Who Is the Best Scientist of All Time? ( Reblogged)

Karl Marx 1882 (edited)

Karl Marx 1882 (edited) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Who Is the Best Scientist of All Time?

An online ranking that compares the performance of academics across all fields found that Karl Marx is the most influential scholar and Edward Witten is the most influential scientist

By Richard Van Noorden and Nature magazine


a Image of Karl Marx

Karl Marx is the most influential scholar ever, according to a discipline-corrected ranking system.Image: Wikimedia Commons/Marxists.org

Is theoretical physicist Ed Witten more influential in his field than the biologist Solomon Snyder is among life scientists? And how do their records of scholarly impact measure up against those of past greats such as Karl Marx among historians and economists, or Sigmund Freud among psychologists?

Performance metrics based on values such as citation rates are heavily biased by field, so most measurement experts shy away from interdisciplinary comparisons. The average biochemist, for example, will always score more highly than the average mathematician, because biochemistry attracts more citations.

But researchers at Indiana University Bloomington think that they have worked out the best way of correcting this disciplinary bias. And they are publishing their scores online, for the first time letting academics compare rankings across all fields.

Their provisional (and constantly updated) ranking of nearly 35,000 researchers relies on queries made through Google Scholar to normalize the popular metric known as the h-index (a scientist with an h-index of 20 has published at least 20 papers with at least 20 citations each, so the measure takes into account quantity and popularity of research). It found that as of 5 November, the most influential scholar was Karl Marx in history, ahead of Sigmund Freud in psychology. Number three was Edward Witten, a physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. The ranking appears on the website Scholarometer, developed by Filippo Menczer, an informatician at Indiana University Bloomington, and his colleagues Jasleen Kaur and Filippo Radicchi.

Universal metrics
“We think there is a hunger for this. Our colleagues use Google Scholar all the time, and yet it only shows the h-index,” says Menczer. “We are constantly asking ‘how do we evaluate people in a discipline we don’t understand?’”

In October, Menczer’s team published a paper arguing that the best statistical way to remove disciplinary bias is to divide a researcher’s h-index by the average of their scholarly field.

Using this correction, Marx scores more than 22 times the average h-index of other scholars in history (but 11 times that of the average economist). Witten has more than 13 times the average physicist, and so on. The effect is to ensure that those in, say, the top 5% of their discipline also appear in the top 5% of all scholars.

The idea is not new. Metrics experts have invented numerous methods to solve bias, often using averages based on age, journal and scholarly field. Normalized measures are available from commercial information firms such as Thomson Reuters.

First time for everything
But Scholarometer pushes boundaries in two ways. Most importantly, its normalized scores are freely accessible, unlike those of most sites. Thomson Reuters analyses are based on proprietary databases and cannot be made public. Another site, Publish or Perish, does return a variety of age and field-normalized metrics from public queries to Google Scholar — but only to one individual at a time. The problem is that Google Scholar blocks automated computer programs that hit it with multiple queries, making it impossible to collate scores.

The Indiana team’s solution is to create an automated program that does not query Google Scholar itself, but rather scrapes the results of individual Google Scholar queries placed through a Scholarometer browser extension. Over years, they have built up a dynamic public database, with h-indices constantly revised as new Google Scholar queries come in. Menczer says that an age-corrected h-index that allows comparison of scholars at different career stages may follow.


Add Comment

Show All | Jump To: 1-10 | 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40 | Next
View  Oldest to Newest Newest to Oldest
  1. 1. Scarlett15605:23 PM 11/6/13
    Completely pathetic, anti-science, anti-reason drivel. It is 100% propaganda.Reply | Report Abuse | Link to this
  2. 2. DaleNapier05:38 PM 11/6/13
    This study is so flawed statistically, in so many ways, that it is little better than a middle-school science fair project.Reply | Report Abuse | Link to this
  3. 3. josephcarri07:11 PM 11/6/13
    I find it odd that people like Archimedes, Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Pythagoras, Dalton, Lavoisier, Darwin, Pasteur and hundreds of others whose work influences each of us every second of every day are bypassed in favour of Marx. Would love to see the criteria, the data, and the reasoning behind the selection.JECCReply | Report Abuse | Link to this

  4. 4. metamorphmuses08:22 PM 11/6/13
    Of course everyone will freak out about Marx being named most influential scholar, but then again, it’s not actually that hard to understand. In this study, ‘scholar’ is not ‘scientist’ and in that analysis, there are few non-scientist scholars who have made a social impact as potent as Marx has, like it or not. Now, as to most influential scientist, I don’t really get Edward Witten, as compared to any number of other scientists.Reply | Report Abuse | Link to this
  5. 5. rloldershaw10:26 PM 11/6/13
    Hmmm, 0 for 2. Time to check your evaluation model.Einstein makes both of them look like much overrated short-hitters.Reply | Report Abuse | Link to this

  6. 6. Owl90510:33 PM 11/6/13
    Second the emotion from josephcarri. Isaac Newton is unparalleled for being the most influential in his own time AND ever since. If it’s influence of scholarship, Marx had his 15 minutes and died the death of actually trying to get it to work. If it’s lasting influence from his own written work, no one comes close to Mohammed. And if the but-but says it’s not economic ‘science’, go with Adam Smith or Keynes … someone from the economic world that reshaped the world.
    This one comes across like it’s from the same group that did the big poll in early 90s and concluded that Oasis was more popular than the Beatles.Reply | Report Abuse | Link to this
  7. 7. Dr. Strangelove03:59 AM 11/7/13
    Marx and Witten. Ridiculous! Communism has failed. China is communist only by name. M-theory is mathematics. Untested and untestable, not science.Archimedes and Newton are more like it. The ancient Greek genius invented the scientific method, integral calculus, astronomical computer, water pump, solar concentrator, statics and hydraulics. All of engineering and celestial mechanics is based on Newtonian mechanics.Reply | Report Abuse | Link to this

  8. 8. Finematerial07:15 AM 11/7/13
    Science is NOT a popularity contest. Advancing knowledge is the measure. Any ranking that has Karl Marx, a man 100% wrong in everything he ever said and led to the death of 100s of millions of people, is not to be taken seriously.Reply | Report Abuse | Link to this
  9. 9. vapur07:45 AM 11/7/13
    Some people might see Margaret Sanger as the best scientist. It all depends on your perspective and ulterior motive what qualifies the definition of absolutes: best and worst. Articles like this are most certainly a popularity contest, just like Nobel Prizes get awarded to people who also happen to cause the most harm.Reply | Report Abuse | Link to this
  10. 10. Siskoin reply to Dr. Strangelove09:52 AM 11/7/13
    I have to disagree about m-theory. Untestable today does not mean it is untestable. It is likely to change the human perception of the larger universe and and life in general as it is developed. I would guess that humans a few hundred years from now will look back on how we thought the “universe was” pre-m-theory and giggle.Reply | Report Abuse | Link to this
| Jump To: 1-10 | 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40 |

Add a Comment

You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.
Click one of the buttons below to register using an existing Social Account.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s