The "Kardashian Index" Measures Whether Scientists Deserve Their Fame

Everybody knows Kim Kardashian is "famous for being famous." But one researcher worries that some in the scientific community are likewise "renowned for being renowned." How could you tell if a scientist has an overblown public profile? Meet the Kardashian Index.

Writing in the journal Genome Biology, University of Liverpool genomicist Neil Hall notes:

We are all aware that certain people are seemingly invited as keynote speakers, not because of their contributions to the published literature but because of who they are. In the age of social media there are people who have high-profile scientific blogs or twitter feeds but have not actually published many peer-reviewed papers of significance; in essence, scientists who are seen as leaders in their field simply because of their notoriety. I was recently involved in a discussion where it was suggested that someone should be invited to speak at a meeting 'because they will tweet about it and more people will come'. If that is not the research community equivalent of buying a Kardashian endorsement I don't know what is.

The "Kardashian Index" Measures Whether Scientists Deserve Their Fame

Hall's Kardashian Index is determined by comparing the amount of Twitter followers a scientist has with a calculation of how many followers a scientist should have based upon their number of citations in scientific papers. He plotted his initial findings (above) with the observation:

I propose that all scientists calculate their own K-index on an annual basis and include it in their Twitter profile. Not only does this help others decide how much weight they should give to someone's 140 character wisdom, it can also be an incentive —if your K-index gets above 5, then it's time to get off Twitter and write those papers.... in my analysis, very few women (only one in fact) had a highly inflated Twitter following, while most (11/14) had fewer followers than would be expected. Hence, most Kardashians are men.

[H/T The Scientist]