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A Peek into the Inventor Index

“When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.” – Lord Kelvin

One may argue with Kelvin related to a specific context, but the spirit of his idea is undebatable. Consider Economic indices. One economist may argue with another about the best index for differentiating a developed country from a developing country. They, however, never argue about the efficacy of using indices.

How does one measure the contribution of an individual researcher? How does one rank the scientific journals? Is it by readership number? Not necessarily. Impact factors come in a variety of forms. For instance, the impact factor of a journal is the number of citations of articles published in that journal during the two preceding years, divided by the total number of articles published in that journal during the two preceding years.

This is not a perfect measure but we believe that the search for the best should not kill the good. Though the index is not a perfect number, it is still used to compare the relative importance of different scientific journals. How about an individual researcher? Here is the h-index by Jorge Hirsch.

“A scientist has an h-index k if k number of his/her papers have at least k citations each but doesn’t have (k+1) papers having at least (k+1) citations each.”

However, it is debatable among the research community whether the h-index is a good measure for the contribution or impact of an individual researcher.

It is common understanding that the measure should capture productivity of the individual researcher and the impact of his/her work. The h-index combines the productivity and impact in a simple manner and is easy to interpret. Hence, it is popular and is used by Web of Science, Chemical Abstracts, Google Scholar, and Scopus by Elsevier. It is also one of the parameters employed in ranking universities and research institutes, criteria for the career advancement of academicians, and the allocation of funds by government agencies for R&D.

How about a similar index for an innovator or an inventor?

The number of patents is a key metric used in gauging the productivity of an inventor. Patents are also used by different countries and companies to flex their muscles in international forums.

So how do we measure the contribution of inventors considering their patent filings?

We are not discussing the commercial value of the patent here but about the contribution of an inventor. If one goes by the assumption in the academic world, the contribution has two parts – one is the number of patents, and the other is how often they are cited by other inventors.

The role of an index is to keep things simple and to provide a measure for a reasonably good ranking. One can always, as they say, play the numbers game. i.e. interpret the system in a manner that the measurement and ranking lose their significance. We still prefer to have a number that acts as a differentiating factor. Here comes the inventor index, or the i-index.

The i-index depends on the number of granted patents, patent applications, and the types and number of citations. This is useful for individual inventors to measure the impact of their inventions or the IP department of a company to profile different working groups.

Relecura’s Inventor Index site makes it easy for you to compute your i-index. Head on over and find out your inventor index today!

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