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Tuesday, 17 October 2006


JR Beck, MD, KM Albert, BA Lewis, and S Place. Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, PA

Purpose: Decision science, a relatively young academic discipline, faces challenges at institutional appointment and promotion committees. Other than the sine qua non of peer-reviewed extramural funding, scholarly publications are the coin of the realm for professional advancement. Citation analysis has emerged as an arbiter of the value of a candidate's publication record, but both numbers of articles and citations are skewed measures. Recently Hirsch (PNAS 102:16569; 2005) proposed the h-index, a statistic that attempts to reconcile publications and citations. In this study we explored the value of the h-index for the medical decision making subfield.

Methods: We used the Web of Science (WoS) to identify source documents and citations from three groups: Society for Medical Decision Making (SMDM) board members (1981-present, n=114), an academic cancer center list of principal investigators (PI's) (n=98), and a random sample of elected members of the American College of Medical Informatics (ACMI) (n=50). For each individual Google Scholar™ served as a redundant check on identity. Source articles and citations since 1964 comprised raw data; h values were measured by inspection of the ordered WoS results. Source articles and h values were compared across groups using ANOVA and conservative t-tests.

Results: SMDM board members published an average of 100.8 articles (range 12-389), PI's averaged 47.6 (1-292), and ACMI 72.8 (3-386). All pairwise comparisons were statistically significant, in all cases p<0.02. h-indexes averaged as follows: SMDM 20.3 (range 4-56), PI's 17.9 (1-84), ACMI 16.0 (2-52). The only significant pairwise comparison was between SMDM and ACMI (p<0.03). Basic scientists and bioinformatics researchers tended to have higher h and higher ratios of source documents to h. Journal articles were generally cited more frequently than scientific proceedings.

Conclusions: SMDM board members, assumed professionally successful, were highly published with strong h-indexes. Hirsch noted that promotion to associate and full professor in the physical sciences might be expected with h of 12 and 18; corresponding values in the biomedical sciences would be 17 and 25. SMDM board members h values tracked with an academic faculty group and were higher than a sample from ACMI, an elected society that ordinarily admits only senior faculty level individuals. The h index offers a statistic that can normalize publications and citations for boundary spanning academic disciplines such as medical decision making.

See more of Poster Session IV
See more of The 28th Annual Meeting of the Society for Medical Decision Making (October 15-18, 2006)