Hypatia and Hirsch Numbers

O.K., let me start with some apologies for drawing attention to some recent discussion on the philosophical blogosphere of Hirsch-scores and author impact analysis through citation indices. This sort of thing often smacks as the kind of posturing that I find troubling in the philosophy profession. However, citation scores for published articles are certainly one possibility for future research assessments in the U.K, and maybe even Australia.

But let me get to the point.A 2005 paper by J.E. Hirsch, “An Index to Quantify An Individuals Scientific Research Output”, proposes to generate a “Hirsch” number for a researcher according to how many citations that researchers’ papers receive. (You can find details of how its calculated here). There is also a down-loadable program called”Harzing’s Publish or Perish” (here) which uses Google Scholar to calculate Hirsch Numbers. Now, some philosophers have been playing around with this programme recently to create lists of Top Epistemologists, Departmental Rankings, and most recently, and of most relevance to this post, Journal Rankings.

The reason I’m posting is that, in light of lots of the concerns that we have on this blog about publishing feminist philosophy (see the posts under this category), and in particular, the ESF’s low ranking of Hypatia and the problem of getting others to recognise the value of being published in that journal (see here), the result of the Journal Rankings are quite interesting.Gregory Wheeler (over at Certain Doubts), who ran the statistics for Journal rankings by Hirsch numbers, used the same ESF list which gave Hypatia a low rank. By Hirsch numbers, of the 75 journals listed, Hypatia comes in 26th (see the spread sheet linked on Wheeler’s post), and ahead of the following selective list of well known journals which the ESF ranked higher: The Proceedings of The Aristotelian Society, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Philosophical Quarterly, American Philosophical Quarterly, Law and Philosophy, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly.And of well known journals given the same ranking by the ESF, it scores a higher Hirsch number than: The European Journal of Philosophy, The Canadian Journal of Philosophy, and Ratio amongst many others.

It’s obvious that the Publish or Perish programme has obvious flaws, and the reasons why Hypatia scores well may have much to do with the limited choices Feminist philosophers have when trying to place an article. I’ll leave you to ponder the reasons why Hypatia scores well by Hirsch numbers, but I have to say that seeing this left me feeling cheered up and thumbing my teeth at the ESF. And since the future of some important research assessments is certainly looking citation shaped, it leaves me feeling a little optimistic too (but I am a bit of a Pollyanna).

3 thoughts on “Hypatia and Hirsch Numbers

  1. Interesting!

    The idea of taking # of citations as important seems to come from the sciences, where a journal’s number of citations tends to yield a very public “impact factor.” Do articles in philosophy get cited for the same reasons? Are there the same pressures and conventions on citations?

    A small case in point: Steven Pinker has an article in this Sunday’s NY Times on moral thinking; he discusses ‘the trolley problem’ and cites both Philippa Foot and Judith Jarvis Thompson. But he’s a linguist/psychologist; I have seen many recent discussions of the trolley problem in the experimental philosophy lit and very few cite Foot and Thompson, if I am remembering correctly.

    Of course, in this latter case, one has both the problem of philosophical borrowing without acknowledgement and the problem that women seem cited much less.

  2. Many thanks for this. I have a long-standing dislike of citation-based metrics, but it looks like this one could be really useful for feminist philosophers struggling to get taken seriously, and I’m nothing if not cynical. I think we should really try to publicize this as much as we can– it could help a lot of early career folks trying to get jobs/tenure.

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