Saturday, November 28, 2015

Playing with science metrics

There are numerous critiques, both online and in the literature (pdf), of the overused H-index and journal impact factor (IF) metrics, particularly when it comes to assessing the quality of recent research.  However, many of these critiques do not include suggestions for how to improve the situation, aside from pointing out that if h-index equals half the square root of total citations, then it is a redundant number.  Over in Economics, they have gone all out to make a fantasy economics league, but we dirt people have no such construction.  Here, then, are a few easily calculated stats that would be an improvement on the status quo.  The can be calculated using Google Scholar, if necessary, assuming anyone knows how to yank their numbers.

COIF: Citations over Impact factor.
This is the number of citations per year a given paper has relative to the impact factor of the journal. Impact factor/2 is the average citations per year of a journal for papers in their first two years of release; subracting that from the citations per year for each given paper gives each paper a score. averaging those for a researcher gives their score. 
This metric puts the particular work of a scientist into perspective relative to others who publish in similar journals. Of course, the COIF from someone who publishes in journals with IF of 20 is not comparable to that of those who publish in papers with IF of two, but if IF is going to be tied to individual researchers despite all admonitions against this practice, then COIF gives a way to interpret it.

I suspect that most young to mid careers scientists will have a positive COIF; citations, at least in geology, tends to accumulate more in later years than in the first two.  However, a declining COIF might mean that one's work is becoming less relevant as time goes by.

Whether an institution wants a person with low COIF and flashy journals, or a high COIF in esoteric publications probably depends on the particular institution, and what their priorities are.  So the COIF might even be useful for determining how well suited people are to various particular institutions.

As an industry person who publishes occasionally, I have few enough papers to be able to calculate this for myself manually and easily (using Google scholar, which probably inflates the numbers by 20%). Anyone with a basic knowledge of programming could probably automate the process, though.

Paper year Journal IF CPY COIF
Birch et al. 2007 AJES 1.6 1.8 1.0
Parsons et al.  2008 Am Min 2.0 4.3 3.3
Klemme et al 2008 Geostandards 3.2 2.9 1.3
Parsons et al.  2009 CMP 3.5 3.3 1.6
Aleinikoff et al. 2012 Chem Geol 3.5 7.7 5.9
Magee et al 2014 SIA 1.2 1.0 0.4

3.5 2.2

SCP: Self citation percentage
What percentage of a paper's citations come from authors of that paper? This is simply The number of times a paper is cited by one or more of its authors divided by the total number of citations. This has been looked into by a number of people in the never ending struggle to interpret citation numbers.  At least some suggest that the number in generally in the twenties, and doesn't have enough variant to be useful, but I find that surprising, as the papers I've published vary quite a bit:

Demonstrating on myself again, it can range from 4% to 100%.

paper year cites sefies SCP
Parsons et al.  2008 30 6 20%
Aleinikoff et al. 2012 23 1 4%
Parsons et al.  2009 20 7 35%
Klemme et al 2008 20 6 30%
Birch et al. 2007 14 2 14%
Magee et al 2014 1 1 100%
108 23 21%

Friday, November 13, 2015


I've been working on a manuscript and other things. so it could be quiet around here for a while.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Geosonnet 35

The bluestone of which Melbourne is constructed
Is fresh basalt, from NVP derived
And yet no ocean slab is here subducted
No spreading ridge or hotspot has survived
With late Cretaceous Antarctic divorce
The margin should be passive, fires spent
And yet there must be an upwelling force
As mantle melting is quite evident.
Cratonic root plows through Asthenosphere
The slowest ship to ever voyage north
Yet models show convection will appear
So decompression melts can issue forth.
  Melb's gloomy architecture isn't fake
  The town's built from Australia's stony wake.

Other geosonnets: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Geosonnet 34

Our bodies' carbon, oxygen derives
From hearts of stars, extinguished into dust
Life resurrects these molecules, and strives
For meaning, ere death follows, as it must.
The lifeless gardening of impact rocks
Makes dust of stones and boulders on the Moon.
Inevitable crumbling, by the clocks
Chonometrize the sands of time, so soon
The robot eyes, which scan the moon for heat
Will see long-dead ejecta cooling fast
But when time's millstone's work is incomplete
The radiating warmth of rock will last.
  While entropy will not release its hold
   Observing it lets history unfold

Geology 42 1059

Other geosonnets: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Geosonnet 33

The swiftest planet, closest to the sun
Is roasted in the star's infernal gaze.
In polar craters, dawn has n'er begun
Eternal darkness freezes gasses there.
Though sunshine never penetrates the holes,
Reflected light creates a subtle gloam
night vision robot, orbiting the poles
While Earthly radar guides the cam'ra home.
Prokofiev hosts lightly colored frost
In other craters ice is black as char
A lag from which the water has been lost?
Organic/ sulfur condensate? Like tar?
   From springs? Or solar wind? A comet's blow?
   From whence this water comes we do not know.

Other geosonnets: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Geosonnet 32

Southwest from where Doc Livingstone was found
The grand conglomerate caps old black shales.
The rhenium, in micro-pyrite bound,
Can date when diamictite ice prevails.
The wild’s call, beyond the Yukon Gold
Hides ancient glaciation in the wilds.
To test the Snowball Earth, we ask, “How old”
These jigsaw continents, frozen or mild?
Just past the pleasure dome of Kublai Khan
Mongolia preserves more ancient rock
The age determination’s not forgone
We must assess the isotopic clock.
   For fifty million years, and then for five,
   The planet froze, yet somehow stayed alive.

Other geosonnets: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Geosonnet 31

Gyrations of a topsy-turvy world
Could spur migration of the cryosphere
No snowball Earth, just poles and tropics whorled
The data which support this are unclear.
Precambrian magnetic fields suggest
That tropics, poles exchanged with frightful speed.
Magnetic hysteresis is the test
Anorthosite and feldspar crystals need.
A shaky witness cross-examination
The steep magnetic field begins to fray
Faced with a single crystal refutation
The polar history has gone away.
   The Ediacaran poles didn't roam.
   Emerging life was blessed with stable home.

Geology 43 132

Other geosonnets: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Hard rock men and soft rock girls

Readers with short attention spans who waste too much time on social media may have noticed that Brian Romans has been complaining over on twitter about the hardrock/ softrock divide. This being a blog, I will whinge in more depth below:

For those of you who grew up on a carbonaceous chondrite, there is a historical cultural divide between hardrock- the study of high temperature processes as recorded in crystalline rocks, and softrock- the study of low temperature processes which can be recorded in sediments.

I’m not sure where in the fossil record this division first appeared, but my experience of it goes back to teachers who were trained in the Apollo era. Back in the 60’s and 70’s, the moon race injected lots of cash into the study of (dead, high temperature) moon rocks and associated meteorites. A generation later, from the 90’s on, there has been an increasing push to understand climate, presumably in hope that we can learn something about it before it kills us all. One result of this change in focus is an unnecessary cultural divide, premised on lazy assumptions that in some cases are decades out of date.

For example, one of the strengths of the 20th century hardrock push was the elevation of petrology beyond a simple descriptive science to a thermodynamically constrained, math-based quantitative science. The calculations done with thermocalc or MELTS or any of the other equilibrium simulators are of course trivial compared to what goes into climate models or organic geochemistry or genetics, but some of the older, out-of-touch hardrock evangelists haven’t quite caught on to these developments yet. Similarly, researchers who have used the surge in climatological research funding to tackle new fields of research have sometimes been labeled as too soft to make it in hard rock, while in many cases they feel that their former fields of study have either had the interesting questions answered, or degenerated into untestable speculating.

In reality, the advancement in modern analytical, conceptual, and computational techniques means that the separation between hardrock and softrock is largely a psychological or historical one. As you carbonaceous chondrite dwellers surely appreciate, we have moved on from isotopic anomalies in presolar grains to organic cosmochemistry, the origin of chirality and life, and other burning questions that require understanding the interaction between low and high temperature processes in active planets. Even bread-and-butter questions like continental crust formation are increasingly having to deal with the effects of weathering (and how it changes as the atmosphere evolves), in order to explain increasingly detailed analyses. As a community, we should have realized way back when subduction was discovered that it is futile to separate aqueous and thermal processes on a planet whose thermal engine is driven by downgoing oceanic slabs.

Having met a lot of scientists over the years, the ones who use their skills to address a variety of questions across outdated subdisciplinary boundaries seem to be happier and more productive than those who choose to wave an archaic banner from a lost tribe of geoscience. From the 21st century, the hardrock / softrock divide seems as old fashioned as the Billy Joel song parodied below:

Softrock Girl

Softrock girl,
She’s been living in her softrock world.
I bet she’s never had a mantle guy
I bet her momma never told her why.

I’m gonna try for a softrock girl
She’s been living in her climate world
As long as anyone with magma can
and now she’s looking for a hard rock man

And when she knows what she wants from deep ti-i-ime
And when she wakes up and makes up her mi-i-ind
She’ll see I’m not so tough
Just because
I’m in love
With a softrock girl.

You know I’ve seen her in her soft rock world,
She’s getting tired of her plankton toys
and her presents from her soft rock boys
She’s got a choice.

Softrock girl
You know I can’t abide to study pearls
But maybe someday when my ship comes in
Drilling MOHO through the MORB so thin
and then I’ll win.

And when she’s walking on sand grains so fi-i-ine.
And when she’s drilling, she yearns for a mi-i-ine.
She’ll say I’m not so tough
Just because
I’m in love with a softrock girl
She’s been living in her climate world
As long as anyone with magma can
and now she’s looking for a hard rock man
That’s what I am
Softrock girl
She’s my softrock girl.
You know I’m in love with a
Softrock girl
My softrock girl.
You know I’m in love with a
Softrock girl
My softrock girl.