The Nobel Prize and Low h-index

To receive the Nobel prize, do scientists need a high h-index? Peter Higgs, Nobel laureate in physics, proves no, that’s not essential

Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

When the so-called “god particle” was discovered, Peter Higgs suddenly became the centerpiece of the world of physics. The hypothesis he had published in 1964, turned out to be in sync with reality, confirmed by CERN, Switzerland.

To answer how particles get mass, Higgs made a conjecture about the existence of quantum particles that are responsible for providing mass to other particles. And he was right.

But this British physicist’s contribution to the understanding of particle physics is hard to be measured with metrics. With an h-index of 9 or 11, bagging a Nobel prize isn’t easier.

Back in 2013, Higgs gave an interview to The Guardian and his words prove that the present academic culture of “publish or perish” is highly flawed. After the 1964 publication, he published fewer than 10 papers till his retirement in 1996.

He doubted that this hustle culture in science would have let him predict that ground-breaking theory had he been working in the 21st century. Simply, the quiet and peaceful ambiance of doing science has been replaced with ruthless metric measurements and publish-or-perish culture.

Higgs mentioned that in today’s academia, Higgs would remain unemployed since he is not productive enough. Edinburgh university might have sacked him hadn’t he been nominated for a Nobel prize back in 1980.

When the university used to perform research assessments and ask the faculty members to send their recent publication lists, Higgs used to feel embarrassed. He had to respond “None” most of the time.

This interview once again reminds the science community that publish-or-perish can be detrimental to the science production that makes breakthroughs.

The award of the Nobel prize to this emeritus professor at Edinburgh university also points out that h-index, citations, and high IF journals always don’t showcase the worthiness of a researcher.

Nowadays, with an h-index of 10 during their Ph.D., researchers struggle to get a job. Getting worldwide recognition is too far-fetched.

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