High-impact and transformative science (HITS) metrics: Definition, exemplification, and comparison

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Countries, research institutions, and scholars are interested in identifying and promoting high-impact and transformative scientific research. This paper presents a novel set of text- and citation-based metrics that can be used to identify high-impact and transformative works. The 11 metrics can be grouped into seven types: Radical-Generative, Radical-Destructive, Risky, Multidisciplinary, Wide Impact, Growing Impact, and Impact (overall). The metrics are exemplified, validated, and compared using a set of 10,778,696 MEDLINE articles matched to the Science Citation Index ExpandedTM. Articles are grouped into six 5-year periods (spanning 1983–2012) using publication year and into 6,159 fields constructed using comparable MeSH terms, with which each article is tagged. The analysis is conducted at the level of a field-period pair, of which 15,051 have articles and are used in this study. A factor analysis shows that transformativeness and impact are positively related (ρ = .402), but represent distinct phenomena. Looking at the subcomponents of transformativeness, there is no evidence that transformative work is adopted slowly or that the generation of important new concepts coincides with the obsolescence of existing concepts. We also find that the generation of important new concepts and highly cited work is more risky. Finally, supporting the validity of our metrics, we show that work that draws on a wider range of research fields is used more widely.




Staudt, J., Yu, H., Light, R. P., Marschke, G., Börner, K., & Weinberg, B. A. (2018). High-impact and transformative science (HITS) metrics: Definition, exemplification, and comparison. PLoS ONE, 13(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0200597

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