I have read an interesting article in Significance Magazine and would like to share its some parts here. For the full text, please go to Significance Magazine Volume 8 Issue 1, March 2011 Issue.
Every schoolboy has heard of Einstein; fewer have heard of Antoine Becquerel; almost nobody has heard of Nils Dalén. Yet they all won Nobel Prizes for Physics. Can we gauge a scientist’s achievements by his or her fame? If so, how? And how do fighter pilots help? Mikhail Simkin and Vwani Roychowdhury look for the linkages. “It was a famous victory.” We instinctively rank the achievements of great men and women by how famous they are. But is instinct enough? And how exactly does a great man’s fame relate to the greatness of his achievement? Some achievements are easy to quantify. Such is the case with fighter pilots of the First World War. Their achievements can be easily measured and ranked, in terms of their victories – the number of enemy planes they shot down. These aces achieved varying degrees of fame, which have lasted down to the internet age. A few years ago we compared the fame of First World War fighter pilot aces (measured in Google hits) with their achievement (measured in victories); and we found that fame grows exponentially with achievement Is the same true in other areas of excellence? Bagrow et al. have studied the relationship between achievement and fame for physicists. The relationship they found was linear. The measure of achievement used in that study was the number of papers the physicists had published. However, in 2001–2002 popular French TV presenters Igor and Grichka Bogdanoff published five papers in a number of respectable journals including Classical and Quantum Gravity and Annals of Physics. The problem was that their papers consisted of incoherent streams of buzzwords from modern physics. Their affair casts doubt on using the number of published papers to measure scientific achievement. How, then, can we measure it? Some have used the number of citations of the scientist’s papers as a true measure of achievement. But in another study we have shown that this measure is also questionable, since citations multiply by mere copying. There is a cascade effect. If scientist A is cited in paper B, then a third author citing B may include in it a citation of A as well; and if our third author gets cited in turn, D may cite not only C but anything that C cites, including B and A – even if he has not actually read A’s paper at all. While the number of citations may be increasing with the size of scientific contribution made in the paper, the exact relation between these variables is not obvious. So again, finding a measure of achievements of physicists is a problem. Here, we made the hypothesis that the exponential relationship between fame and achievement that we found for fighter pilots holds also for people of other professions, such as scientists. We can then use the scientists’ fame (measured in Google hits) to infer their achievement. Let us emphasise that we do not insist that web hit counts are preferable to citation counts. These two measures of fame are strongly correlated. We used web hits because we used them for fighter pilots aces in our earlier study. The point of this article is not that one should use web hits, but that to make an estimate of achievement one should take a logarithm of fame. read the rest of the article from here!! (A lot of recent attention has been given to studies where statistical analysis of very many non-expert opinions leads to estimates that agree with reality as well as or better than expert opinions. Every webpage about a particular person expresses its creator’s opinion of the worthiness of the person in question. Our estimate of achievements of Nobel Prize winning physicists is similarly based on statistical analysis of numbers of web pages mentioning them. The fact that our results agree fairly well with Landau’s expert opinion may be another demonstration of the wisdom of crowds.)