Quantifying the evolution of individual scientific impact

Roberta Sinatra, Dashun Wang, Pierre Deville, Chaoming Song, Albert László Barabási

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

157 Scopus citations


Despite the frequent use of numerous quantitative indicators to gauge the professional impact of a scientist, little is known about how scientific impact emerges and evolves in time. Here, we quantify the changes in impact and productivity throughout a career in science, finding that impact, as measured by influential publications, is distributed randomly within a scientist's sequence of publications. This random-impact rule allows us to formulate a stochastic model that uncouples the effects of productivity, individual ability, and luck and unveils the existence of universal patterns governing the emergence of scientific success.The model assigns a unique individual parameter Q to each scientist, which is stable during a career, and it accurately predicts the evolution of a scientist's impact, from the h-index to cumulative citations, and independent recognitions, such as prizes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberaaf5239
Issue number6312
StatePublished - Nov 4 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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    Sinatra, R., Wang, D., Deville, P., Song, C., & Barabási, A. L. (2016). Quantifying the evolution of individual scientific impact. Science, 354(6312), [aaf5239]. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aaf5239