Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 127, Issue 3, pp 845–851

The h index and the identification of global benchmarks for breast cancer research output

  • N. A. Healy
  • R. W. Glynn
  • Cristian Scutaru
  • David Groneberg
  • M. J. Kerin
  • K. J. Sweeney
Brief Report


The h index is used to assess an individual’s contribution to the literature. This metric should not be employed to compare individuals across research areas; rather each subject should have its own baseline and standard. This work aimed to identify global bibliometric benchmarks for those involved in breast cancer research, and specifically, to describe the bibliographic characteristics of breast surgeons in the UK and Ireland. Authorship data was extracted from breast cancer related output from 1945 to 2008, as indexed in the Web of Science. Authors’ publications, citations and h indexes were identified. The breast-related output of 277 UK and Irish breast surgeons was evaluated, and a citation report generated for each. Strong correlation was noted between the h index and number of publications (r = 0.642, P < 0.001) and number of total citations (r = −0.922, P < 0.001). The author with the highest h index is B Fisher (h index = 80). 23.0% of surgeons had not published original research pertaining to the breast; the remainder had together produced 2,060 articles, accounting for 59,002 citations. The top quartile was responsible for 83% of output; the 90th percentile was 20 publications. The range of h index values for the surgeons was 0–50, with a median h index returned of 3 (IQR 1–6); the 90th percentile was 13.5. This work has identified bibliometric benchmarks to which those involved in breast cancer research might aspire. Our findings suggest that there is need for wider involvement of surgeons in the research process and raises questions regarding the future of scientific breast surgery.


h Index Breast surgeon Research output Breast cancer 



Breast Cancer Clinical Outcome Measures


The Society of Irish Breast Surgeons


United Kingdom


Web of Science


  1. 1.
    Glynn RW, Scutaru C, Kerin MJ, Sweeney KJ (2010) Breast cancer research output, 1945–2008: a bibliometric and density-equalizing analysis. Breast Cancer Res 12(6):R108. doi:10.1186/bcr2795 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Fanelli D (2010) Do pressures to publish increase scientists’ bias? An empirical support from US States Data. PLoS One 5(4):10271. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010271 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ball P (2005) Index aims for fair ranking of scientists. Nature 436(7053):900. doi:10.1038/436900a PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Hannaford P (2009) Assessing the quality of primary care research in the United kingdom: the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise. Ann Fam Med 7(3):277–278. doi:10.1370/afm.1009 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Hirsch JE (2007) Does the H index have predictive power? Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 104(49):19193–19198. doi:10.1073/pnas.0707962104 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Hirsch JE (2005) An index to quantify an individual’s scientific research output. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 102(46):16569–16572. doi:10.1073/pnas.0507655102 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Lee J, Kraus KL, Couldwell WT (2009) Use of the h index in neurosurgery. Clinical article. J Neurosurg 111(2):387–392. doi:10.3171/2008.10.JNS08978 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Fersht A (2009) The most influential journals: impact Factor and Eigenfactor. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 106(17):6883–6884. doi:10.1073/pnas.0903307106 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Hirsch JE (2005) An index to quantify an individual’s scientific research output. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 102 (46):16569–16572. doi:10.1073/pnas.0507655102 Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Baldock C, Ma R, Orton CG (2009) Point/counterpoint. The h index is the best measure of a scientist’s research productivity. Med Phys 36(4):1043–1045PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    O’Leary JD, Crawford MW (2010) Bibliographic characteristics of the research output of pediatric anesthesiologists in Canada. Can J Anaesth. doi:10.1007/s12630-010-9292-6
  12. 12.
    Ponce FA, Lozano AM (2010) Academic impact and rankings of American and Canadian neurosurgical departments as assessed using the h index. J Neurosurg 113(3):447–457. doi:10.3171/2010.3.JNS1032 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Fisher B, Redmond CK, Fisher ER (2008) Evolution of knowledge related to breast cancer heterogeneity: a 25-year retrospective. J Clin Oncol 26(13):2068–2071. doi:10.1200/JCO.2007.14.1804 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Bould MD, Boet S, Sharma B, Shin E, Barrowman NJ, Grantcharov T (2011) h-indices in a university department of anaesthesia: an evaluation of their feasibility, reliability, and validity as an assessment of academic performance. Br J Anaesth. doi:10.1093/bja/aeq403
  15. 15.
    Hunt GE, Cleary M, Walter G Psychiatry and the hirsch h-index: The relationship between journal impact factors and accrued citations. Harvard Review of Psychiatry 18 (4):207-219Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Kelly CD, Jennions MD (2006) The h index and career assessment by numbers. Trends Ecol Evol 21(4):167–170. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2006.01.005 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. A. Healy
    • 1
  • R. W. Glynn
    • 1
  • Cristian Scutaru
    • 2
  • David Groneberg
    • 3
  • M. J. Kerin
    • 1
  • K. J. Sweeney
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SurgeryNational University of Ireland, Galway, Clinical Science InstituteGalwayRepublic of Ireland
  2. 2.Department of Information ScienceCharite-Universitatsmedizin Berlin, Free University BerlinBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Institute for Occupational, Social and Environmental MedicineJohann Wolfgang Goethe-UniversitätFrankfurtGermany

Personalised recommendations