Kardashia index and Top50 scientists on Twitter

Last July, Neil Hall, a researcher at the University of Liverpool, published an article in the journal Genome Biology, in which he proposed a new index to evaluate researchers: the Kardashian index, or K-index. The index measures how famous a scientist is on Twitter (based on the number of followers) in relation to how often his scientific articles are cited by other researchers (in peer-reviewed journals).

The K-index and the article that presented it were of course meant as a parody. The journal Science has now nevertheless compiled a list of the Top50 scientists on Twitter based on their K-index. Two interesting points: 1) the number of followers scientists can attract (which falls relatively fast when going down the list), and 2) the scientific fields that are represented (physics/astrophysics/astronomy and neurosciences/psychology seem particularly popular).

While going through the top of the list, I stopped at Hans Rosling (as it was the first name I was not familiar with) and looked him and his work up. I ended up browsing the website Gapminder, a foundation Hans Rosling (a researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden) co-founded in 2005. Although I have only quickly looked through the website so far, it seems to offer many interesting resources (videos, graphs, surveys, etc). The mission of the foundation is to promote a “fact-based world view”. It also started an “Ignorance Project” to evaluate how much people know (or think they know).

The Ignorance Survey, Sweden & Norway, 2013: 10 questions, for example “what percentage of total world energy generated comes from solar and wind power”, or “what percentage of the world’s one-year old children are vaccinated against measles”, or “what percentage of adults in the world today are literate”. The survey results (link to PDF above) are presented as graphs, and the correct answers to each question are given. Would you have answered correctly?

– Hans Rosling’s TED talk, 2006.


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