Journal of Materials Research and Technology Journal of Materials Research and Technology
J Mater Res Technol 2017;6:304-11 DOI: 10.1016/j.jmrt.2017.09.004
Original Article
The use of the h-index to evaluate and rank academic departments
Marc André Meyers, , Haocheng Quan
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering Program, University of California, San Diego, United States
Received 21 July 2017, Accepted 16 September 2017

A method is proposed by which the h-index of individual researchers is extended to evaluate the performance of engineering departments. For a specific department, the h-index of each faculty is plotted against the number of years since the first publication. The plot is linearized and the slope is determined, which we term Departmental Productivity Index. This index represents the collective productivity of the department members. The statistical analysis is applied to two years: 2008 and 2017. This slope is correlated with the ranking of the department from USN&WR. Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering Departments ranked over a broad range (top, second, and third tier) and in three regions within the US (East, Central, West) are used. The dp-index is not as representative an indicator as more in-depth analyses involving many other aspects, such as teaching, resources, and size, but it can serve as a robust guideline for departmental evaluation. For 2008, the dp-indices of the ME departments varied from 0.70 for the highest ranked to 0.23 for the lowest one. For 2017, the dp-indices show a systematic increase; the highest being 0.99 and lowest increasing to 0.5. For MSE departments, the same trend is observed: in 2008, they vary from 1.36 to 0.51, while in 2017 they range from 1.89 to 0.61. There is a systematic difference between Materials Science and Engineering and Mechanical Engineering Departments, the latter having dp-indices that are in average 30% lower than the former ones. This might be a reflection of the greater resources available nationally for materials research and of the service role that many ME departments have in Engineering Schools. The increase in dp-indices in the nine-year span (2008–2017) results from the rise in individual h-index for researchers, which reflects greater emphasis on research, increased collaborations, and an evolving research landscape. An additional observation that is revealed by this statistical analysis is that the difference between first and third tier departments decreased from 2008 to 2017, a reflection of the ‘democratization’ of research through a more equitable distribution of resources and talent. This method is also suggested to be an effective quantitative measure of departmental and faculty member performance.

h Index, Departmental productivity
J Mater Res Technol 2017;6:304-11 DOI: 10.1016/j.jmrt.2017.09.004
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