Career Development: Know your H-Index

The H-index is increasingly being used to evaluate scholarly productivity and as one or many factors in tenure and promotion decisions.  The H-index is a measure of the number of times articles written by a scholar have been cited. Knowing your own H-index and understanding the various quirks in how the H-index score is arrived can be important for managing your career.

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Career Development: Writing Methods Papers

Writing methods papers/commentaries or primers on study design or study techniques can be a very useful career booster.  A strong methods paper can cite well and will have longevity, thus contributing to your H-index.  These papers can be “back-burner” projects you work on sporadically while there is down time in your substantive research, such as when you are waiting for data collection to be completed or for the lab to finish running assays for you.  They can also be good projects to work on with graduate students. Methods papers also serve the greater good of hopefully reducing the amount of flawed research being done and/or pointing out where prior research may have generated spurious conclusions.

Odds ratios diverge from prevalence ratios as outcome prevalence in the reference group increases.  (Lovasi et al 2012)

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Career Development: Include illustrations in your manuscripts

As a career development tool it is very useful to develop skills in illustration and graphic design. Several journal editors have told me that illustrations in a paper, especially those that depict a key concept, theory or causal path way, can improve the citation rate of the paper.  I think this will be especially true now that PubMed Central has the ability to search for illustrations and includes illustrations in search results.

Another advantage of providing illustrations is that their availability online often co-opts others into describing the concept in question in your terms.  Researchers often download the images from PubMed Central and use them in their classes, lectures and seminars and then explain the concepts using the language in the figure caption.

Here is an illustration of mine that I have seen used in presentations.

(Mutation Research, 2006)

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New article on the utility of BMI as a health indicator

Two of my students and I just published a paper on the utility of body mass index (BMI) as an indicator of health.  There have been several critiques of BMI lately in the popular press that have suggested that alternative measures of body size are much better at predicting health status.  We decided to take a look at this and compared BMI to several alternative measures of body size as predictors of cholesterol, blood pressure and fasting glucose. We found that none of the alternative measures were consistently better than BMI.  So despite the recent criticism, it appears that BMI is a measure that we should be taken seriously as an indicator of obesity and obesity related health risks.

Steve Mooney wrote a nice companion piece for the 2×2 health blog and the article was featured in the NY Times Science Times


NIEHS Childhood Obesity Virtual Forum

A video feed from the NIEHS Virtual Forum: Childhood Obesity that I took part in has been posted to YouTube (embedded below). Questions for the discussion panel were sent into NIEHS by email, text and Twitter. The discussion covers a lot of topics related to obesity including, neighborhood built environments, chemical exposures and policy.

NIEHS’ description of the event:

Could early life chemical exposures explain the dramatic rise in obesity rates?

There are many theories on what is causing the huge increase in obesity in the U.S. and around the world. Certainly diet and lifestyle have something to do with it, but what about prenatal and early life chemical exposures?

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is pleased to announce a virtual forum on childhood obesity and possible links to environmental exposures. Whether you’re a concerned parent, advocate, community leader, or policy maker, you’ll want to tune in to hear the discussion and ask your questions about the latest research on obesity.  Our distinguished panel includes experts from: Johns Hopkins University, Kaiser Permanente, the University of Michigan, Columbia University, and the National Toxicology Program.

The Actual Event


Hello world!

Columbia University gives it faculty access to WordPress blog pages so I thought I would create one and see what happens.  My initial idea for this blog is for it to serve as a home for random ideas that don’t necessarily fit into my professional blogs or other web presences.  I have settled on using this blog to post and discuss advice, tips, tricks and hacks for career development for an academic. These posts will assume that the reader is already doing important, high quality research and will present ideas on how to amplify this work and build a successful career.

To access my professional web pages click on the links to the right.