasing your citation odds.

  • Write about interesting things that other people will want to follow up on.

  • Supervise good students, teach them well, and co-author their publications sometimes the student exceeds the master, but the master also gets a boost from the student's success.

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    "BibTex in particular is unpleasant to do entirely by hand" - just use doi2bib.org
    – yar
    Jan 15, 2020 at 23:00
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    @yar Or Google Scholar.
    – nick012000
    Jan 16, 2020 at 7:20
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    Writing surveys is an option, if there aren't already dozens on the topic. Jan 16, 2020 at 8:49
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    @yar or Zotero or Mendeley. They can all export citations. I don't think "making it easy to cite" is gonna make a difference. The collaborate suggestions are the best ones. H-index doesn't care about author contribution. If you are on the paper it counts for your index! SO just get on lots of papers!
    – jerlich
    Jan 16, 2020 at 8:57
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In addition to writing papers that others will want to cite, another important factor is simply the number of publications that you have- if you look at the profiles of researchers who have h-index numbers of 30 or more, they typically have total publication counts of 100 or more with a highly skewed distribution of the number of citations.

Another issue is that citation counts build up over time. In some disciplines, papers published 20 or more years ago are still being heavily cited, while in other disciplines papers are typically only cited for a couple of years before they become out-dated. If you're in a discipline where the citations come in over a very long time, then it can take decades for your H-index to build up.

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    This is a known weakness of H-index: what constitutes a good score differs noticeably by (sub)field.
    – ObscureOwl
    Jan 16, 2020 at 9:07
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The most sustainable and rewarding "tip" is to do good work which is interesting to your peers, and present it well. All other approaches are merely tactics that will only get you so-and-so far. I still include some of them in this answer, since they might be useful to increase your h-index to 10 in a given timeframe.

Self-cite. While a citation record that mainly consists of self-citations might raise some questions, it's an accepted way to get started with building up your record.

Cite other people. Cite active researchers in your field broadly, so they notice you and cite you back. Don't shy away from including multiple references to the same group of authors, so they notice you even more.

Find a "gold-mine" topic. There are some topics that are more amenable for extensions and follow-up papers then others. Once you have such a topic, each new paper allows you to ethically cite and discuss all previous papers in the same line of research.

Spin-off publications. In some fields, it's OK to apply a tactic which is known as "salami publications" in other fields: Publish separate papers which are closely related to another work, for example, a tool or a dataset developed in the context of the work.

An important point is to not overdo it with these tactics. For example, in a book recently published in my field, each chapter contains a reference list with a significant (n>10) number of self-citations. At a certain institute, each PhD thesis contains a separate "Further reading" biography with dozens of references to the institute's papers. I would surely bring such cases up if I was involved in a relevant hiring committee and the topic of research metrics came up.

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    H index is often (also) calculated excluding self-citations.
    – Roland
    Jan 15, 2020 at 11:30
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    I find many of your recommendations border-line bad practice and they would reflect negatively on a candidate in my eyes.
    – Roland
    Jan 15, 2020 at 11:32
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    @Roland Indeed, h-index without self-citations is even mandatory to specify for some funding programs (like Marie Curie). However, for the vast majority of job applications, it's not, and there's no convenient tool that calculates this number for you like Google Scholar does. I don't remember big discussions about self-citations in hiring committees I was involved in. Jan 15, 2020 at 11:34
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    @Kimball The application process for Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowships (one of the most prestigious grants for young researchers in Europe) requires the applicant to specify their h-index excluding self-citations. I have seen the h-index being considered for hiring decisions in computer science. Jan 15, 2020 at 21:02
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    @Roland: Those are (common) bad practices indeed, but they're simply symptoms of "publish or perish". :-/ Jan 16, 2020 at 9:59
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Obsession with the h-index, in particular among young researchers, is an extremely unfortunate and destructive aspect of the current environment in academia. My suggestion: Don't look it up for the next five years.

Look at the positives: You may end up writing interesting, novel papers that get you recognized, hired and/or promoted.

The down-side: Maybe you neglect to write large numbers of papers on fashionable subjects that can drive up your h-index, some idiotic hiring or promotion committee will punish you for it, and you miss out on that great job.

But then again: Maybe you do write large numbers of papers of fashionable subjects, but they fail to drive up your h, or that hiring committee actually has some sense, and considers your work to be boring me-too work, and you still don't get the great job at FancyU.

In what situation would you rather be?

Yours

Thomas (h=xx)

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The H-index is largely a function of how many large projects you are involved in. Without having a large number of co-authors who all write papers, it is impossible to be competitive. If you write a brilliant paper that earns you the Nobel Prize, your h-index will only increase by one. In the meantime, I know one telescope group where everyone who has ever worked on the telescope is automatically added to all future papers produced from the telescope observations. Those will see their h-index steadily increase without effort.

Unfortunately, Google Scholar considers the h-index to be the only measure of scholarly success. AdsAbs also offers normalized citations as a measure, where the number of citations is divided by the number of authors on a paper. If your normalized citation count is high, you could use this as an argument. And don't write a paper that you expect to get fewer than ten citations.

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    What, and throw away the results of a completed work, just because you know it will never increase your H index?
    – Karl
    Jan 16, 2020 at 9:16
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    This is needlessly negative. H-index never goes down for having a little-cited paper so there is no harm in writing an obscure paper.
    – ObscureOwl
    Jan 16, 2020 at 13:18
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    Also, some important papers don't get cited a lot directly (for example, because everyone is citing a follow-up publication), but that doesn't mean they weren't important. H-index isn't perfect, it isn't and it probably never will be the only impact metric. Don't fall into the trap of "writing towards the test".
    – ObscureOwl
    Jan 16, 2020 at 13:19
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    @ObscureOwl re: "no harm:" there is a significant time cost to writing that paper, that authors might be able to spend writing a paper which is more useful to the greater scientific community. I'm not saying "don't write them" but I don't think "no harm" is really accurate.
    – WBT
    Jan 16, 2020 at 14:04
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    It's better to write one significant paper than two insignificant papers.
    – Norbert S
    Jan 16, 2020 at 18:04
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I have become a bit cynical from what I have observed over the past years in my university. Tactics to boost your H-index:

  1. Force your graduation students to publish their work with you as co-author (or better, promote yourself to first author as supervising is hard work). Numbers count.

  2. Be co-author as often as you can! Promise to lead a follow-up publication but never live up to your promises. People will buy it over and over again. Some of your colleague researchers will manage to be cited successfully and you will benefit from their success.

  3. In the incidental situation where you are first author, invite a co-author with a high H-index. Your work may actually get accepted.

  4. When reviewing papers (anonymously), force the authors to cite your important work even if it is not relevant for their research.

  5. Supervise as many PhD students as is allowed and be their co-author

  6. Participate in (literature) review papers. Once accepted these are often cited frequently.

My advice: Find a faculty elsewhere. You are more than your H-index. Own your research and publications. Be proud of your work.

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Consider what gets cited the most - reviews.

If you want to increase your h-index, then in many areas reviews are the way forward. Often reviews are invited, but you solicit the invitation.

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    Actually, I suspect that reviews are one of the worst ways to improve your H-index. It means spending a lot of time on one paper that might get hundreds of citations, when for the purposes of an H-index you'd probably be better off writing three simple papers that get a handful of citations each. Of course, this is one reason the H-index is so silly.
    – Rococo
    Dec 30, 2021 at 2:33
  • We are discussing H-indices at the ca. 10 level. Increasing this in a timely fashion requires quite a lot of citations, well above the average for most journals. An average research paper in, say, Angewandte Chemie (IF = 15, much of which comes from their reviews) would require many years to garner ca. 10 citations, whereas a review there would typically pass this in ca. 6 months. Remember, IF is the average number of citations in two years, and most papers are barely cited. A strategy of 3 research papers vice a review only works if you have reasonable research in a reasonable journal. Dec 31, 2021 at 19:59

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