I've noticed recently that colleagues, friends, and others seeking employment, have shown, among other things, their Erdős number on their resume/CV. I've also seen some put down their h-index, or their publication with the most citations (the running tally of citations for that publication), or the Impact Factor journal that they have ever published in, etc.

I know there is a question on just h-index in a CV/resume (so please do not mark as duplicate), but this is a broader question about other figures of merit, especially Erdős number.

I realize that having a CV/resume that stands out is important and can give an edge to getting that coveted position, but is listing these types of things appropriate?

Let me just make clear that I am not endorsing doing this or saying that I have done it, I am just asking if this is common, acceptable, or purposeful.

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    How the heck can the Erdős number be seen as a sign of merit? I always assumed this was sort of a joke.
    – xLeitix
    Jan 30, 2015 at 22:06
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    I think there are two separate questions in here (Erdos# and 'any numbers'), and that you might do better to split them...
    – jakebeal
    Jan 30, 2015 at 22:46
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    Well, if your Erdős number is 0, that would be pretty impressive. But then I suppose just including your last name would suffice...
    – BrianH
    Jan 30, 2015 at 23:22
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    Very vaguely related odd-site link: smbc-comics.com/?id=3044#comic Jan 31, 2015 at 0:53
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    "Figure of merit" seems to me like an odd choice of words if what you mean is "a metric that can be used to measure something". The Erdős number is certainly a figure, and it obviously measures something (the number of links between you and Erdős), but I don't know anyone who would describe what it measures as being related to your "merit" in any significant academic sense. It's more like a bit of trivia. Jan 31, 2015 at 7:18

2 Answers 2


As a mathematician, I don't view an Erdős number as a sign of merit in any serious way. It's more of a cultural in-joke.

There are over 9,000 people with Erdős number 2, and far more than that with Erdős number 3, so it doesn't really set you apart. So, if you published with Erdős, that fact will be clear form your list of papers, and if you haven't, your Erdős number tells very little about you.

My own Erdős number is 3 (two ways), FWIW.


Reiterating "Oswald Veblen"'s remarks: probably everyone in the world has an Erdos number that's a single digit, for roughly similar reasons to the fact that, statistically [sic] everyone in Western Europe can (maybe...) trace their lineage to some king of France 900 years ago... but not in any interesting, informative, or "special" way.

Only slightly less silly are the "bibliometric indices"...

Conceivably, if you are applying for jobs with nincompoops, they'll be moved by silly things, so by all means crank it up.

On the other hand, if your desired employers are not nincompoops, they'll at best think you're young-and-naive to mention such stuff in any way other than as humor. Time-and-space on CV's and in interviews is vastly better spent not kidding around and saying silly things.

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    I would suggest that maybe 99.9% of people in the world have an Erdos number of infinity, as they've never published a paper.
    – jamesqf
    Jan 30, 2015 at 23:58
  • @jamesqf, :) ... Jan 31, 2015 at 0:18
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    You can still be on infinity despite publishing papers, if you don't have any joint papers.
    – Jessica B
    Jan 31, 2015 at 10:10
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    @Jessica B: So that bumps the total up to 99.99% :-)
    – jamesqf
    Jan 31, 2015 at 19:32

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